Amal Ibrahim, Ticket Sales and Service Coordinator at D.C. United
Five-year-old me would never have guessed that I would be working in professional sports as a career. For a bit of background, I have always enjoyed sports since I was a kid. I played my whole life up until around the end of high school, when an injury took me out of competitive play. With the unexpected injury and college applications right around the corner, I declared a major at George Mason University called Health, Fitness, and Recreation Resources with a concentration in Sport Management. I graduated in the summer of 2018.
In my junior year of college, my requirements to graduate included an internship related to my field of study. With many peers choosing jobs related to coaching, recreation centers, and other sport/recreation companies, I decided to ‘aim big’ and applied as an intern for the Washington Nationals (Major League Baseball Team) in Washington D.C. I got the job and learned a lot as a Sales & Service Intern for about 10 months! I then began looking for a full-time position and saw that D.C. United (Major League Soccer Team) was opening a new stadium right across the street from National’s Park – I applied for the Sales & Service Coordinator position and got the job; this is my current position at the moment. As a young professional that has worked two jobs in professional sports for two years, here are five things I recommend you should know about working in the sport industry.
Don’t underestimate how hard it is
Through my time at George Mason University, I truly believe that my professors and classes prepared me for what I experience today on a daily basis. The one thing I wish I took more seriously was many people saying that in sports, you work an immense amount of hours. As a student, you think you understand that mentality, but you really don’t, unless you experience it. I’ve worked many weeks that have gone over 40 hours due to game schedules, departmental events (to increase sales), and marketing events (to increase community awareness). There have been numerous times I come home from game on Sunday night at around midnight, to then wake up on Monday at 5:30 in the morning. Although most companies give benefits and perks to combat these hard hours, it is still mentally and physically draining. Ultimately, it’s part of the job.
We don’t befriend the team
Throughout my career, it is well known that around players, we must stay professional. I remember times walking through the tunnel as an intern for the Washington Nationals and seeing players continually walking past me for practice, pre-game, and other events. Although I was excited to see them, I still needed to remain professional. Most of the time, we aren’t “buddy-buddy” with the players, but there definitely are amazing moments that I am thankful I was able to experience. I enjoy and appreciate those moments – both small and big – very much. However, at D.C. United, player interaction is much more limited than with the Washington Nationals, yet this just shows how different it is depending on league, sport, employee position, and operations. The best way to put it is that we aim to provide the best experience for our fans and being best friends with a player on the team is not our priority.
A normal stadium will never look the same
After working at the Washington Nationals and currently working at D.C. United, it is amazing to see how much goes on behind the scenes that fans does not see. Everything is planned for a typical game day – parking crew, gate security/ticket takers, concession vendors, scoreboard and production crew, video crew, broadcasters, ticket sales, stadium operations, and many, many other departments combine efforts to create a beautiful 2-6-hour event. I cannot unsee everything that I know about stadiums and teams; at times, it is hard to be just a fan, but this is not a bad thing. It shows how much I’ve experienced in my career and how much I’ve learned so far.
We do it for the love of the game
As we get to the last two points, I want to make sure I touch on the fact that people who work in the sports industry really love what they do. There are so many reasons why people come into this industry; and there is ultimately a job for anyone, if you look hard enough. If you are majoring in something unrelated to sports, there’s still an opportunity for you to be involved. Some other areas of the sport industry include the legal side of sports, coaching and scouting, medicine, sales, marketing, and social media, just to name a few. Your passion can be in this industry, and the opportunities and experiences it gives you are great. The long hours the staff needs to endure really bond everyone together like a family. We may all have different duties and responsibilities, but we acknowledge we’re working towards the same goal. If you don’t love what you do, don’t work in sports.
While the sports industry can be complex and often contains overlooked aspects, you need to be aware of any previous points made shouldn’t overshadow how amazing it is to hear a stadium erupt in excitement after the home teams scores. During those moments, I love to step back and think about all the long hours we had to work, all the times we made a fan’s day when they met their favorite player, all the camaraderie it takes to execute just one game. It all comes down to everything working together. Those moments where you see fans smile because they are having the time of their life is what truly ‘gets’ me the most! I remind myself, I helped put this all together.
I get to experience things that some people wish for and seeing it all succeed is one of the best feelings in the world. If you take away one thing from reading this, please remember that specific point, because I thank God every day that I get to do what I do. Thank you for tuning in to a little glimpse of the life of a young professional in the sport industry.