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The Recreational Sport Field

This is an excerpt from Recreational Sport by Robert Barcelona,Mary Wells & Skye Arthur-Banning.

The recreational sport field can be seen as a subset of both the recreation and leisure and the sport management industries; that is, recreational sport professionals work in jobs that provide sport opportunities for the widest range of participants. Recall our discussion of the foundations of recreational sport back in chapter 1. The philosophy that underlies recreational sport is that of sport for all - a philosophy that speaks to the provision of active, participatory sport experiences. The competencies and skills that underlie the recreational sport field support this philosophy and are common to the various job settings and functions in the field. Job settings are the places where recreational sport professionals work, including the management sector and the type of agency or organization where the job takes place. Job functions are the specific kinds of jobs that recreational sport professionals perform.

As you consider potential jobs in the recreational sport field, remember that there is a tremendous amount of diversity in the various recreational sport settings and job functions. A recreational sport professional could find herself working in educational, community, or business settings doing any number of jobs, such as programming sport tournaments and leagues, managing sport venues and facilities, leading instructional activities, supervising sport staff, planning and marketing sport events, or doing some combination of all these things. The diversity of the recreational sport field is one of the attractive things about it; there is a tremendous amount of choice for job seekers looking to match their skills and interests in sport to particular jobs. However, it can also be challenging because there are so many job avenues to pursue. As you read through the following sections, think about the job settings that are most attractive to you. Also, think about the kinds of jobs that you would be most interested in doing in those settings. Thinking about this now can help you better plan how to frame your academic and practical experiences in the field, thus helping you better position yourself for the recreational sport career that is most attractive to you.

Diverse Job Settings

Recreational sport professionals work in diverse organizations and settings. They are needed in any organization where sport programs are offered to meet the needs of active participants (primarily enjoyment) and enhance a wide range of individual and societal outcomes. As mentioned previously, recreational sport agencies and organizations operate in the public, not-for-profit, and commercial sectors of the economy, and the philosophies and missions of these organizations often differ depending on which sector they operate in. The terms agencies and organizations are often used interchangeably, including in this book. However, agencies typically are public-sector recreational sport entities, and organizations are typically recreational sport providers in the nonprofit or commercial sectors.

Career settings, the places and contexts where jobs in recreational sport take place, can include the following:

  • Municipal and county recreation departments, including adult and youth sport
  • Military MWR organizations
  • School (PK-12) and college intramural and recreational sport
  • Resort sports, such as ski and golf
  • Sport facilities and venues, such as arenas, stadiums, and recreation complexes
  • Sport and fitness clubs, such as martial arts studios and fitness centers
  • Sport councils and sport tourism
  • National governing bodies and sport federations
  • Community nonprofit agencies, such as the YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs
  • Sport for people with disabilities

It might be tempting to think that there is a typical recreational sport organization, but think again. The organizations that provide recreational sport opportunities are varied and diverse. Recreational sport activities and programs are offered by municipal park and recreation departments; nonprofit organizations, such as the YMCA; resorts; cruise ships; and colleges and universities through programs such as intramural sport, sport clubs, and campus fitness. Even professional sport leagues and teams offer community-based programs to a wide range of participants. These programs are often used to grow the sport in nontraditional communities. Examples of these initiatives include programs such as the National Hockey League's Hockey is for Everyone initiative or Major League Baseball's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program.

Recreational sport programs are offered through a variety of organized types, like this private health and fitness club.
Recreational sport programs are offered through a variety of organized types, like this private health and fitness club.
© Human Kinetics

Some recreational sport programs are designed specifically to leverage positive developmental outcomes for adult participants. For example, there are Senior Games all over the United States, Canada, and Europe. The Senior Games use sport and physical activity to focus on a number of strategic outcomes, including helping seniors to lead healthy lifestyles that result in healthy aging, enhanced wellness, and increased quality of life (National Senior Games Association, 2012). At the other end of the age spectrum are organizations that use recreational sport to promote positive youth development. These programs use sport as a tool to engage young people, and they are intentionally planned to promote healthy development and to help youth thrive. Girls on the Run (running) and The First Tee (golf) are examples of recreational sport programs that focus on youth development (Barcelona, Hurd, & Bruggeman, 2011).

Other organizations offer recreational sport opportunities for specific groups of athletes. Northeast Passage, a sport-based recreation program for athletes with disabilities at the University of New Hampshire, provides recreational sport opportunities to clients of all ages and at all levels of the sport development pyramid. For example, an athlete with a disability may start participating in a foundational sled hockey program designed to introduce the game; progress through recreational-focused sled hockey programs designed to foster participation; compete in local, regional, and sled hockey national tournaments; and have the opportunity to train and compete at the highest levels, such as the Paralympic Games.

These are just a few examples of the diverse job settings where recreational sport activities take place. As you investigate more, you may find yourself attracted to a specific job setting, or you may be interested in a number of job settings. If you have an idea about what kind of setting you want to work in, the next step is to think about the kind of job you want to do within that setting.

Diverse Job Functions

Recreational sport professionals are attracted to their jobs because they have the opportunity to be involved in the direct provision of sport opportunities by working closely with participants, volunteers, and paid staff. Job duties tend to be varied and can include programming sport events, designing and maintaining facilities, developing policies, monitoring program budgets, training staff and volunteers, scheduling tournaments, managing risk, and engaging in marketing and promotional strategies. In other areas of the sport industry, such as professional sport management or college athletics administration, sport managers may be focused on a specific task, such as selling tickets or advertising. However, in recreational sport, there are typically multiple opportunities to engage in a wide range of job-related duties.

Recreational sport professionals often need to wear many hats in their jobs. A supervisor of youth athletics in a municipal park and recreation department might need to schedule teams and leagues; develop and monitor a program budget; develop a marketing strategy; hire, train, and schedule staff; handle the media; and engage in program evaluation efforts. Although the scope of job duties will depend on the organization and the specific job, staff working in larger organizations tend to have more specialized job duties, whereas staff in smaller organizations need to demonstrate a wider range of skills.


Learn more about Recreational Sport: Program Design, Delivery, and Management.

More Excerpts From Recreational Sport



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