What is a Sports Communications Degree?

Football. Baseball. Basketball. Hockey. Soccer. These are the five major sports that are part of culture in North America, that dominate the continent’s sports landscape.

Sports communications is at the heart of that landscape. It is what connects athletes, teams, leagues, the media, and fans. From the in-stadium and in-arena experience to live television and radio coverage of games to pre- and post-game analysis and interviews in all forms of media, to team season ticket drives and promotions to tweets by athletes and agents, sports communications is the conduit for information, broadcast, discussion, debate, and publicity in the wide, wide world of sports.

Degree programs in sports communications prepare students for careers in sports journalism, play-by-play broadcasting, college sports information departments, and professional sports team front offices. Courses cover media writing, editing, video and audio production, sportscasting, and sports marketing and public relations.

Program Options

Master’s Degree in Sports Communications – One Year Duration
Sports communications degrees are by and large offered at the master’s level. Normally, to be admitted to one of these programs, students must have completed a bachelor’s degree. While an undergrad degree in general communications or public relations is fairly common among applicants, this is not necessarily a prerequisite for admission to a sports communications program.

Students of sports communications are trained in all aspects of sports media, including live game reporting, video editing, studio and radio show production, and sports blogging. The ideal curriculum blends traditional coursework with real-world engagement in the form of an internship.

Here is a snapshot of core courses that make up a typical program:

• Introduction to Sports Broadcast Journalism – introduction to the fundamentals of sports broadcast journalism; familiarization with writing formats, reporting techniques, and interviewing skills; students will prepare weekly scripts for broadcast and gather sound from both the field and online sites, and then incorporate content into sportscasts; using written assignments and actual reporting situations such as live game coverage, press conferences, and interview, the course provides realistic exercises for skill development and career exploration
• Sports Video / Field Production – introduction to video production with emphasis on electronic sports-newsgathering (ENG) and electronic field production (EFP); students will learn the technology necessary to produce and edit short video products and will develop an appreciation of the unique power of video in the sports communications sphere; focus will be on technical skills using editing software and camcorders and ability to analyze and critique video productions
• Sports Imaging – introduction to the behind-the-scenes aspect of sports radio imaging, i.e., the composite impact of on-air sound effects; students will develop their skills in audio editing, commercial writing, and audio production by creating promos, show opens, liners, and commercial content; students will develop a portfolio of produced work
• Sports Radio Hosting / Producing – developing skills as an on-air sports radio talent; students will host weekly podcasts, prepare monologues, provide a show rundown, pitch ideas and guests, and professionally edit content using the latest software
• Sports Studio Anchoring, Writing, and Editing – studio anchoring, writing, and video editing; students will prepare scripts, gather video, and anchor sportscasts in the TV studio; focus will be placed on pre-production with some emphasis on post-production
• Project / Thesis – directed research in a seminar format culminating in the completion and submission of a video documentary for the master’s project or thesis

Here are some examples of possible elective courses:

• Sports Media and Public Relations – exploration of the role of public relations and mass media in sports communications; strengthening and building relationships with the media, players and sports figures, teams, leagues, other entities, and fans
• Sports History and Culture – examination of the historical development of sports in the United States from a societal and cultural viewpoint; examination of the relationship between sports and nationalism, sports and politics, sports and the economy, sports and societal change, sports and gender, and sports and American expansion
• Creative Content in Sports Communications and Media – the art of creating content and how to sell that video in the always evolving media landscape
• Legal and Ethical Challenges in Media Communication – overview of the principles of communication law, with emphasis on First Amendment issues, broadcasting and advertising regulations and copyright laws; ethical issues related to making policy decisions and competition
• Technology Applications for Public Relations – using current communications technologies, software, and strategies to develop and produce effective PR vehicles, with emphasis on blogs, web sites, social media, and audio and video production

Degrees Similar to Sports Communications

Broadcast Journalism
Students of broadcast journalism learn how to report, produce, and deliver the news for television, radio, and other broadcast media. Their studies typically include communication theory, electronic media production, mass communications law, and media and society.

Journalism
Journalism degree programs teach students how to report, write, and edit articles for broadcast or publication. They include classes in broadcast news writing, copyediting and design, reporting, and media law and ethics.

Mass Communication and Media Studies
Mass communication degree programs examine the history, laws, institutions, and cultural impacts of mass media.

Public Relations
Degree programs in public relations (PR) teach students how to deliver information from a business, organization, government body, or individual public figure to a target audience. The curriculum differs from that of other communication sciences. In advertising and marketing programs, students learn how to design and develop communication pieces that clients seek out and pay for. Public relations courses focus on how to achieve image management, generate publicity, and earn positive media attention through press releases, press conferences, blogs, and a social media presence.

Speech Communication and Rhetoric
Degree programs in speech communication and rhetoric focus on the study of human communication. Students of the discipline examine how we communicate one on one, within organizations, and in the larger contexts of politics, cultures, and societies. Coursework includes public speaking, speech writing, and analysis and criticism of examples of persuasive speaking or writing.

Sports Management
Sport is a multi-billion dollar industry. Degree programs in sports management focus on the business aspects of sports and recreation and prepare students to work as sport managers in various sectors.

Whether you dream of working for a major league football or basketball team, bringing recreational programs to low-income communities, developing a sports marketing program to attract new audiences, or running your own athletic gear start-up, you’re going to need a strong foundation in business. You’re going to need skills in business communications, marketing, information technology, human resources management, leadership, entrepreneurship, accounting, law, facility operations and event management, media and public relations, and the economics of sport. If you love sports, this degree can equip with you those skills and help you make it your career.

Skills You'll Learn

Sports communications graduates come away from their studies with these useful skills:

• Ability to absorb and summarize new information quickly
• Ability to disseminate information accurately
• Ability to learn on the job
• Ability to work both independently and as part of a team
• Attention to detail
• Clear, concise, and creative writing
• Communication and interpersonal skills
• Digital literacy
• Ethics
• Objectivity and logical reasoning
• Organization
• Problem-solving
• Public speaking
• Research
• Social awareness

What Can You Do with a Sports Communications Degree?

Journalism, broadcast journalism, and public relations are the fields of employment most commonly associated with a degree in sports communications.

Journalism / broadcast journalism involves researching, writing, editing, and presenting sports content for newspapers, magazines, radio, television, book publishers, and other media. Possible roles include:

Author
• Beat Reporter / Writer – is assigned to cover a specific sport, league, or team
• Play by Play Announcer / Broadcaster – gives real-time commentary of a game or event during a live broadcast
• Public Address Announcer – makes announcements over public address systems at live sporting events
• Publisher
• Sports Analyst / Commentator / Interviewer
Sports Broadcaster
• Sports Content Writer / Producer / Editor / Video Editor
• Sports Reporter
• Sports Talk Show Host

The focus of sports public relations is the promotion and management of a sport entity’s public image. Sport entities include professional and college leagues, teams, high-profile athletes, even single sporting events. Possible roles include:

• Audience Analyst – gathers and analyzes data to identify potential audiences, select priority audiences, and identify priority audience characteristics (socio-demographic, geographic, and psychographic), attitudes, and practices
• Fan Communications Specialist
• Media Relations / Public Relations Specialist
• Press Agent
Promotions Manager
Publicist
• Social Media Analyst / Coordinator / Manager
• Sports Information Director – provides statistics, team and player notes, and other information about a college or university’s sports teams to the news media and general public

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