It may be self-evident that people who aspire to work in the sports industry are passionate sports fans. But according to Scott Rosner, Professor of Practice and Academic Director for the M.S. in Sports Management program at the Columbia School of Professional Studies, fandom will only get you so far.
In a wide-ranging conversation for the Learn For Life podcast, hosted by Dr. Jason Wingard, Dean Emeritus and Professor of Human Capital Management at SPS, Rosner explained that the program’s goal is to provide students with the education and training that distinguish the sports professionals from the mere fans.
“We have to break them of their fandom and get them to focus on the skill set that they need to have an effective career,” he said. “It’s great that our students love sports and they get together to watch games…but that’s not what’s going to lead them to career success.”
What makes Sports Management graduates competitive, Rosner continued, is understanding that today’s sports industry is driven by digital media, data analytics and a truly global consumer base. “These are three big tentpoles of our curriculum,” he said.
Rosner attributed the growing importance of digital media to the impact of Millennial and Gen Z sports fans, whose abandonment of cable subscriptions, season tickets and other modes of consumption is “leaving a lasting imprint on the sports industry.”
Data, meanwhile, has helped teams and leagues catch up with other industries when it comes to tracking consumer behaviors and habits. “Knowing who your customers actually are is something that the sports industry is finally getting its arms around,” Rosner said, adding that the use of data analytics to game the acquisition of talent is no longer the novelty it was when Michael Lewis’s Moneyball was published. “Every team is doing Moneyball now.”
Rosner applauded the “influx of women” filling leadership roles across the traditionally male-dominated sports industry and celebrated the overall diversity of the student cohort at the Columbia program, which has attracted candidates from some 15 countries. And he expressed pride in the program’s emphasis on helping students develop the necessary resilience to work in the competitive world of sports.
“We want our students to be able to fall down and get back up,” he said. “The notion of grit is something that we focus on from Day 1 in our orientation program. We’re building the future leaders of the sports industry here at Columbia.”