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Pulling back the curtain on sports salaries: Part 1

Hi friends,

What's the number one thing you hear about starting a career in sports? That you better get used to long hours and low pay. As an undergrad, my sport management professors used to drill into our heads that we should be prepared to be paid very little in our entry-level roles. In fact, they'd say that we should probably expect that until we made it to upper management - if we made it that is. Because the other thing they'd remind us of was that the industry is demanding and burnout was a very real thing. 


In our new multi-part series, we're being totally transparent about what it was like being in those entry-level roles - everything from salaries to work-life balance to mental states. Today, it's me, Meghan, sharing a little bit about my first role.



As most of you know by now, I started my career at ESPN, having been offered a full-time role at the conclusion of my internship. My official title was production researcher in the Stats and Information Group, and I was based out of Bristol, CT.


On the final day of my internship, the senior director of SIG called me into his office to offer me a job for after I graduated the next summer. The offer letter he handed me had my starting salary as $42,000, which of course seemed like a ton of money to a 21-year-old college student. Plus, I was absolutely in love with ESPN and my job, so I immediately accepted. (Yeah, I didn't play it cool at all, nor did I even think about negotiating.) 


As the oldest of four children, I came to realize as my younger siblings got jobs in their respective fields of engineering and finance, that $42,000 wasn't all that much based on the amount of time I was working (nights, weekends, holidays, etc.). Yet for the sports world, it's one of the higher starting salaries I've come across.


Work-Life Balance

As mentioned, I loved the work I was doing as an intern and while I didn’t have the same schedule as the other interns and sometimes went days without seeing them because of my 4 pm-2 am schedule, I felt like I had a great social life. Fast forward to starting full time. There was no one else my age in my department. Plus, only a handful of other interns had returned full time, and they were all in different departments working different schedules. My schedule was also all over the place. One day I’d be 4 pm-2 am and the next I’d be working 10 am-7 pm. While I’d had no problem running on no sleep during my 10-week internship, I started to realize that this was my life for the foreseeable future, and it was a difficult adjustment. For the first few months, I would often be so tired when I got home but unable to fall asleep right away because I was still wired from being in studio or working a live show that night. When I did fall asleep, I would often sleep in until right before I was supposed to work, leaving little to no time to work out or do anything outside of my job. I also worked every weekend and rarely had consecutive off days, meaning that I hardly ever went out in West Hartford or socialized with anyone outside of the office.


Mental State

For the first few months, I was running on adrenaline. I still loved my job, so what if I was tired all the time and gaining weight from lack of exercise and poor nutrition (all of which stemmed from not having a consistent sleep schedule or the time to take care of myself)? Over time, however, I started to get into a little bit of a routine. My schedule was still all over the place, but I began forcing myself to get up earlier to fit in a workout. While most of my meals were still at the ESPN cafeteria, I tried to stick with grilled chicken and healthier options. I also started making friends with some people my age and prioritizing time for trivia or the occasional night out or social activity (even if that sometimes meant meeting friends on a Wednesday because of my schedule).

There was definitely an adjustment period, but I was able to adapt and create a new routine that worked for me and my schedule. I just wish someone had warned me about all of that ahead of time. With that in mind, I hope this helps someone out there working toward a role in sports. Everyone’s experience is different and obviously varies based on position and organization but it’s good to have at least some idea of what to expect. And as always, Sam and I are here as resources whenever you need us.

No matter how difficult the transition may be, remember, you’re awesome and you belong here.

Stay tuned for the next edition of our Pulling Back the Curtain series coming soon!

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