When sport and business education come together


Many current and retired athletes decide to pursue higher education, including attending business school to enhance their skills and knowledge in the business world. Business education PR experts Kyle Grizzell and Stephanie Mullins-Wiles from BlueSky Education explore where sports and business education come together. 

Basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal earned an online MBA from the University of Phoenix. Tennis superstar Venus Williams attended Indiana University East’s School of Business for her BSc in Business Administration.

Athletes may decide to pursue business education to diversify their professional skillset for when they’ve retired, gain entrepreneurial knowledge to start their own sports-related business or learn how to manage their own brand.

For those who decide to attend business school while performing as a professional athlete, it can be a challenge to balance studying and academic activities with often strict and busy schedules. For business schools that acknowledge this, there are a number of programmes and initiatives designed with the realities of being a sportsperson in mind:

The Elite Sports Scholarship Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region

Many students have to tackle effective time management during their studies, which can be even more pronounced with current athletes with busy training schedules and competitions needing to leave time to prepare for classes and exams.

This sports scholarship supports active competitive athletes during their Bachelor’s or Master’s studies at the University of Mannheim, the Heidelberg University or the Mannheim Business School (MBS), both financially as well as organisationally with their dual career.

As well as financial support, scholarship holders are provided assistance in their studies by financing participation in tutorials, coordinating degree plans and exam schedules, and extending their period of study, if needed. Scholarship holders also receive support from mentors and professors at the university.

Executive Manager course for rugby players

NEOMA Business School offer an Executive Manager course in collaboration with Provale Formation, the training organisation of the professional rugby players’ union. The course prepares French and international rugby players for managerial positions or to be involved in entrepreneurial projects once they retire from their professional sporting careers, something which can occur relatively early in life for athletes in very physical sports.

The course is structured around developing four blocks of skills: managerial communication, commercial performance management, strategy and finance, and team management and leadership. Throughout the course, individual support is offered to each player, on top of collective coaching provided by NEOMA teams throughout the year.

Programmes tailored for elite athletes

At emlyon business school, it is believed that elite athletes, through their level of expertise and demands, develop very specific skills and knowledge throughout their career. However, there is a strong dichotomy between the need for companies to recruit these high potentials with atypical profiles and their degree of employability. Bringing these two worlds together is fundamental to the school, so they are motivated to give high-level athletes the necessary tools to express their full potential.

They offer four specific training programmes tailored to fit in with the lifestyle of elite athletes, including the Global BBA, MSc in Management, Executive MBA, and the Executive Master Management Général Online. The entrance exams and content are the same for all learners, with the course structure adjusted to allow elite athletes to balance a sporting and academic life.

But business schools aren’t just focused on current and former professional athletes; they are also designing programmes at the intersection of sports and business for those who want to work in the sports management sector without being an athlete themselves:

GBSB Global Business School: MSc in Sports Management

For students passionate about business administration and sports management, the MSc in Sports Management at GBSB Global Business School is based in Madrid, a city home to world-famous athletes and football clubs. The programme is designed to enhance critical thinking and provides students with essential techniques to solve real cases related to sports management and administration. Core courses include sports marketing, sports administration, and strategic marketing.

Sheffield Business School: MSc in Sport Business Management

This course at Sheffield Business School in the UK focuses on the core aspects of sports business. Through practice-based learning, students build up existing experience with vital knowledge and contacts, acquiring a degree that’s recognised by the world’s leading professional marketing body and respected across the industry. As part of the course, students can complete a 12-week work placement, receiving support and advice from a mentor in a client organisation. Recent clients have included Formula 1, the International Olympic Committee, Sheffield United FC and Sheffield Wednesday FC.

It’s clear that business education and sports are not alien to each other; it’s another aspect by which business schools today specialise in what they do for specific groups of people.

For additional insights, trends and perspectives about other Business School Programmes, visit the conversation here.