Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

Major Motivation: What Motivates Students to Select Sport Management as Major?

Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

Major Motivation: What Motivates Students to Select Sport Management as Major?

Article excerpt


Many people can remember having difficulties deciding what their college major would be. The stakes can be high since this choice can have long-term ramifications. Not only do such decisions impact the type of classes one takes and what one will spend their time studying for potentially the next several years, but it also can have huge implications on what individuals will do vocationally for decades to come. While the occurrence for students to switch majors is commonplace it has become increasingly problematic for students to do this. Therefor it has become ever more important for students to make thoughtful decisions when embarking on selecting an academic course of study upon entering post-secondary studies. It is also important for those who work with students in higher education to have as much information possible to help them make this decision. While this is not a new area of inquiry for many disciplines, it is has not been studied much in the area of sport management.

In 1957, Walter O'Malley, the President of the Brooklyn Dodgers, shared a conversation with physical education professor, James G. Mason, in which O'Malley expressed his frustration over having employees who understood the sport of baseball, but lacked an understanding of the business side of the sport. This insight led James G. Mason to eventually develop the first sport management program at Ohio University in 1966 (Miller & Seidler, 2009; Crosset & Hums, 2009). One has to wonder if they knew then how their conversation would revolutionize the sport industry.

Today, sport management programs have been established or are being created at many higher education institutions across the United States, North America, and around the world. A survey of colleges and universities identified over 200 sport management programs (including both undergraduate and graduate programs) at the end of the millennium (Parkhouse, 2005). Since then, sport management programs have proliferated. As of 2015, there were over 400 U.S. colleges and universities offering undergraduate degrees in sports administration, sports management, or sports marketing (NASSM, 2015). Alongside this rapid expansion of academic programs in sport, the sport industry is growing and recognizing the value in hiring individuals with degrees in sport management and the importance of preparing sport management students for the workforce (e.g., Hums & Goldsbury, 2012; Fetchko, Roy, & Clow, 2013; Parkhouse, 2005; Parkhouse & Turner, 2012; Ross, Hoff & Kroll, 2014).

While the number of sport management programs has changed, the curriculum offered in these programs has evolved as well. In the book A Practical Guide to Sport Management Internships, contributing author John Barnes, (2009) provided a historical account of the ongoing question: "What competencies should be taught in a sport management program?" He reported that studies conducted in the 1980s "found that employers wanted graduates who possessed skills related to business operations" (p. 3). Reflective of the complex set of knowledge and skills thought to be necessary for successful performance in sport management positions, still others have argued that business operations knowledge and skills alone are insufficient and that those working in the sport industry must also acquire knowledge and experience specific to sport (Horch & Schutte, 2003). This notion supports the early ideas of Walter O'Malley who asserted that effective sport industry professionals must be skilled and experienced in both general business principles and knowledgeable about the sport industry.

Given the complex and variety of the desired skillsets and knowledge-base believed to be essential for effective job performance in the sport industry, it should not be surprising that student preparation in sport management programs initially varied greatly (Gillentine, Crow, & Harris, 2009). This wide variance of sport management programs curriculum drew the attention of notable professional organizations. …

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