Professional sports are as competitive as it gets, though sadly, not everyone gets to play. For every athlete who makes the cut and plays at the professional level, there are countless others who will never be so lucky. Sometimes a promising career is hobbled by an injury, or an athlete's performance just isn't up to snuff. The reasons behind the dashed dreams of aspiring athletes are many.
But just because a team only has nine spots doesn’t mean there isn’t a place near the action. Just as a rock concert needs roadies, and a political rally needs Secret Service agents, so, too, do athletes need people in various capacities to make the whole operation run smoothly. After all, without someone in the pit crew, a NASCAR driver would have to change tires while competitors race by.
Some of these jobs pay handsomely. Steve Williams, who until recently served as caddy to Tiger Woods, reportedly earned over $1 million in 2006 alone. Rick Fuhs, a legend in his native Chicago, has been operating the manual scoreboard at Wrigley Field for more than 20 years. He doesn’t see a fraction of the paycheck that Williams does, but the lifelong Cubs fan couldn’t care less. “I would do this for nothin’,” he said.
What are some of the careers in the field of sports that are performed outside of the spotlight? Click ahead to find out.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 11 August 2011
While athletes live on in history books and halls of fame, other figures exert an influence on fans that is almost as powerful as that of a sports celebrity. Among them is the announcer, whose booming voice reverberates across the stadium.
Though the job is high-profile, however, is isn't high paying. Despite the relatively low pay, sticking with the job might confer legendary status, as it did with announcer Bob Sheppard. He did the job for the New York Yankees over the course of 56 years and 4,500 games, and he was referred to by former Yankee great Reggie Jackson as "The Voice of God."
Few professionals in any field are more likely to have their judgment called into question than a referee. The official is regularly accused by sports fans of blindness, insanity, and rank dishonesty, all for having the nerve to put on a striped shirt and officiate a game.
Those willing to tolerate this abuse had better be doing so for the love of the game, because the money is not great. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual mean wage for referees, umpires and other sports officials is less than $23,000.
Contrary to popular perceptions, not all sportscasters are retired athletes. The most famous sportscaster of all time, Howard Cosell, never set foot on the field of sport in an athletic capacity, but his unorthodox take on the profession redefined sports broadcasting.
He now resides in that great press box in the sky, but since his passing the salaries of some sportscasters have reached heights that would have been unthinkable when he was alive. In 2002, former NFL player John Madden received a salary of $7.5 million, but this huge payday is far from the norm. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported $32,000 as the median annual salary for a sportscaster.
The life of a hot dog vendor seems like a simple one. After all, one need only lug around the goods, hand them out to hungry fans, and watch the rent money roll in. It turns out, however, that it’s a much more physically demanding job than it may appear, as New York Times reporter Harry Hurt III found out when he tried it out for himself in 2007.
According to the article, the average hot dog vendor sells approximately 150 every game, roughly 10,000 each season. This usually works out to $200 a game, or $30,000 a season. However, Hurt sold only 39 on the day he tried his hand at it. The humbled journalist also noted that the biggest challenges he faced were splitting the hot dog buns without using his bare hands and lugging his 40-pound bin around the stadium, itself an athletic feat.
Athletes get hurt—that’s just the cost of doing business. The average athlete can suffer multiple injuries in the course of a career, such as shin splints, concussions, and the dreaded ACL tear. After the initial damage has been treated by a doctor, the athlete must then begin the long process of rehabilitation.
This is where the physical therapist comes in. Physical therapists care for athletes at all levels of competition, from amateur to Olympic. In 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that the mean annual salary for this profession is over $76,000.
Being an athlete is a physically demanding vocation. As such, a diet of Red Bull, Big Macs, and Ho-Ho’s is unlikely to meet the nutritional demands that the athlete requires in order to effectively compete in a given sport.
A nutritionist can help the athlete build a dietary plan best suited to a specific discipline’s needs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that median annual salary for this job is over $53,000. And, unlike in other countries, anyone in the U.S. can call themselves a nutritionist without a degree.
Athletes need to not only stay in shape during the playing season, but also during the time when they’re inactive. That way, when they go back to training camp, their bodies don’t go into shock after the first eight sit-ups.
To remain in peak physical condition, athletes will employ a personal trainer to work one-on-one with them and keep them on track, or at least offer them Pilates and Zumba classes. The median annual salary for the job was reported in 2010 at just over $31,000.
Organized cheerleading at American sporting events is more than a century old. When the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders made their first high-profile appearance during the 1976 Super Bowl, the image of this vocation changed. Many other NFL teams immediately got with the program and began organizing their own scantily-clad squads, but the Dallas crew remains the one that galvanized public attention.
Today, cheerleaders have abandoned much of their salacious 1970s image and returned to their roots as spirit and morale boosters. Many squads perform dazzling ensemble stunts that have at times been almost as dangerous as anything endured by the players. Many cheerleaders have also gone on to conquer the entertainment field, such as Katie Couric and Madonna.
Fans of rodeo go to see rough and rowdy cowpokes in 10-gallon hats and fringed chaps. As they ride bucking broncos and hog-tie panicked steers, they anger the beasts, who would like nothing better than to exact their vengeance by maiming them.
Enter the rodeo clown, whose job it is to wear face paint and baggy britches, and distract the enraged beast away. This is one of the most dangerous jobs on earth, one which virtually guarantees a hoof to the face in the course of protecting bull riders.
For courting the business end of a 4,000-pound bull’s horns, the average rodeo clown usually nets anywhere between $100 and $225 per show. Sadly, what the rodeo clown doesn’t get is the glory given to the bull riders, despite willingly putting themselves in harm’s way.
As the job description implies, a ball boy or ball girl runs onto the field and retrieves balls for players in multiple sports, such as baseball and tennis. The job requires stamina, a nimble build, and most importantly, the patience required to run back and forth all day long.
This might seem like an ideal job for an unskilled teenager to perform on summers off from school, but outside of the U.S., it’s a serious business. For association football, no less than 1,200 applicants showed up for the 2010 tryouts in Holland, and only 42 were chosen. Getting the position at Wimbledon involves an online training program, a written test, and thorough knowledge of the correct technique for pivoting, feeding and stance adoption.