Practical work placements help secure a ‘dream career’ in elite-level sport.
A couple of decades ago, professional jobs in sports management and marketing were barely a blip on the careers landscape.
But thanks to global shifts in marketing and the massive growth of sports organisations, there is now a strong focus on careers that engage sports fans and sponsors to create deeper value, relationships and customised experiences.
Five years ago, Matt Bolitho graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in sport management and marketing, and he’s now working in a dual-focused management role with the AFL’s North Melbourne Football Club.
With a life-time passion for sports of all kinds – and a keen ambition to work in the industry - Matt says that choosing to Deakin was a straightforward decision.
‘Deakin’s sports management reputation preceded it – if I was going to take my pursuit of working in the highly competitive sports field seriously there simply was no other choice. The degree provided me with the fantastic mix of fundamental business studies that combined with my passion for sports and my ambition to work within the field of sports management/administration,’ he says.
As the Talent Pathways and Female Football Manager at the North Melbourne Football Club, Matt says there are two key aspects to his role.
‘The first is managing our talent pathways programs which is effectively overseeing any of the academy programs for young talented athletes affiliated with North Melbourne. This includes our Next Generation Academies in Victoria and Tasmania and our Father/Son and Father/Daughter academies.’
The second focus of his job is managing the involvement of the club’s participation in female football participation in Victoria and Tasmania – a role that carries significant crossover with the talent pathways program.
‘It also has a strong focus on North Melbourne’s involvement in AFLW (AFL Women’s) – firstly in the application process to secure a licence for the club which we submitted in mid-June 2017. If we’re successful with our submission, the role will help the club transition as we work towards fielding a side in the competition’, he explains.
Matt says that one of the highlights of studying sports management and marketing at Deakin was the program’s strong practical focus that gave him as much industry and hands-on experience as possible.
‘This really increased my awareness of the job market and helped prepare me for the realities of transitioning into the professional environment.’
Some of this included Matt being selected to participate as the undergraduate student representative on the sports management course advisory board – an experience that enabled him to meet with some ‘extremely influential’ people in the industry.
‘It also allowed me to represent the students’ perspective as the advisory board worked through potential changes to the course itself. To see the effort and thought that goes into designing the program taught me a lot about the professional environment in which Deakin operates.’
During his studies, Matt was also able to undertake multiple work placement programs with a variety of sports organisations. He says the opportunity to work in a range of real-life professional environments was invaluable and proved to be the catalyst for securing on-going roles in what he describes as his ‘dream career’.
‘The ability to apply theoretical learning in real-time within the workplace was invaluable and it also kept the course exciting and ever-changing. The placement opportunities assisted in helping me secure my first contract followed by full-time roles within the industry.’
Now employed in the fast-paced, ever-changing environment of the AFL, Matt says that each year brings unique projects and challenges.
‘This means that you need to be adaptable to an infinite number of situations and scenarios which can be exciting but also extremely challenging.’
Equally, he adds, there’s great enjoyment from working alongside an enthusiastic team of people in an elite sporting organisation.
‘The people and the culture at the club are great – you never wake up dreading to go to work at North Melbourne Football Club. Every person at the organisation has the mindset of being the absolute best in the industry – all with the goal of winning an AFL premiership.’