Sports development officers are tasked with creating and implementing programmes which encourage sports activity across all areas of society. In this role, you’ll work alongside government authorities and private organisations, such as educational institutions, local councils, healthcare facilities, charities and not-for-profit organisations and community groups, to put a range of appealing, exciting and valuable schemes into action.
The majority of sports development officers find employment with sports foundations and clubs, local authorities, NHS trusts, public and private education institutions, private healthcare facilities, child and youth services organisations, rehabilitation centres and leisure facilities.
If you enter this profession, you’ll be responsible for identifying areas of the community or particular social groups where sports participation is low, due to factors such as low income, lack of proper facilities, high crime rates, health issues, discrimination and social exclusion.
Once you’ve pinpointed the target areas, you’ll be planning projects and designing schemes which will facilitate access to quality sporting facilities and equipment. You’ll also be conducting talent searches and scheduling coaching and fitness sessions.
As you organise sports development programmes, you won’t be flying solo: you’ll be working with other interested parties and stakeholders to secure funding, support and strategic partnerships.
You will also be required to prepare project plans, maintain records and process any other relevant documentation. Another major part of your role will be to actively encourage participation by leading promotional activities and developing marketing schemes.
You may even try to generate enthusiasm through leading by example, playing an active role in actual sporting activities as a mentor or coach.
Some sports development officers may even choose to specialise in disability sports development. Your responsibilities will be pretty much the same in this line of work, but understandably you will concentrate on activities for people with physical and mental disabilities.
Salary & benefits
Annual salaries for assistant sports development officers range between £16,000 and £23,000, while full-on sports development officers can earn around £224000 to £36,000 a year.
If you eventually progress into a managerial role, you could earn between £36,000 and £55,000 per annum.
Frequent travel is common, and some employers may even provide a transport allowance. Early starts and late hours are the norm and a significant amount of time is spent in outdoor environments.
Two entry routes are available for individuals interested in a sports development role. One is the university route, which involves gaining formal academic qualifications, followed by ‘on-the-job’ training. The other is the non-uni route, which involves gaining extensive work experience in coaching or other related sporting activities, before obtaining appropriate certification or accreditation.
Opting to take the university route means getting a degree, HND (higher national diploma) or other equivalent qualification in any discipline. However, studying a subject such as sports science, physical education or recreation management will be particularly advantageous.
Understandably, to work in this area you will need a keen interest in sport. Consequently, it’s highly advisable for candidates to get plenty of work experience with sports charities, leisure facilities and sports clubs before applying for entry-level positions.
Training & progression
Most employers in this field offer comprehensive ‘on-the-job’ training. Some organisations, such as Sport England, Sport Scotland, Sports Council Wales and Sport Northern Ireland, also offer training courses and professional qualifications for sports development officers.
As you progress in your career, you may move into a managerial position and oversee the work of sports development officers across a specific region.
Other alternative career paths include moving into other public service-oriented roles, with social welfare organisations and sports charities. Some professionals in this area may even move into positions with governmental organisations and play a role in the development of policy relating to sport.
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