When you think about jobs in sports, your mind probably jumps to professional athletes, coaches, or high-powered agents (à la Jerry Maguire). If you didn’t win the genetic lottery and those other highly competitive roles weren’t in the stars for you, you might have written off a career in sports. Sports lovers everywhere, rejoice: Sports tech is creating pathways for more professionals to join the game.
Industry analyst Research and Markets predicts that the sports technology market will reach $41.9 billion by 2026, a rise of 21.4% since 2020. Innovations using AI and machine learning that seem straight out of a Sci-Fi novel are here—but they’re not limited to just elite athletes. Sports tech has consumer health applications that can help all of us avoid injuries, build strength, and eat and sleep better.
If you love sports, there are many career tracks for programmers, data analysts and scientists, designers, and digital content producers. We’ve compiled the top areas that tech is transforming and the top tech careers in sports—no tryout required.
Sports Media Technology
The old days of sports broadcasting were live TV and, before that, radio. While those channels still continue, the field has evolved to include many more forms: streaming, social media, live tweeting, and VR. Let’s look at a few of these innovations and what’s happening in sports media.
Amazon, Apple, and Disney (owner of ESPN) bet big on sports streaming in 2022 by shelling out millions of dollars for the rights to stream pro soccer, baseball, and football content. Recently, YouTube acquired streaming rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket—reportedly a $2 billion per year deal.
Here’s why they’re investing big bucks in sports streaming: Nielsen Fan Insights show that 80% of sports fans, 76% of NFL fans, and 89% of soccer fans regularly or sometimes watch sports online—that’s more streaming use than the general population.
In the 2010s, Twitter became the darling for live-tweeting sporting events. While that continues, sports brands are finding new ways to engage with fans: live streaming within social media platforms, sharing game highlights, and athlete photos and videos. While Facebook remains most popular for Millennial sports fans, Gen Z sports fans prefer YouTube (49%), Instagram (44%), and Snapchat (37%) for watching sports. Consumer health apps like Fitbit, ZOE, and Oura also use social media to grow their brands.
VR—or virtual reality—lets fans experience sports from across the world with technology including 360-degree visuals, sounds, and even movement. Fans can feel like they’re viewing something like the World Cup, or can simulate being in the game shooting a penalty kick.
Career Pathways in Sports Media
Sports media isn’t just for those who went to school for journalism. To succeed, you need an entirely different skill set like digital marketing, video production, and analytics. A Digital Marketing course is a great way to skill up to land a job in sports media. If you’re interested in the sports information side and want to crunch stats like in Moneyball, consider a Data Analytics course.
Sample job 1: Video Content Editor, Player Social for Major League Baseball
Overview: MLB is looking for a social-savvy video editing expert to create video edits for various player social accounts. The individual should be able to produce engaging content for player platforms (Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, IG Reels, etc.) and utilize relevant trends that fit both an athlete brand while also attacking the digital community.
Sample job 2: Social Media & Community Associate for ZOE
Overview: The social media and community associate will be reporting to our Marketing Manager with a goal of helping establish a member community and continue to build social media presence and establish a presence on new channels. You will be involved in filming content, community management including responding to messages and comments on our social channels and in our member community, pitching content ideas from trend analysis, and building our social presence on new channels including TikTok to help more people learn about nutrition science.
Sports Performance & Training Technology
We’ve already covered how VR is transforming the fan experience in tech. Teams are also using VR to enhance sports training and performance by simulating scenarios for athletes.
With VR, athletes can train in all weather to sharpen their technical skills with instant feedback. Headsets can simulate a game or training with variables like snow or crowd noise to allow athletes to improve performance under various circumstances.
If you have bad memories of having to strap a clunky heart rate monitor around your chest in P.E. class, set that image aside. Wearables can take many forms—from watches to sensors to even smart clothing (active wear with sensors in the fibers).
The goal of wearables is to track the performance aspects of the athlete, from blood pressure to body temperature, hydration, or speed. By tracking these performance indicators in real-time, trainers and athletes can monitor their progress and can identify when they need to rest, stretch, or hydrate. Leagues like the NBA are adopting futuristic wearables from companies like Nextiles and STRIVE to reduce injuries and player availability.
Motion Analysis and Biomechanics
Motion analysis is, simply put, the study of human movement. By using technology to study movement, analysts can evaluate a person’s performance, gait, and strength related to movement. With data gathered, clinicians can even recommend interventions to treat any disorders and enhance performance.
Similarly, sports biomechanics applies the laws of physics and kinesiology to human motion. Biomechanics can recommend correct positioning and body adjustments to help athletes avoid injury and build strength.
Career Pathways in Sports Performance & Training Technology
Sports tech companies need web developers, software engineers, and machine learning specialists to code VR programs, wearables, and related software. You can land a position like this with a bachelor’s degree or a certificate in Software Engineering, Data Science, or Python—as long as you can show you have the coding skills for the job.
Sample job 1: Senior Software Engineer, Machine Learning for the NBA
Overview: You will join the team responsible for analyzing player skeletal tracking data, generating new metrics based on the data, and serving those insights to fans, broadcasters, NBA teams, and groups within the league office in real-time. As a Senior Machine Learning Engineer, you will be responsible for developing models and algorithms with high accuracy and low latency and have the opportunity to influence the innovation of products that reach millions of fans globally.
Sample job 2: Technical Data Quality Analyst for MyFitnessPal
Overview: You will be responsible for improving the accuracy and usefulness of our organization’s data, and the operational excellence of our data pipelines. To be successful in this role you should have extensive knowledge of data analysis techniques, enjoy learning new data technologies, and be passionate about continuously improving the excellence of data, business processes, and the MyFitnessPal app.
Esports & Fan Experience Technology
Is gaming a sport? 532 million fans worldwide think so. Meet eSports: a new form of entertainment that’s amassing huge audiences and driving big revenue. ESports is online competitive gaming, where millions of fans watch players competing live either through streaming or a ticketed event.
Like traditional sports broadcasting, esports earns its revenue through streaming licenses, ticket sales, ads, and in-game purchases. Many competitions draw more than a million viewers, and the industry mirrors some sports elements like live drafts and celebrity status for the top gamers.
Enhanced Fan Experiences in Sports
Just as eSports tech is evolving to engage fans across social media, mobile, and live events, so is the fan experience for traditional sports. Advanced camera technology means that there are more high-quality cameras and more angles to allow fans to follow or see from the perspective of their favorite player.
Second-screen experiences mean that players can watch sports on their TV while following along on a mobile app with stats and commentary. Companies like immersiv.io have even launched augmented reality apps that Bundesliga fans can use in-stadium to click on different players on their phones to find information and stats.
Career Pathways in eSports & Fan Experience Technology
ESports and fan experience companies need professionals from almost every corner of tech. They need design professionals to design the games themselves plus mobile and desktop apps. They need programmers to build out the apps. Then, they also need producers to curate content and provide commentary during live broadcasts. Emerging professionals with skills in UX/UI design, software engineering, data analytics, and digital marketing can all find a home in the future of eSports.
Sample job 1: Game Designer for EA Sports
Overview: As a Game Designer on EA Sports FC, you will report to a Game Design Lead or Director and work within the design team to deliver features, tuning and balancing, and content creation. You’ll create designs that meet the vision for the product including new ways to play, progression, economy, and reward systems.
Sample job 2: Data Analyst for Sports Game Insights
Overview: We’re looking for a passionate Data Analyst to work in our growing Game Insights team. We are looking for someone who can crunch noisy SQL data quickly to extract actionable insights, and to build standardized metrics and visualizations, to be used by our live services, production, and game studio partners to continuously optimize and improve our games.
Join the Game: Get Started With a Career in Sports Tech
There are so many reasons to love sports: the fan interactions, the visuals, and the power of human performance. While the top innovations in sports technology are reserved for professional sports teams, military, and first responders, these technologies will trickle down to consumer use just as wearables have. Working in sports tech gives you the opportunity to improve the lives of not just athletes, but everyone.
Are you a sports fan curious about other industries that involve tech skills? Take our “Which Industry is Right for You” quiz for a deeper dive.