(Ed. Note – This post was written by new contributor Juan Lozano as a way to help our readers better navigate their early coaching and administrative careers. From time to time, Juan will offer advice, drawing from his experience as an administrator and lawyer, and answer reader questions in hopes that you too will find a career path in college athletics that best suits you.)
My name is Juan Lozano and I am a sports attorney in Los Angeles, California.
I focus my practice on representing coaches, and for years have helped them , and their staff members, find jobs in the industry. Prior to this, I served as director of football operations at a number of schools. Even before that, I practiced law in Los Angeles.
Essentially, I have worked in either college athletics and/or law since 1997.
In that time, I’ve walked down the hallways of many college football office complexes late in the season, and discovered many closed doors. Behind these closed doors are coaches and administrators taking phones calls and talking about what they see on websites like this, or what they have heard from friends.
They want to know how the dominoes fall and how it may potentially relate to their own careers. They want to know how this new information can be used to their advantage. All of these coaches and administrators are continuously focused on the “next one”, that is, the next job. Sometimes this is to the detriment of the job they currently have.
I was one of those staff members. I did the same thing.
Having been in college athletics and in some challenging situations and schools, I recognize and appreciate the desire to move along to a better situation. Similarly, I understand people’s desire to get into the profession.
Because of the position I’m in, I am often the recipient of unsolicited phone calls, emails or texts from desperate job seekers. Most of them are freshly out of college or graduate school, and want advice on how to break in or advance in the profession, or even just a direct hook.
I don’t have all the answers, but I help out when I can and where I can. And I don’t mind helping people. I needed help breaking into the sports world myself.
But times have changed since I started looking for work in the late 1990’s. There are more people than ever now that want to get into the sports industry. And this number continues to grow with a greater number of schools offering sports management and sports business classes or degrees.
I generally respond to these calls because I remember what it was like and how difficult it was to get my start. It wasn’t easy then and I’m fairly certain that it isn’t any easier now.
Generally, the conversation with the job seeker is a rather lengthy one. He or she usually makes one if not both of the two following statements, completely unprompted:
I find that many people may say the first statement, but they don’t really adhere to the spirit of it. These types of statements don’t impress me. They remind me of the way my former student-athletes tried to gain my favor or that of another football staff member in order to avoid consequences or receive some sort of benefit. I could see right through these statements. They weren’t effective then and they aren’t effective now.
In my experience, most people will do anything, so long as all of these following conditions are met:
Rare is the job that has all of these attributes.
What usually ends up occurring is that I make calls or send emails on a job seeker’s behalf, trying to find a suitable position. However, when an opportunity is presented, the young future general manager/coach/athletic director balks at the opportunity because one of the above conditions isn’t met.
All of a sudden, I will do ANYTHING gives way to “I can’t, because…”
Amazingly, the “cool” factor is what eliminates many job seekers from going forward and taking a position, or even applying for one. The job seekers that I generally encounter want to be doing something that is “workplace sexy,” like wearing a headset on the sideline, crunching statistics, writing scouting reports, or evaluating players.
They want to do this immediately, without the benefit of having perhaps picked up some useful skills along the way. They don’t want to be making copies, picking up towels, doing laundry, picking up food, answering phones, or making airport runs to pick up recruits.
Many just want to be General Manager or Athletic Director immediately, without having to do the dirty work.
When I was a Director of Football Operations, I needed people to perform these types of tasks for the benefit of the program. This wasn’t a hazing process. It was about seeing if I could trust that person and if they could complete some of the tasks that I presented to them. I had done many of these jobs myself when I was young and trying to get ahead in the industry. But often these requests were answered with angry looks or short, dispirited responses. Very few interns or entry level workers had enthusiasm for it.
As much as I try to convince young people that starting at the bottom is to their benefit, they resist. That’s why so many are now out of the sports industry, or at best, in a position where they don’t want to be, and still saying that they will “do anything” to get their foot in the door.
So take this unsolicited advice, young future Athletic Director. Take on these tasks with the knowledge that the skills gained and attitude demonstrated will help you advance in your career. You will be gaining competency and knowledge in areas that will help you appreciate other people’s jobs, as well as helping you build your own skills.
I’ve seen too many young coaches and administrators hurt their own careers by not taking chances early on, and instead chasing comfort and “cool,” and waiting for the perfect job rather than taking the opportunities that exist.
No job will be perfect, nor will every experience be ideal. But with a little patience, you can start you career the right way.
Feature photo via M. Richardson/High Country Magazine
Juan Lozano is a sports attorney in Los Angeles, California that focuses his practice on representing coaching talent. He is a former Director of Football Operations at a number of schools. Lozano is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Wisconsin Law School.