Describing Sport Management Practitioners’ Information Technology (IT) Competence and Training Needs

**ABSTRACT**

This descriptive, exploratory research aimed to describe sport management practitioners’ information technology (IT) competence, usage rates, and training needs. Specifically, the research examined how IT software training affects IT competence and usage rates. In addition, the research examined the effect of IT usage rates on IT competence. The study extended to 10 software packages typically integrated into sport management curriculums. Participants included 126 practitioners from four areas of the sport industry: collegiate athletic departments, collegiate conference headquarters, major league professional franchises, and minor league professional franchises. Data were analyzed via the t-test and analysis of variance. The findings and their implications for future development of IT curriculums within sport management programs are discussed.

**INTRODUCTION**

For the present study, the researchers generally defined information technology (IT) as the tools and processes used for identification, organization, and manipulation of facts called data. These tools and processes include computers and software that organizations typically employ to complete daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly business transactions. Proper use of these tools and processes enables practitioners and organizations to accomplish regular tasks efficiently, while keeping information and transactions secure within their software. Software examined for this study included two types, basic and advanced. Basic IT comprised e-mail, PowerPoint, and word-processing software; advanced IT comprised spreadsheet, database-management, statistical-analysis, Web-design, program-management, ticketing-systems, and desktop-publishing software.

Technology has beset universities and the workplace, and higher education has been immersed in a major educational reform movement since IT’s advent. Organizations worldwide deem workplace implementation of IT an inevitable business strategy (Chow & Choi, 2003). Internal and external demands to integrate IT into most business facets drive human resource departments to become increasingly “IT-wise,” lest even the most capable leaders fail to grasp the full, advantageous potential of strategic use of IT.

Within the sport industry, IT utilization is transforming the way managers conduct business operations. Joseph calls IT skills important, especially for business organizations, within which these skills “will have a major bearing on the quality of decision making” (2002, p.120). To clarify, while the human side of management is extremely important and will never be disregarded, the development of human resource skills can improve decision making. Business managers are giving ever more weight to hiring individuals who understand computers and information systems (Mondy, Noe, & Premeaux, 2002). Expertise in contemporary technology continues to amplify in complexity: The comprehension and competencies working sport managers need have outpaced academic sport management programs’ ability or opportunity to facilitate the learning of pertinent IT (Turner & Stylianou, 2004).

Technology’s continuing development will impact the sport industry and sport management curriculums (Hums & Stephens, 1995); coordinators of sport management programs, therefore, need to assess how their curriculums are progressing. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Initiative on Inventing the Organizations of the 21st Century included eight areas of focus to ensure future success. Two of these were (a) individual skills and (b) the impact of IT (Malone, Morton, & Halperin, 1996). The rapid expansion of technology into every aspect of contemporary sport management suggests that the 21st-century sport manager must establish and maintain IT proficiency.

It falls to our academic sport management programs to prepare future managers to do this. Ample IT courses must be offered to meet the needs of the many segments of the sport industry. Standards for sport management curriculums have been prescribed by NASPE-NASSM and incorporate content areas intended to familiarize students with a body of knowledge essential to a variety of sport careers. The content areas include sport management and leadership, sport governance, ethics, legal aspects of sport, economics, budgeting and finance, sport marketing, socio-cultural dimensions of sport, inter-personal/professional relationships, and communication and technology.

These elements of a standard curriculum optimally prepare graduates to meet most sport career demands. An exception, however, is technology. Discussions with numerous faculty and practitioners suggest that they perceive student competence in information technology to be neglected. Those responsible for guiding and operating sport management academic programs need to pay closer attention to technology’s ever-changing exigencies, demands that will shape their students’ careers. The single course currently allowed to meet the NASPE-NASSM communication and technology standard appears to be insufficient. (Even it is not solely dedicated to IT.) The level of IT competence contemporary sport managers need is only obtained through the development of a variety of skills via numerous courses incorporating an array of techniques.

The need for IT-competent practitioners in the field of sport, then, creates a parallel need within sport curriculums for vigorous, germane IT emphases. First and foremost, faculty-driven strategic planning for enhanced development of future professionals requires assessment of current trends in IT use and knowledge among practitioners. Planned interventions in sport management organizations by human resources staff help constituents pinpoint human resource concerns related to trends in technology, including potential deficiencies.

Human resource management personnel are inundated with training and career-development offerings related to IT. No other area has prompted such a flood of workplace-based instruction (Mondy, Noe, & Premeaux, 2002). Robbins (1998) states that human resources interventions related to IT usually center on internal issues of human development and process improvement. This focus compares to the strategies utilized in higher education to evaluate student development and performance.

Demand for sport managers with IT skills relevant to the chosen professional area should lead faculty to gather and employ information on IT needs; they should initiate departmental- or program-level interventions addressing the appropriateness of their existing sport management curriculums, in light of that information. When they set out to assess skill development among their students, institutions must use applicable industry input. By providing technology training appropriate to the specific technology requirements of students’ chosen professions, an institution not only enhances student learning, it secures a more effective academic climate and a relevant educational experience, one efficiently accommodating contemporary business trends.

Society’s and sport agencies’ dependence on computers has demanded major changes in the way sport managers work. No agency is free to ignore the constantly changing stream of interrelated societal and technological trends. Business and academic organizations alike, though they exercise only limited control over certain external and even internal forces affecting their enterprises, should understand that efforts to increase their control via technology can indeed further their managerial or administrative goals. Organizations that acknowledge IT’s unrelenting expansion and their need for greater mastery of its prerequisites can proactively turn technology into organizational strengths. The bottom line is that IT tools are a necessity for sport managers at all levels, in all specialties. Future sport managers need to fully develop their IT competency.

**METHOD**

_Participants_
Participants in the study (n=126) were sport management practitioners drawn from the following industry areas: collegiate athletic departments, collegiate conference headquarters, major league professional franchises, and minor league professional franchises. These practitioners were contacted through letters mailed to sport organizations listed in _The Sports Address Bible & Almanac_ (Kobak, 2000). The letters invited readers to participate in our study. A total of 469 letters were sent; 53 were returned to sender for various reasons, leaving 416 surveys assumed received by the sport organizations. Of 416 potential respondents reached, 126 (30%) proceeded to complete our survey via the Internet.

Training Hours/Week Competence
IT Type Yes No 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4
Word Processor 92 34 12 32 27 55 4 13 46 63
PowerPoint 57 69 75 43 5 3 30 34 32 30