Developing Sport Administration Competences:

Analysis on the educational needs of sports administrators

Findings and key takeaways

The main objective of the project “DEVELOPING SPORT ADMINISTRATION COMPETENCES (ADMINS)” addresses the need of fostering the job-related skills and competences of sports administration employees, who in turn strengthen the capacities of sports organisations and contribute to better governance in sports. Having recognized the importance of sport regarding the physical and psychological well-being of an individual, European Union has started incorporating sport into EU policies and initiatives. The European Commission’s Communication “Developing the European Dimension in Sport”, published in January 2011, proposed concrete actions related to societal role of sport which covers issues that directly affect the citizens, the economic dimension of sport, and the organisation of sport, which covers the aspects dealing with the political and legal framework for the sport sector.

As it was mentioned in the Principles of good governance in sport, it is of great importance to attract new generations of administrators, as well as technology and IT. Like many other professions today, administrative employees of sport organisations are not only “administrators”, because their job position requires a wide range of knowledge and competences.

To ensure a real European dimension, project “Developing Sport Administration Competences (ADMINS) has confirmed a strategic partnership with one sport confederation, one sport association, two academic institutions and two NGO’s with rich experience in sport projects. The organisations co-developed an in-depth needs analysis aimed at intercepting via the consultation of both primary and secondary sources:

  • The typical profile of sport administrators, including a detailed description of their characteristics and needs to prevent the potential research shortcomings
  • Educational needs of sport administrators using a questionnaire in English;

The data profiling was instrumental to identify the training needs and eventual skills lag later covered and addressed by the ADMINS training curricula for capacity building of (aspiring) sport administrators and freely available on the official website and open education resource platform of the project. Findings from the aforementioned analysis corroborates the fact that the complexity of sports organisations requires increasingly professional and entrepreneurial management. In response to the evident needs of sports organizations, the number of systematically designed training and education programs for sport administrators is rising across Europe.

However, some of the training courses and education programs organized for Sports Administrators seem to reinforce once again the figure of the Manager destined to a world of profit and gain. In reality, in an environment full of emotions such as sport, economic values, although significant and essential, must be able to coexist and highlight the primary values of sport, a social phenomenon and integration between people of different ethnic, gender, ability and religious backgrounds

Furthermore, it should be noted that human resources development is a long-lasting process and the results are not always short term and cannot be easily measured. Sport Administrators must adapt to the great changes that sports management has undergone that goes from focusing on the public administration, to the rise of the private sector and be aware that the level of professionalism, knowledge and skills among sports managers in the public and private sectors must be similar, although the public ones has much less room for innovation and development.

Therefore, it is necessary to change the mentality about the competences that must be developed by Sport Administrators, supporting a multidisciplinary approach, and reducing the importance of the classic management competences, to promote analysis and technological development skills for sports planning and management. Sports managers must consider Program (youth or adults) planning, computer application and utilisation, research interpretation, and statistics essential curriculum areas in the professional development.

Another aspect that emerged in this study is the acknowledgement of the professionalization trend driving much of the development in Sports in European countries. This trend focuses on increasing the number of staff with formal degrees in sport administration positions. The downside of such route is cost and time to obtain formal degrees. Paradoxically, this is in fact a comparatively expensive solution due to the simple fact that individuals with formal degrees tend to expect formal employments and salaries. Hence, even if the governments cover the costs of a degree like in many EU countries where higher education is tax funded, employing a trained sport administrator is too expensive for many sport organizations. Financing the costs of such employment probably would require an increase in membership fees and demand more volunteer work from the membership in efforts to recruit more sponsors.

In view of that, the main objective of the project “DEVELOPING SPORT ADMINISTRATION COMPETENCES (ADMINS)” is to address the content areas, skills and competences of sports administration employees that have not been considered as much in the past and can strengthen the capacities of sports organisations and contribute to better governance in sports. Such content areas, skills and competences are more analytical or internally rooted, for instance, problem analysis, critical thinking, decision making, innovation, professional expertise, cross-cultural agility, teamwork and team building, customer focus, inspiring others, business acumen, drive for results, learning agility/development, interpersonal skills, and strategic thinking.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible
for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.