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02 Apr

Sport Management History 101


Sport management history

With growing interest in sports across all ages and skill levels, the need for sport management professionals is also expanding. As a result, the career outlook for sport managers is growing faster than the national average for all occupations. New positions in sports and entertainment are expected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1 Additionally, the sport industry in North America is expected to grow from $60.5 billion in 2014 to $73.5 billion in 2019.2

Sporting competitions have been around for centuries, but the origins of sport management are much more recent. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the British Empire set the stage for modern Western sport management.3 That's where thoroughbred racing and early stick-and-ball precursors to cricket, field hockey and even baseball all developed. The English aristocracy developed sports clubs that had membership policies and organized events and competitions. In the 19th century, the standardized rules of these clubs became the norm.

Since then, sport management has extended to youth organizations, competitions for special needs athletes like the Special Olympics and university athletics. Here's a look at the history of sport management, focusing on how it has developed in the U.S.

The Formation of Sport Management Programs

American educational institutions began to develop sport management professionals in the 20th century. Though it was not a course dedicated solely to sport management, the University of Wisconsin-Madison created an Administration and Organization course in 1911 that was designed to improve athletic management for their university.4 From then on, other universities started to incorporate sport management into existing business classes to help their administrations better manage their own athletic programs.

In 1920, the National Federation of State High School Associations was formed to develop education-based interscholastic sports for students.5 By midcentury, Walter O'Malley, owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, expressed the need for sport managers with an education in sport management issues. In response to growing awareness of this need, one of the first master's programs in sport management in the U.S. was created at Ohio University in 1966.6

The Creation of the North American Society for Sport Management

As more universities added sport management programs, more research on sports was also conducted to aid sport development, services and products. By 1985, the National Association for Sport and Physical Education had identified more than 40 undergraduate programs and 32 graduate programs in sport management.7 Acknowledging and substantiating sport management's expanding presence with its own professional organization made sense at this time.

In 1985, the North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM) was formed.8 NASSM's mission is to promote and encourage research and advancement in the area of sport management. Today, it produces a research publication called the Journal of Sport Management, and its values are used as a model for sport management university programs like the one offered at the University of Kansas.

The Evolution of Sport Management

Today, sport management is global, as organizations like the European Association of Sport Management and the Sport Management Association of Australia and New Zealand work to administrate sport management professionals in settings outside the U.S. In addition to playing a major role in facilitating athletic competitions, sporting professionals' roles have grown to include:

The sport management field has developed a great deal over the years. Organizations like NASSM help sport management professionals stay current on these issues and more, a necessity in such a complex and evolving field.

Want to Learn More About the History of Sport Management?

If the evolution of this exciting professionis of interest to you, you can learn more about the history of sport management and other related topics by pursuing an online Master’s in Sport Management* from the University of Kansas. Graduates of this program learn the skills they need to become administrative professionals within all sectors of the sport industry.

*This program is a Master of Science in Education (M.S.E.) degree in health, sport management, and exercise science with an emphasis in sport management.

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Important Dates

Application Deadline

August 6
Fall 2021 Term

Next Start

August 23
Fall 2021 Term


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