Getting Started in Athletics, Fitness & Recreation

Join your peers and meet with industry experts at AB Show 2019.
Join your peers and meet with industry experts at AB Show 2019.

Whether you're transitioning into a management role within an athletics, fitness or recreation organization, or just starting to get your feet wet in the industry, one thing is sure: There's a lot to learn, keep track of and adapt to. New trends in programming, facility design and management are constantly emerging, along with new equipment, developing technology and changing member needs. All of these factors make networking product exploration and continued education vital for success.

Build your professional network
With constantly shifting trends and an abundance of new programming and facility design options, having a reliable group of peers who understand your challenges and responsibilities as the manager of programs or facilities is invaluable. Thankfully, myriad options exist to get connected.

Networking with other industry professionals has never been easier. Professional associations offer not only destination conferences, but also online forums and social media platforms that, in the case of AB partner NIRSA, keep members within the campus rec sector connected to each other. Beyond campus recreation, associations are available for health club owners, college and high school athletic directors, parks and recreation professionals, and so much more. Taking advantage of the platforms provided by associations can help you meet other professionals who serve in the same role as you — meaning you have a nationwide group of peers who can offer advice, be a sounding board for your new ideas or brainstorm solutions to the unique challenges others in your position face every day.

Industry events are also a great way to meet people whose collective work spans the full spectrum of the industry and all aspects of programming and facility management. The majority of these events host special networking sessions outside of expo hall and seminar hours, giving attendees a dedicated time to build new connections and maintain existing ones in a more relaxed environment. There's no arguing that the education and expo hall are the rightful focus of any event, but the networking opportunities often are what attendees value most.

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Discover what the industry has to offer
New products, services and technology are always being launched within the industry. From new scheduling software to the latest in treadmill innovations, it can be intimidating to keep it all straight.

One way you can leverage your network of athletics, fitness and recreation peers is by asking what products and technology they use in their facilities. If your counterpart from another organization is currently using a specific product, they'll be able to provide a use case and full review of how it has been received by members, any maintenance issues encountered, and whether it has optimized any of their processes.

Industry events are also a great way to see and learn about the latest products that equipment and technology manufacturers within athletics, fitness and recreation have to offer, or to meet architects for future building or renovation projects. Many industry events couple educational seminars, where you can learn about new products and technology, with an expo hall that hosts the manufacturers of those products and services. These types of events are so valuable that Taylor Kent, wellness coordinator at Ambrose University, commented at a recent industry event that she was able to discover "innovations that I didn't even know existed. It was great to be able to learn about the latest trends in the seminars and then head into the expo hall to meet with the people who can help you meet those needs."

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Learn how industry leaders SUCCEED
Setting yourself up with a mentor who holds a position to which you aspire can put you on the right track for success. Whether it's your direct supervisor at your organization or an industry leader from across the country, they'll be able to give advice and share best practices they've learned along the way.

Many associations provide member lists or forums to help facilitate communication between their members. Peruse the list and reach out to members who have a title that you would like to have down the road. Online discussion forums are also a valuable resource you can utilize to identify industry leaders.

Speaker lists at industry events are also a great resource for identifying the experts. If they've been selected to speak as part of an educational program, the chances are high that they're successful in their role and a reliable source of information. If you're able to attend the event, plan some questions you can ask them during their session and don't hesitate to stick around after their presentation has ended. Event speakers tend to be passionate about the topic they're presenting and are more than willing to linger after their session to answer more questions and connect with attendees. And don't forget to ask for a business card so that you can stay in contact after you've returned home.

To help you successfully jumpstart your career in athletics, fitness and recreation programming or facility management, AB Show 2019 (Nov. 13-16 in Orlando) will give you the chance to build your network, discover everything the industry has to offer and learn from industry veterans on how they got to where they are today. Learn more about the specific educational sessions, expo hall features and networking opportunities that AB Show has to offer at

This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Athletic Business with the title "Your guide to athletics, fitness and recreation." Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.


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