Sports development officers aim to provide opportunities for participation in sport for all sections of the community. They distribute information and organise sport-related projects, classes, programmes, coaching, club development and training. They 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 sports development officers address issues of health, crime and social inclusion as well, often working with organisations such as:
- the NHS;
- sport national governing bodies (NGBs);
- regeneration initiatives.
They also work in partnership with government bodies to deliver government sports initiatives.
The tasks that sports development officers could become involved with include:
- identifying sport, recreation and health initiatives and overseeing strategic planning and implementation;
- coordinating, delivering and promoting relevant activities, classes and events, often within a specific community or to targeted groups;
- employing, training, supporting, developing and managing coaches and volunteer staff;
- raising public awareness of health and fitness issues and promoting participation in sport, particularly amongst underrepresented groups;
- evaluating and monitoring activities and projects using performance indicators;
- maintaining records and producing written reports;
- attending local, regional and national meetings, seminars and conferences;
- checking venues and managing facilities;
- liaising with clubs to develop best practice in coaching, youth development and issues such as safeguarding to manage clubs effectively;
- working in partnership with school initiatives such as active schools, to encourage participation in sport and organise parental involvement;
- working with national governing bodies (NGBs) for specific sports in relation to clubs and events;
- developing a range of partnerships with organisations and initiatives focused on health education, criminal justice and community regeneration;
- managing resources and a budget and identifying potential opportunities for external funding;
- maintaining links with county, regional and national sporting representatives and organisations;
- working within specific guidelines, e.g. equal opportunities, health and safety, child protection;
- offering coaching and supervision when appropriate.
A specialised post, such as a disability sports development officer, may also involve the following activities:
- educating and training coaches, volunteers and facilities staff. Experts in disability awareness may also be called on, where appropriate;
- using information and publicity to ensure people with disabilities are more aware of the sporting opportunities available to them;
- working in partnership with appropriate organisations to deliver a programme of activities;
- organising sport-specific activities and maintaining inclusivity in sports.
- You may begin work as an assistant sports development officer where you could expect a salary in the region of £18,000 to £22,000.
- 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 widely 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 vary widely in their salaries.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
A willingness to work flexible and unsocial hours, including weekends and school holidays, is essential. Working hours can include evening meetings and occasional absences 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.
- Jobs are available throughout the UK.
- 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 is usually formal for meetings but informal the rest of the time. Some sport-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, and 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.
This career is open to all graduates and those with an HND, but the following subjects may increase your chances:
- sport development/management;
- sports science/studies;
- leisure studies;
- sport in the community;
- health and exercise sciences;
- physical education;
- recreation/leisure management.
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 Disclosure Scotland and in Northern Ireland by Access NI.
You will need to show:
- initiative, self-motivation and the ability to motivate others;
- ability to make decisions under pressure;
- excellent communication skills, both written and oral, to communicate effectively with all sections of the community;
- ability to work with other individuals in a group setting;
- project management skills and the ability to manage people, including groups of volunteers;
- 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;
- ability to build up good working relationships with client groups and partner bodies and the ability to work in a team.
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 national governing bodies (NGBs) and clubs.
It is preferable to gain as much experience as possible 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 often 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.
The recent and continued expansion of sports development programmes has led to an increase in sports development managers in a range of settings. Sports development 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 universities and colleges of higher education employ sports development officers in order to maintain and increase student and community involvement in sport.
Sports councils and national governing bodies (NGBs) are other major recruiters.
Look for job vacancies at:
- The British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES)
- British Universities and Colleges Sport Jobs
- Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA)
- Leisure Management
- Local Government Jobs
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. Recruitment agencies rarely handle vacancies.
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 SkillsActive: Quality Training.
A range of training courses is offered by the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (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. It also offers online CPD courses to help further your knowledge and experience.
Workshops are run through Sports Coach UK 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:
- human resource management.
Those working within local authorities and higher education can take advantage of any available in-house training provision.
Sports development officers usually work in one of two fields:
- generic sports development;
- sport-specific posts, for example, a netball development officer or a women into sport initiative officer.
Those in generic posts 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 national governing bodies (NGBs) or organisations such as Sport England.
Sports development officers may also become sport and leisure contractors or move into the management of health and fitness programmes.
Other areas 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.