Educating Sports Entrepreneurs: Matching Theory to Practice

Abstract

Sports entrepreneurship courses are part of sports management programs because some students hope to own their own sports-oriented business, and major sports conglomerates look to hire employees with entrepreneurial skills. Sports management instructors prepare students for these challenges. However, not all sports entrepreneurship instructors have owned their own businesses nor worked for large sports corporations. As a result, this study was conducted to determine if sports entrepreneurship instructors and sports entrepreneurs agree on the content that should be taught in sports entrepreneurship courses in order to prepare students for the real-world.

Results of the study indicate that sports entrepreneurship instructors do agree on a set of content standards for sports entrepreneurship courses, specifically, the Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education National Content Standards (1). Additionally, when ranking the content skills, sports entrepreneurship instructors and sports entrepreneurs agreed on four of the five top skills students should be taught in order to be successful sports entrepreneurs.

Key Words: Sports Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurs, Sports Education, Sports Entrepreneurship Courses

Introduction

Sport management programs continue to grow in number. Since the first sport management program was developed at Ohio University in 1966, programs continue to spread across the United States and the world. According to the North American Society for Sport Management, there are more than 200 sport management programs in the United States alone (6). This growth has prompted a need for innovation within sport management curricula and the development of courses that are high quality, content-rich, and flexible.
The sports industry is the third largest industry in the United States, accounting for more than $213 billion dollars a year in revenues (3). Kurtzman (4) outlined the importance of sports tourism as the impetus for the pursuit of business entrepreneurship, economic impact, and profitability. He categorized sports tourism jobs into categories of events, resorts, cruises, tours and attractions – along with listed subgroups in those categories. These subgroups, such as sports events planning and sports tour operators, are areas that are ripe for entrepreneurial endeavors.

An industry as large as the sports industry requires educated people to run a variety of sports related businesses. However, it should not be assumed that sports entrepreneurs are only owners of professional sports franchises. The sports industry entails a variety of sub-businesses, both large and small. For example, there are owners of health club facilities, sports arena and facility operators, league owner/operators, sporting goods store owners, sports ticket agencies, and sport physical therapists – just to name a few. Sport management students take sport entrepreneurship courses in order to learn the skills that are necessary to operate these types of sport-related businesses.
On the other hand, sport management instructors are entrusted with preparing their students for jobs in sport-oriented businesses. It is up to them to develop effective curriculum that prepares students for careers in an industry that is constantly changing and evolving. However, not all sport entrepreneurship instructors have owned their own businesses nor worked for large sports corporations. Research into what type of content and skills sport entrepreneurship instructors are teaching was sorely needed.
This study was conducted to compare what sport entrepreneurship instructors and practicing sport entrepreneurs believe are the important skills necessary to teach sport entrepreneurship students in order to be successful in running sport-oriented businesses. It is relevant to sports entrepreneurship educators as well as students of sports management programs – in regards to gauging what is currently being taught in sports entrepreneurship courses.

Methods

There were two research populations for this study. The research populations included: 1) NASPE/NASSM instructors of sport entrepreneurship courses in college level sport management programs that are accredited by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and the North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM). 2) Sport entrepreneurs located throughout the United States in a variety of sports oriented businesses.

Two hundred and seventeen (217) sport management instructors were identified through their faculty web pages. However, it should be noted that this was not a complete list of sport entrepreneurship instructors, because there is no way to determine how many of these sport management instructors actually taught sport entrepreneurship courses. The instructors that were contacted, were all members of sport management programs, and taught sports management related courses at the time the data was gathered. However, all sport management programs do not have sport entrepreneurship courses, nor do all sport management professors teach sport entrepreneurship. Therefore, it was impossible to get an exact count of how many sport entrepreneurship instructors exist in NASPE/NASSM accredited sport management programs. Ultimately, 43 (N = 43) sport entrepreneurship instructors participated in the study.

The second research population consisted of 250 sport-oriented businesses. The researcher randomly selected four sport-oriented businesses in each of the fifty states in the United States of America. Small sport-oriented businesses were chosen, as opposed to utilizing owners of large sports conglomerates. This is because they represented a good mix of sport-oriented businesses and they were more indicative of the types of businesses that would have been opened by recently graduating sports management students. Ultimately 67 (N = 67) sport entrepreneurs participated in the study.

The research instruments that were used to conduct this study were two questionnaires that were developed and piloted by the researcher and reviewed by a panel of experts to achieve validity and reliability.

The questionnaires were administered via email and regular mail for both research populations. The questionnaires were made available over the Internet to maximize participation. The researcher created electronic versions of the questionnaires and administered them on the Internet using www.surveymonkey.com.

Results

The Instructor Group was comprised of 88.4% males and 11.6% females, with 60.4% of the overall population between the ages of 36 and 55. A doctorate or master’s degree was held by 72.1% of the population. 60.4% were associate or full professors. 88.4% had 5+ years of general teaching experience. 90.7% had some type of online teaching experience. 93% had some type of blended teaching experience. 81.4% taught in 4-year colleges or universities or in graduate programs. Finally, 79.1% had sports entrepreneurship courses as an elective at their respective institutions.

An analysis of the descriptive data of the Sport Entrepreneur Group was as follows. 85.1% of the Sport Entrepreneur Group were males whereas 14.9% were female. 68.6% were between the ages of 36 and 55. 82.1% had some type of college degree. Sporting goods store owners were the largest type of business represented by this group at 37%. 25.4% of the Sport Entrepreneur respondents were relatively new businesses that had been in existence less than five years. On the opposite end, 20.9% of the group had been in business for over 25 years. The largest legal structure was a sole proprietorship at 34.3%. 38.8% of the business had over $500,000 in revenues. 17.9% only had themselves as the only employee whereas 83.6% had anywhere up to 14 employees.

To address the question of whether there is a universal set of content standards in sports entrepreneurship courses, both groups were asked if they thought that CEE’s National Content Standards (1) (Appendix A) were a complete list of all of the skills and traits necessary for sports entrepreneurship students to learn in order to become successful business owners. The results were as follows:

Table 1.1 Are CEE’s National Content Standards Complete? (Instructors)

Yes or No Frequency Percent
Yes 41 95.3
No 2 4.7

Table 1.2 Are CEE’s National Content Standards Complete? (Sports Entrepreneurs)

Yes or No Frequency Percent
Yes 65 97.0
No 2 3.0