Sports development officers help schools and communities get more actively involved in sport by organising projects and initiatives

As a sports development officer, you'll make sure that everybody has the chance to take part in sport by ensuring that all sections of the community are aware of available activities and where they can go to get involved.

You'll distribute information and organise sport-related projects, classes, programmes, coaching, club development and training. You'll also need to target those who want to take part for fun, as well as those who are interested in competing at all levels, from local to national and international.

The central aim is to increase participation in sport of all kinds, but you will also address issues of health, crime and social inclusion as well, often working with organisations such as:

  • charities
  • the NHS
  • regeneration initiative
  • schools
  • sport national governing bodies (NGBs).

You could also work in partnership with government bodies to deliver government sports initiatives.

Sports development officers usually work in one of two fields:

  • generic sports development
  • sport-specific posts, such as a netball development officer or a women into sport initiative officer.

Responsibilities

As a sports development officer, you'll need to:

  • identify sport, recreation and health initiatives and oversee strategic planning and implementation
  • coordinate, deliver and promote relevant activities, classes and events, often within a specific community or to targeted groups
  • recruit, train, support, develop and manage coaches and volunteer staff
  • raise public awareness of health and fitness issues and promote participation in sport, particularly among underrepresented groups
  • evaluate and monitor activities and projects using performance indicators
  • maintain records and produce written reports
  • attend local, regional and national meetings, seminars and conferences
  • check venues and manage facilities
  • liaise with clubs to develop coaching and youth development and to help clubs handle issues such as safeguarding more effectively
  • work in partnership with school initiatives such as Active Schools, to encourage participation in sport and organise parental involvement
  • work with NGBs for specific sports in relation to clubs and events
  • develop a range of partnerships with organisations and initiatives focused on health education, criminal justice and community regeneration
  • manage resources and a budget and identify potential opportunities for external funding
  • maintain links with county, regional and national sporting representatives and organisations
  • work within specific guidelines, e.g. equal opportunities, health and safety and child protection
  • offer coaching and supervision when appropriate.

Responsibilities for a specialised post, such as disability sports development officer, may mean you also:

  • educate and train coaches, volunteers and facilities staff in specific aspects surrounding the needs of disabled participants - seeking input from experts in disability awareness where appropriate
  • use information and publicity to ensure people with disabilities are more aware of the sporting opportunities available to them
  • work in partnership with appropriate organisations to deliver a programme of activities
  • organise sport-specific activities and maintain inclusivity in sports.

Salary

  • Starting as an assistant sports development officer, you can expect a salary in the region of £18,000 to £23,000.
  • Typical starting salaries for sports development officers are around £18,000, rising to £30,000 with experience.
  • A sports development manager can earn up to £40,000.

Salaries vary between specialist areas, regions and types of employers. Set pay structures are in place for local authorities and education, however small governing bodies or initiatives differ in their salaries.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

A willingness to work flexible, unsocial hours, including weekends and school holidays, is essential. Working hours can include evening meetings and occasional absence from home.

What to expect

  • Work can involve spending periods of time outdoors in all weathers, overseeing the smooth running of activities you have organised. However, some sports development officers spend much of their time based indoors carrying out administrative tasks.
  • The industry often operates using temporary contracts, which can lead to job insecurity.
  • The workload can be heavy and stressful due to the need for accountability when managing a budget and writing bids to attract external funding.
  • Dress code is usually formal for meetings but informal the rest of the time. Specific roles may require you to wear the sports kit of the club or organisation.
  • Local travel within a working day to visit venues, attend events and meet with community groups is common. Many posts include a car allowance.
  • Absence from home overnight is occasional. Overseas work or travel is unlikely.
  • Participation in sport and coaching is encouraged and often supported. For sport-specific posts, such as a football development officer, a playing history in that sport will often be a pre-requisite.

Qualifications

This career is open to all graduates and those with an HND, but the following subjects may increase your chances:

  • health and exercise sciences
  • leisure studies
  • physical education
  • recreation or leisure management
  • sport development or management
  • sport in the community
  • sports science or sports studies.

Entry without a degree or HND is possible. In this case, coaching qualifications and related work experience are likely to increase your chances.

A postgraduate qualification is not required for entry, although some sports development officers do hold such qualifications. Search for postgraduate courses in sports development.

Employers usually request an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check as part of their conditions of service. In Scotland this is provided by mygov.scot and in Northern Ireland by Access NI.

Skills

You will need to show:

  • excellent leadership ability
  • initiative, self-motivation and the ability to motivate others
  • the ability to make decisions under pressure
  • excellent communication skills, both written and oral, to communicate effectively with all sections of the community
  • the ability to work with other individuals in a group setting
  • project-management skills and the ability to manage people, including groups of volunteers
  • the capacity to work independently
  • negotiation skills and political awareness of current sports issues
  • excellent organisation, administration and IT skills
  • a practical commitment to sport and an in-depth knowledge of a particular sport or a range of sports
  • the ability to build up good working relationships with client groups and partner bodies, and work in a team.

Work experience

Pre-entry work experience in community, sport, school or voluntary organisations is essential. Coaching experience is highly desirable. This can be gained through working or volunteering for local authorities or sport NGBs and clubs.

Try to gain as much experience as you can through voluntary or paid work in coaching and organising sports activities or holiday programmes. Building up experience of delivery in one sport is helpful, although a multi-sport approach is ideal.

Competition for jobs can be tough. Networking and making contacts within the sports development sector through work experience will improve your chances of success.

Employers

Continued expansion of sports development programmes has led to an increase in sports development managers in a range of settings. Professionals are appointed by a variety of organisations.

Local authorities are the main employer, often having assistant, officer and management roles in generic, community and specialist posts. Many appointments are initially on a contract basis and may be funded partly by external bodies.

Some higher education institutions employ sports development officers in order to maintain and increase student and community involvement in sport.

Sports councils and NGBs are other major recruiters.

Look for job vacancies at:

Many vacancies are advertised through online job sites. Most local authorities, sporting organisations and governing bodies will advertise in the national and regional press but it is worth checking their individual vacancy pages online.

Professional development

Training may be given on the job but there are also many external training courses you can take that relate to the sports development sector. Search for courses at PD:Portal.

A range of training courses are offered by CIMSPA in areas such as fitness management and health and safety. Continuing professional development (CPD) is also important in the role and CIMSPA provides support to its members in this area. A professional development framework is available, which allows you to record your CPD and identify skills that can be developed.

Workshops are run through UK Coaching in relevant areas such as safeguarding issues and mentoring sports coaches.

Knowledge and competence in other areas is becoming increasingly important and you may be interested in taking an additional course in:

  • finance
  • human resource management
  • marketing.

Those working within local authorities and higher education can take advantage of any available in-house training.

Career prospects

If you're working in a generic post, you can follow a route into the management of teams then departments, or into promoted partnership or sport-specific posts, often within a local authority structure.

Sport-specific officers can progress into management posts or policy and strategy-based jobs, through local authorities, sport NGBs or organisations such as Sport England.

You could opt to become a sport and leisure contractor or move into the management of health and fitness programmes.

Other options for career development include community-related posts within local authorities, regeneration projects, active schools or health education projects.

Once in a large structure, such as a local authority, progression through management can involve taking on a more diverse remit, for example, culture and sport.

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