The 20 Cushiest and Coolest Jobs in Sports
Many people dream during their youth of becoming professional athletes. We want the fame, the fortune and the adulation that comes with being a champion. We hope to follow in the paths of LeBron James, Sidney Crosby and Peyton Manning.
Most of us realistically never come close to making those dreams reality.
Never making it as a pro athlete or as a championship head coach does not have to keep you from pursuing careers in the sports world. Some of the cushiest jobs in the industry happen to also be the coolest. These jobs allow you to be part of the action even though you are not directly participating in competitions.
Some of the jobs that are mentioned in this piece could be acquired by just about anybody looking to break into the business of sports. Others jobs do, however, require certain physical skills had by athletes who have not yet received a big break from a major professional league.
Perhaps best of all about some of the jobs featured in this piece is that they could open up opportunities for those looking to acquire long-term positions. Some gigs could also, depending on the circumstances, allow you to meet with some of your sports heroes.
There are certainly worse ways to make a living.
Minor League Baseball Intern
Minor League Baseball interns have a variety of duties on game days. They run fan contests, some of which occur on the field, in between innings. Interns, other crew and mascots are responsible for tossing shirts and other merchandise to fans. Best of all, for the baseball enthusiast, is that an intern gets to work outside and watch baseball all summer.
These internships are about more than just watching baseball and interacting with players who may one day be stars. Take the Pawtucket Red Sox as an example. Individuals who have picked up internships with that club have gone on to obtain jobs with the Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics, the Big East and other noteworthy sports organizations.
Professional athletes are busy individuals. They spend long periods of time away from home as they travel from competition to competition. Athletes spend hours in the gym on a weekly basis. Those who are famous also have press obligations, commercial shoots and numerous other activities that keep them busy.
These athletes need a stylist to dress them.
Enter somebody such as Megan Ann Wilson, who once took to He Suits, He Scores to describe the life of an athlete stylist:
I do everything from keeping stacks of size 10-16 sneakers in stock to custom designing tees and jerseys to styling outfits from head to toe so my clients are always ready before and after the game. I also help them work with brands, finding them ambassadorship and product deals, and helping them strategize their personal brand marketing and how to target press and online coverage. I’ve shopped for $20,000 a month apartments in New York City, spent 18 hours a day (and night) hunting down the latest brands at trade shows and fashion weeks, custom made sneakers that graced Staples Center, delayed a flight to get a grill molded and flown to Miami to ensure that clients were bachelor party fresh (sorry, I don’t party and tell).
Backup NHL Goalie
Being a backup NHL goalie has multiple perks. A player who is a backup to a top-tier goaltender is only called into duty when the starter needs a night off. Expectations for the backup are usually kept relatively low. A backup who replaces an injured starter can receive an opportunity to win a job either with his current team or with a different franchise down the road.
Take Cam Talbot as an example. Talbot was sitting behind Henrik Lundqvist, one of the best in the business, during the 2014-15 season when Lundqvist picked up an injury. Talbot was so spectacular in relief for the New York Rangers that the Edmonton Oilers traded for his services in June 2015 (h/t Sportsnet).
NFL Ball Boy
Jokes about "Deflategate" and NFL ball boys are as easy to make as they are tired. Terry Bannon of the Chicago Tribune is just one of the many journalists who has, in the past, written about how New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick worked his way up the ladder during the early days of what became a Hall of Fame career. An example of such "grunt work" could, in the modern NFL, be performing ball boy duties.
As Dillon Baker of BuzzFeed once explained, being a NFL ball boy can be stressful. A ball boy must be ready to toss a football to an awaiting official once a play has finished. Making an error even once can delay a game and also halt the rhythm of an offense.
Being a ball boy could also be a great way to get into the door of a NFL franchise. That, per Mike Rose of Cleveland.com, is how coach and coordinator Eric Mangini began his pro football career.
Tennis Ball Boy
Remember that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer wants to serve as the "ball man" during a tennis tournament? The job can be a lot of fun for a person who loves to watch hours of tennis at a time. One must be physically fit, as being able to snap into action and retrieve a loose ball is required. These ball boys and ball girls are who keep a match from being delayed.
Jo Tweedy of the Daily Mail wrote back in July of 2015 about the selection process for Wimbledon ball boys and ball girls. Only 250 of the 700-plus applicants are accepted. A written test must be passed for a boy or girl to even be considered. Do not think about interacting with your favorite tennis players during matches. That is forbidden, and breaking this rule could cost a boy or girl the job.
Hockey Ice Maintenance
Keeping the ice clean and in good shape during a hockey game is not just the job of the Zamboni operator. Maintenance personnel, as explained by Mark Purdy of the Mercury News, rush into action multiple times during games to clean portions of the ice, particularly the area inside and around the crease.
Ice maintenance personnel are called into duty after the teams have finished warming up before games. They also clean the ice during the two television timeouts that happen each period. For their troubles, these individuals are able to watch hockey games up close, perhaps even from first-row seats.
3rd String QB
The difference between a backup quarterback and the guy who is third on the depth chart is massive. A backup QB has to be active on game days in case the starter goes down to an injury or needs to be replaced because he is having a bad outing. A third-string QB, on the other hand, is rarely, if ever, active so long as those above him on the depth chart are healthy on game day.
Austin Davis of the Cleveland Browns comes to mind. Davis linked up with the Browns during the 2015 NFL season, but he has not been able to leapfrog either Josh McCown or Johnny Manziel on the depth chart. When McCown has been banged up this season, Davis has served as the backup to Manziel. Davis has not taken the field during games when Manziel has been in the lineup.
Backup QB to Eli Manning
Eli Manning took over as the starting quarterback of the New York Giants in 2004 (h/t Sportige). Manning has never relinquished that job, nor has he missed a start since his first as a pro QB. Minus a handful of plays and also some preseason games, Manning has been out there on the field for the Giants.
There has not been a better backup job in the NFL over the past 11 years than being second on the depth chart behind Manning.
Those who would be eager to take the field in meaningful games would, of course, prefer to not sit behind Manning for months every fall. David Carr was one example of a man who was more than happy to play backup to Manning for multiple seasons (h/t ESPN). Carr, who routinely took beatings while playing for the Houston Texans, avoided such punishments on NFL Sundays while with the Giants. Carr was paid well, and he was able to live in the New York City region.
Ryan Nassib currently gets to sit and watch Manning and the New York offense in action 16 times a year.
Soccer PA Announcer
- The reading of the starting lineups.
- Whenever a goal is scored.
- Whenever a foul draws a yellow or red card.
- Whenever a substitution is made.
- Score of the match at halftime, the end of regulation and the end of the match.
- Scores around the league at halftime.
PA announcers have to stay sharp throughout sporting events. They announce the outcome of a football game. They let you know who scored every point during a basketball contest. These announcers read off out-of-town scores whenever there is a break in the action.
Soccer PA announcers who are not play-by-play commentators may, depending on a match, go an entire half without speaking.
Here are the instances when soccer PA announcers are heard at arenas as it pertains to the match:
One needs to go through a necessary amount of training to obtain a job running social media accounts for a pro sports team. It is helpful to know how to properly edit pictures. Having an ability to make a point in under 140 characters is also a useful trait.
This could, for the right person, be an entertaining and fun job.
Those looking for an example of the right way to do things should follow the official Twitter account for the Cleveland Indians. Not only is that account used for news and other updates. The Indians routinely interact with fans via contests and other tweets, even during the offseason. You may notice that the Indians Twitter account is not afraid to talk some harmless smack to opposing accounts during the season.
Twitter can be fun for all ages if the accounts are put in the hands of the right people.
Being a vendor who sells food and/or drink items inside of Major League Baseball ballparks is no easy task. These vendors carry heavy items up and down steps for hours at a time. They do not get days off of work during the hot summer months. A vendor could easily lose his voice from repeatedly yelling out "hot dogs!" or "cold beer here!" during a game.
Vendors who sell programs at multiple sporting events do not have such concerns. Kiosks are in place for fans who want to buy programs at ballparks such as Progressive Field in Cleveland and Citi Field in New York. Citi Field also places program sellers right at the bottom of the steps to and from the 7 train.
Shooting a live sporting event can be a workout for a cameraman. Imagine, if you will, having to keep up with multiple fast breaks that occur during a hockey or basketball game. Losing the play for even half of a second could result in fans watching at home missing out on what occurred. That mistake would likely lead to the cameraman at fault getting an earful from a higher-up.
Those responsible for shooting the overhead action of a tennis match have somewhat of a cushy gig. Because the camera captures all of the court, the cameraman merely needs to hold his device still enough so that viewers see a clear shot of each point. Sure, there will be the occasional zoom-in shot during a match. There are nevertheless more difficult sports jobs for cameramen pursuing such opportunities.
Soccer Concessions Stand Worker
Working at a concession stand during a sporting event can be a nightmare. Fans begin approaching the stand as soon as gates open. Those fans flood to food and beer kiosks each time that there is a break in the action and in between periods and halves. Overtime quarters/periods or extra innings can extend your workday beyond your control.
Things are a bit easier for those who work at concession stands located inside of soccer arenas.
Soccer concession stands are packed before matches and during halftime. There is no long break in the action during a soccer game, though, and so stands may remain relatively empty for the majority of the first half. Then, the stand closes up shop for good at around the 75th minute because there is no possibility of overtime unless the match is a final or a one-and-done playoff game.
Basketball Mop Boy
The job of the basketball mop boy/towel boy seems simple enough. The person has to pay close attention to the action and then wipe the sweat off of the portion of the court that is underneath the basket whenever players take a spill. The mop boy is also tasked with sweeping/mopping the court during timeouts. No sweat, right?
As can be seen in the accompanying video for this slide, a mop boy who falls asleep on the job for even a second can unintentionally find himself right in the middle of a play. A mop boy who does not do an adequate job of cleaning the court could even, as explained by the Huffington Post, find himself in trouble with a player or referee.
Being given "floor seats" is a great perk of this job, but the gig comes with serious responsibilities. Players can get injured if a mop boy falls asleep on the job.
Teams at all levels of professional baseball need multiple bullpen catchers who are there to help pitchers warm up before and during games. Depending on the team and/or the level of baseball, a bullpen catcher may be a coach. As was the case for Casey Chavez, as explained by Andrew Pentis of ValuePenguin, the job of bullpen catcher could also be given to a player who never made it in the Big Leagues.
A perk of being a bullpen catcher is that one is able to watch live baseball inside of stadiums. There may be days when the bullpen catcher is not needed from innings one through nine. This is not to suggest, however, that bullpen catchers do not have multiple tasks every game day.
Bullpen catchers arrive to the ballpark hours before games begin, as do players on the roster. Some catchers, per Pentis, throw batting practice sessions. Being any type of catcher causes strain on the knees and back. As with pro athletes, batting practice catchers who travel with teams around the country are away from their families for days, and maybe even weeks at a time.
Anybody who has been given the opportunity to operate a Zamboni can tell you that it takes a fair amount of practice to perform this job correctly. Zamboni drivers are not, after all, merely making circles around ice rinks. Properly smoothing the ice takes a certain level of precision that requires hours of practice in order to fully understand and appreciate it.
A Zamboni can also be a dangerous vehicle if operated incorrectly. Allan Muir of SI.com described in June of 2015 how one Zamboni driver failed to take his job seriously:
Steven James Anderson learned that the hard way. The 27-year-old Fargo resident was convicted on Tuesday after he admitted to being drunk while operating the ice-resurfacing machine during a girl’s high school hockey game back in January.
Anderson was sentenced to nine days in jail, with credit for one day served, and ordered to pay a $1,500 fine. He’ll also have to undergo chemical dependency evaluation and participate in the state’s 24/7 sobriety program.
Zamboni drivers get to relax and watch hockey games in person without paying to get into arenas. As nice as that is, the job that a Zamboni driver must do during intermissions is serious business. What a waste it would be to lose this job all because of a lack of responsibility and maturity.
Colorado Rapids Scoreboard Operator
The truth of the matter is that being the scoreboard operator for any professional soccer club should not be all that stressful for anybody. An operator has to post the opening lineups for the two teams. There are, at most, six substitutions that have to be updated. You could even take a bathroom break or two during low-scoring affairs.
We are having a little fun at the expense of the Colorado Rapids here. The Rapids were the lowest-scoring side in Major League Soccer for the 2015 campaign, managing to find only the back of the net 33 times during regular-season play (h/t MLSSoccer.com). This particular job may be somewhat depressing if you happen to be a fan of the club that fails to consistently score.
Keep your heads up, Colorado fans. Better days are ahead.
Fenway Park Scoreboard Operator
As was pointed out in a piece produced by Wayne Coffey of the New York Daily News back in 2010, being one of the operators of the manual scoreboards located at Fenway Park is not all that cushy of a job. The plates that feature the painted numbers and letters that are slid into panels on the scoreboard weigh about two pounds. Operators have to keep track of out-of-town scores via Internet-enabled devices.
With that said, it does not get much cooler for baseball fans than being able to enjoy the sport from inside of a historic landmark.
Perhaps best of all, per the Coffey article, is that you never know who you will meet while working this job:
Mariano Rivera signed the wall. So did Manny Ramirez (who wrote 2008 MVP next to his name, but didn't win it), Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, Andy Pettitte and Jimmy Piersall, back in the 1950s.
It is not the easiest of sports job. Things can get rather warm behind the scoreboard during the hot summer months, after all. The work could be worth all of the stories that you will be able to tell.
Handler of Uga
Imagine accepting a job as a professional dog-walker. Now, imagine that the job involves parading the pup out in front of thousands upon thousands of adoring fans multiple Saturdays a year. That is what the handler of Uga X, the current living mascot for the University of Georgia, must deal with each time Georgia plays a home game.
We know what you're thinking. Walking a dog onto a football field and then sitting next to the pup as it resides inside of its own doghouse isn't a tough gig. Remember, though, that the dog will probably have to relieve itself during a game that could be four hours in length.
There are two bonuses to having this job. First, of course, is that you get to watch exciting college football action in person during the fall. Second, per Jake Whitacre of SB Nation, is that you have convenient shelter nearby whenever it rains.
Keeper of the Stanley Cup
Phil Pritchard is not known for being one of the greatest National Hockey League players in history. Pritchard is not respected as an all-time great athlete. Non-hockey fans probably do not even recognize the name.
Pritchard may have the coolest job in all of sports: keeper of the Stanley Cup.
Those who have watched the Stanley Cup playoffs over the years have probably seen Pritchard in the background. It is Pritchard's duty to transport arguably the greatest trophy in all of North American sports from place to place. Pritchard is also tasked with making sure that players handling the hallowed trophy do not get too carried away when celebrating.
It is not, as explained by Christopher Hunt of Men's Fitness, all fun and games for Pritchard. Being the keeper of the Stanley Cup has resulted in Pritchard being away from home for long periods of time each year.