Sport Administration Insights with Dr. Andrea Buenaño

Insights on the Sport Administration Field From Award-Winning UC Faculty Member Dr. Andrea Buenaño

Interested in pursuing a sports-related career? The University of Cincinnati’s Master of Sport Administration program is a great starting point. And while love and passion for sports may be the number one ingredient prospective students need to be successful in a sport administration career, it’s not the only one.

UC Assistant Professor Dr. Andrea Buenaño has spent seven years teaching graduate and undergraduate level classes in person and online. She’s a two-time Golden Apple Award winner, an honor awarded by students. With nearly eleven years in the industry, Dr. Buenaño has worked in  recreational, high school, and professional sports, plus Division I & II athletics.

She’s sharing wisdom and advice from her career and years of teaching experience to help students and prospective students make informed decisions and find success. Dr. Buenaño discusses the advantages, challenges, career paths, and her take on the future of the Sport Administration field.

What is sport administration and what does the field encompass?

“Sport administration is an interdisciplinary field. It encompasses elements of business, psychology, law, communications, economics, media, diversity, and marketing.” Dr. Buenaño explains. “Students gain a background and understanding in all facets of sport.”

Do students choose one of those areas or do they learn about all of the above?

“They learn about all the above. Students get to find their passion within the curriculum and choose their path.

“Many of our UC Online students are already working in the field. So for them, our sport administration program builds on what they know from the work they’re already doing. And they can apply what they’re doing in their current job to the curriculum, to assignments, and all that they’re learning.”

Sport Admin Students

How did you decide to enter sport administration?

Andrea recalls growing up playing sports, influenced by watching the sports her big brother played, and wanting to be just like him. Her passion for sports continued as she played in college, where she decided to pursue her degree in sport administration. “I worked in all facets of the sports industry for eleven years prior to completing my degree and starting to teach,” Buenaño explains.

What expertise have you developed through your journey in sport administration?

“I don’t know if I’d call it expertise, but my passion for helping student-athletes has carried over to this role in academia. I get to help students who want to get into the sports industry. I help them reach their goals, and whether students stay with sports administration or not, I try to provide opportunities in the classroom that give them applicable skills they can use in their future work.”

In your experience, what kind of skills and what type of commitments are necessary to be successful in sport administration?

“Communication — you’ll have to get up in front of people, so you have to be able to talk to them. You’ll need to go into a room full of people, shake hands and have conversations with them. The ability to talk to people outside your organization and outside your little bubble is important to get things done.

“It’s important in most industries, but integrity is especially important in the sports industry. I always say, ‘the type of pressure that those in this industry will feel can make really good people make really bad decisions,’ because of the pressure that will be there.

“Time management skills come into play too, because they’re going to be working long hours. They have to be able to manage their time and still find work-life balance.

“You should be adaptable and flexible because this industry will throw all kinds of things at you. Everything changes so often. Nothing remains the same and you’re constantly having to stay on your toes.

“Your sales skills should be impeccable. Not necessarily pertaining to tickets and things like that, but anything you do in life, you’ll need to sell yourself and be comfortable doing so. You’ll need to be confident in your competence, experiences, and passions. That’s so important.”

What would you say are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of working in sport administration?

“First advantage — it’s fun, right? Especially if you have a love for sport and a passion for the fan experience.

“The great thing is, even if you simply love hockey but have never played, you can still work in a hockey-related job. And when you’re passionate about a sport, that’s fun for you. You’re part of giving people a community and a space to go to have a good time. And being involved with the athletes, watching the crowd, seeing smiles on faces, especially those that are coming to the games for the first time — what better work to do than that?

“It requires a lot of your time — that’s a disadvantage. Most people in the industry are working very long hours during the season, less during the offseason. Of course it depends on what you do, but you could work long hours whether you go work with the YMCA or the Reds. When you’re young, you have more energy. As you get older, it starts to wear you down, so that’s something to consider.

“Then again, I didn’t think about those things. It never felt like work to me, even though I would work 30 out of 31 days a month at times. I was having fun, and when you’re having fun it often doesn’t feel like work.”

What is the current state of the sport administration field for women?Sport Administration Women on Football Field

Andrea talks about improvements in the field as a whole, but states that it still has a long way to go. “There’s a lot more support than when I first started as a female, but we’re not there yet. There are organizations that support women. For example, there are intercollegiate athletics organizations that try to support women in their journey, so they can continue and keep moving up in the industry.

“So far, the progress isn’t enough. Women will have to work harder to achieve their goals, and that’s just where we are currently at within this industry.

“For all students, especially females, I would say find some mentors. Use LinkedIn if you need to. You need to network and learn about others that came before you.”

What are the current needs in sport administration?

“Sport administration needs to broaden the focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. We need to see more representation of women, people of color, people with disabilities. There’s been progress, but we’re not there yet. We need more growth potential and opportunities for minorities and those with disabilities.”

Dr. Buenaño points out the law around how organizations can offer internships, emphasizing the importance of those positions needing to be paid. She further explains her stance, saying, “Many sport organizations make a lot of money, and while students are able to complete an internship for credit, it’s becoming way too common to see unpaid internships in the sport industry. Unfortunately, that deters a lot of students from working in the field.”

What technologies and skills are important for students and graduates to understand in sport administration?

“Social media (LinkedIn as well) is a big need right now. Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, because they’re involved in just about anything you’re going to do. Research and networking will be important.”

What characteristics are employers looking for in sport administration candidates?

“It depends on the job, but generally, they’ll look for proper communication and attention to detail. I would make sure your cover letters and resumés are well-written with proper grammar. Be sure the formatting is good too. Because if you don’t have attention to detail, many individuals that are doing the hiring could assume you don’t care.

“I think employers are interested in diversity in experience and diversity of thought. Being a quick thinker is important. You have to be able to think on your feet. And they’ll want to see that you can sell yourself.”

What direction will the sport administration field go in the future?

“I think the future is going to be so wild, it’s going to include things we may not even think about. I couldn’t even dream of social media when I first started. I certainly couldn’t imagine needing skills that pertain to social media, or needing to know about graphic design, but that’s what people look for now. So I think more students will need to be well-versed in the media aspects.

“Everyone is becoming more and more innovative. Everybody’s competing for fans, everybody’s competing to win.”

What do you see as new opportunities for education and employment as a result of those changes?

“We’ll likely see more social media, communications, and graphic design positions.

“Sales and sales rep positions should see growth too because as media grows, as streaming becomes more common, our economy starts to make that shift as well. Everything impacts live event sports. There’s a big gap in the number of families that are able to attend games. So the pressure will be on to try to reach all of those markets.

“With that, I think more people are being hired specifically to be innovative too. Those game experiences off the field will be extremely important to drive the product they’re selling.”

What recommendations would you have for anyone considering a career in the sport admin field?

“I would say focus on professional development, get involved in every opportunity that you possibly can, within reason, to gain experience.”

Dr. Buenaño sheds light on how someone looking for an entry-level position can have some experience before they get their first job. “Most professional organizations do want you to have experience, so employers care about what you’ve been doing in your free time that’s relevant, whether that’s working at a Reds Fest, volunteering for the Flying Pig or the YMCA.”

You mentioned students need to know how to network. Is that something that’s covered in the program, or is that something they should learn on their own?

“Those are things that students need to learn outside the classroom for the most part. They may learn a bit about networking in the program, though. For example, there’s an assignment in my Social Issues course that requires students to network and interview a female in the industry. I encourage them to look on LinkedIn, learn more about this person’s career path, and learn something from them. It helps them build their network.

“But mainly, with networking and marketing yourself too — learning to do those things and doing them outside the classroom is encouraged. We have an alumni page on LinkedIn. I’d start there.”

What kind of education will be needed to meet future needs in sport administration?

“The program will need to stay abreast of current trends, create new courses — social media and any technology that developed. The program will also need to bring in experts on certain topics to help students understand the content. While diverse, faculty are not experts on content, we are there to bridge content and expertise with industry professionals.”

What can UC Online students do to make themselves more marketable and competitive in the field?

“Students should learn to brand themselves via LinkedIn, keeping their profile up to date with proper grammar. I’d say gain as much experience as you can that’s relevant to their degree and interests through volunteering or even work they do while getting their degree. If they’ve worked in a marketing firm, getting into sports marketing is an easier transition. Network, take the time to meet with people, even if it’s for 10 or 15 minutes. Do some of these things to be more marketable because it is a competitive field.”

Thank you to Dr. Andrea Buenaño for her time and insight into UC’s Master of Sport Administration program and best practices for students.

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