Sports Management
Sports Management

Sports Management


Student Price: Contact us to learn more

This text is designed to help undergraduate and postgraduate students develop their competencies in coaching, events, and other aspects of sports management.

Ch 1: Competency Approach for Professional Sports Managers

Chapter Outline

  • A. Management Levels
  • A. Management Functions
  • B. Management Roles
  • B. Management Roles

Learning Objectives: Upon completion of this chapter, the reader should be able to:

  • Understand the main functions of professional sport managers
  • Know the different roles of professional sport managers
  • Be aware of the various levels of professional sport managers
  • Discern the links between management functions, roles, levels, and competency development of professional sport managers

I. Background

Management is the art of accomplishing tasks through others by directing their efforts toward the achievement of predetermined goals. It involves a process of coordinating and integrating resources to effectively and efficiently attain organizational objectives. In order to achieve organizational success, sports and recreation managers ought to use the resources at their disposal in an effective and efficient manner. These resources may include human resources (players, coaches, and volunteers), financial resources (revenues from merchandise, sponsors, and television rights), physical resources (training facilities, equipment, and stadiums), and technological resources (websites and databases) (Figure 1A). 

Figure 1A: Linking Management and Resource Types ​

Source: Designed by the author

This brief chapter covers the foundations of management, with the goal of simplifying the mechanics of management, using multiple examples and case studies. The chapter focuses on management functions, management roles, and management levels. The chapter ends with practice questions and further readings.

II. Conceptual Framework

In general, the entire book adopts the concept of competency development, with development implying the improvement of overall efficiency, efficacy, and performance of an organization (see chapter 2). Specifically, the chapter focuses on developing the competencies of recreation and sports management under various management levels, roles, and functions (Figure 1B). 

Figure 1B: Conceptual Framework

Source: Developed by the author

As indicated in Figure 1B, an effective manager possesses the right combination of competencies, which can help him/her satisfactorily perform the required management functions, roles and at the level required (Figure 1D) by the organization. For example, an experienced and motivated NFL commissioner possesses much more superior management competencies as compared to a new intern.

III. Mechanics of Management

The overall mechanics of sports management entail different levels of management, with varied roles of management performing under diverse functions. Management is a process that begins with accomplishing functions at a particular level. For example, the functions of the commissioner of sports are different from those of a coach of a team.

Figure 1C: Mechanics of Management

Source: Developed by the author

A. Management Levels

Management levels in sports and recreation are hierarchical and can be grouped into top level management, middle level management, and bottom level management (Figure 1D).

Source: Developed by the author 

Top level managers include the commissioner of the National Football League (NFL), Roger Goodell, and the board members, since these are the leaders of the organization. NFL managers at the middle level of management include the director of marketing and/or operations. Lastly, the bottom or operational level of managers in the NFL encompasses the front-desk staff, security personnel, and cleaners. Pay, qualifications, and experience greatly vary by level.

A. Management Functions

The five basic functions of management include planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling (Figure 1E). 

Figure 1E: Management Functions 

Source: Designed by the author 

First, planning entails developing vision, mission, and objective statements, as well as strategic plans for the organization. An example is a marketing manager of the Celtics, who develops a winning marketing plan to increase game attendance. The second management function is organizing, which involves developing an organizational structure suitable for the size and complexity of the organization, then dividing labor accordingly with certain degrees of delegation, departmentalization, and informal structures. It is a process of delegating and coordinating tasks and resources to achieve desired objectives based on available human, physical, financial, and informational resources. For instance, the events manager is usually in charge of organizing a successful event, which may involve catering, security, entertainment, and proper amenities. The third function of management is staffing. This involves recruiting, screening, hiring, training, and maintaining competent and satisfied staff. For example, some big teams have fulltime recruitment managers whose goal is to assemble top talent to produce a winning team. The fourth function of management is directing, which involves decision making, problem solving, leadership, communication, motivation, and discipline. For instance, the board of the NFL is in charge of directing the league. Finally, the last function of management is controlling, which pertains to establishing standards that measure results. For example, the finance manager controls expenses so the team can stay afloat.

B. Management Roles

The role of the modern recreation and sports managers continues to evolve. The common roles include supervision of programs and operational services, as well as the development of organizational goals, objectives, policies, operating procedures, and assessments. Other responsibilities may include promotion of sports activities and facilitation of a positive work environment. As illustrated in Figure 4, the role of the coach is to train and motivate players to win. To do so, the coach may first begin by focusing on main responsibilities, such as analyzing players’ performances, conducting drills, and providing encouragement. Minor responsibilities could include mentoring, motivating, organizing, facilitating, and supporting the athlete in off-field issues. Examples of decision making roles include being a negotiator, allocating resources, and handling conflicts. Informational roles include monitoring, disseminating information, and being a spokesperson of the team. Moreover, the interpersonal roles of a coach may include being a leader, liaison and figurehead. The role of the NBA or NFL commissioner is to enforce league rules and run a successful league through implementing winning business strategies (Figure 1F). However, team owners may be largely focused on acquiring stadiums, financing the team, and produce a profitable franchise.

Figure 1F: Management Roles 

Source: Developed by the author 

C. Managerial Skills

A competent sports manager is one who is well rounded and possesses the following or more skills in equal measure: technical skills, people skills, communication skills, conceptual skills, and decision-making skills. 

Table 1A: Skills Needed and Functions Performed by Management Levels

   Management level        

   Desired management function          

   Ideal management function


 Conceptual & decision making skills

 Planning & organizing


 Balance of all skills

 Balance of all four


 Technical and people skills

 Leading & controlling

Note: Management levels may vary based on the size of the organization.

Source: Modified from Lussier & Kimball, 2013, and various management books 

Skills are sometimes matched based on the division of labor that occurs when jobs are organized by specialty. For example, an accounting manager works in the accounting department, and a marketing manager works in the marketing/ ticketing department. Furthermore, managers usually perform less specialized functions as they move up the management ladder. However, various departments often work in a coordinated manner to accomplish strategic and operational objectives, requiring sharp conceptual skills.

IV. Chapter Summary

This chapter explored the roles, functions, and levels of recreation and sports managers. Based on the level of management, the roles can be different. For instance, it is not the role of the commissioner of the NFL to perform stadium duties during matches. However, by delegation to the security manager, the commissioner, by extension, performs such functions. Competent sports managers may therefore be deemed effective if they use their skills well. We can end this chapter by adding that…

The primary purpose of good corporation management is to keep a company in business indefinitely. They must look ahead and plan for depression risks, competition, obsolesce, exhaustion of natural resources, population movements, fashion changes, and political attacks. They must grow reserves against hard times, improve and lower the cost of their products, stabilize the security of their workers as much as possible, and make the public like and desire their company as a community and national asset.” Charles E. Wilson

V. Practice Questions 

Review and answer the following:


What are the functions of the Commissioner of NFL?


What three types of resources may a team owner coordinate?


With examples from the NHL, explain the three levels of management.


List six general competency categories of an entry-level manager.

Consider the Celtics and answer the following:


Draw and describe their management structure.


What are the different levels of management?


Discuss the link between the functions of players and team owners.


To hire the best coach for Celtics, what skills, qualifications, and competencies will you be looking for?

Go to the website,, and seek a job description of an athletic director. Using the information contained here, answer the following:


What did you learn from the website?


Explain the key functions of athletic directors listed on the job requirements.


List the top four common competencies for directors.


What “soft” skills are important for a successful athletic director?

Pick one global sports governing body (for example, FIFA) and review its structure, levels of management, functions, skills of each level, etc. The information may be sourced from the organization’s websites. Research and answer the following:


Draw FIFA’s global management structure together with all the levels of management.


What skills and qualifications are necessary to become the president of FIFA?


Discuss current or past management issues FIFA has had in the last decade.


With suggestions, address at least one of the problems FIFA has had.

VI. Further Readings

  • Bass, B., & Avolio, B. (Eds.). (1994). Improving organizational effectiveness through transformational leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Blanchard, K., & Johnson, S. (1982). The one minute manager. NY: William Morrow.
  • Bridges, F., & Roquermore, L. (2004). Management for athletic/sport administration: Theory & Practice, (4th. Ed.). Dacatur, GA: ESM Books.
  • Brown, G. (2008). A look at the role business managers play in intercollegiate athletics. NCAA News. Retrieved from (BROKEN LINK)
  • Claussen, C., & Lehr, C. (2002). Decision making authority of senior women administrators. International Journal of Sport Management, 3, 215-228.
  • Chelladurai, P. (2009). Managing organizations for sport and physical activity: A systems perspective. (3rd.ED.). Holcomb Hathaway Publishers, Scottsdale, AZ.
  • Cuskelly, G., & Auld, C. (1991). Perceived importance of selected job responsibilities of sport and recreation managers: An Australian perspective. Journal of Sport Management, 5, 34-46.
  • Drucker, P. (1981). Management. NY: Harper & Row.
  • Cuban, M. ((2013).How to win at the sport of business. Diversion Publishing.
  • Fombrun, C., Gargberg, N., & Sever, J. (2000). The reputation quotient: A multiple-stakeholder measure of corporate reputation. Journal of Brand Management, 7 (4), 241-255.
  • Gillentine, A., & Brian, C. (Ed.). (2015). Foundations of sport management. 3rd. ed. FiT Publications.
  • Graham, P. (1994). Sport business: Operational and theoretical aspects. Dubuque, Iowa: Brown & Benchmark.
  • Hall, L. (1976). What makes a manager good, bad, or average? Psychology Today, 10: 52
  • Hamlin, R.G., Ellinger, A.D, & Beattie, R.S. (2006). Coaching at the heart of managerial effectiveness: a cross-cultural study of managerial behaviours. Human Resource Development International, 9(3), 305-331.
  • Handy, C. (2000). Twenty-one ideas for managers: Practical wisdom for managing your company and yourself. Jossey-Bass.
  • Hattfield, B., Wrenn, J., & Bretting, M. (1987). Comparison of job responsibilities of intercollegiate athletic directors and professional sport general managers. Journal of Sport Management, 1, 129-145.
  • Hoffman, J. (2010). The dilemma of the senior women administrator (SWA) role in the intercollegiate athletics. Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics, 3, 53-75,
  • Katz, R.L. (1974). Skills of an effective manager. Harvard Business Review, 52, 90-102.
  • Mintzberg, H. (1975). The manager’s job: Folklore and fact. Harvard Business Review, 53, 49-61.
  • Mintzberg, H. (1973). The nature of managerial work. New York: Harper & Row.
  • Pacifici, A. (2014). Scope and authority of sports league commissioner disciplinary power: Bounty and beyond. Berkley Journal of Entertainment & Sports Law, 3 (1), 93-115.
  • Pedersen, P., & Thibault, L. (2014). Contemporary sport management. 5th Ed. Human Kinetics.
  • Quarterman, J. (1994). Managerial role profiles of intercollegiate athletic conference commissioners. Journal of Sport Management, 8, 129-139.
  • Rosner, S., & Shropshire, K. (2010). The business of sports. Jones & Bartlett Learning.
  • Stoldt, A. (2000). Current and ideal roles of NCAA Division 1-A sports information professionals. Cyber-Journal of Sport Marketing, 4(1),
  • Tiell, B., & Dixon, M. (2008). Roles & tasks of the senior women administrators (SWA) in intercollegiate athletics: A role congruity perspective. Journal of the Study of Sports & Athletes in Education, 2 (3), 339-361.
  • Vroom, V. (2005). Educating managers for decision making and leadership. Management Decision, 41(10), 968-978.
  • Whisenant, W., & Pedersen, P. (2004).The influence of managerial activities on the success of intercollegiate athletic directors. American Business Review, 22 (1), 21-26.
  • Ziegler, E. (1979). The case of management theory and practice. JOPER, 50: 36,