top of page

Athletics is the Ultimate Relationship Management Job

After browsing through help wanted ads looking over job titles, I was struck by the large number of positions listing relationship manager in their title. Numerous businesses and organizations are looking for a particular set of skills that can help their organization develop or maintain future business connections and opportunities. If a business or organization is serious about hiring someone who is great in this role, they should consider hiring a successful coach or administrator from the small college level who have demonstrated the ability to produce long-term success in the friend raising business.

Small college athletics has learned to not measure their athletic staff solely on wins and losses but more in terms of program, player, and culture development. Coaches who can recruit consistent numbers, maintain strong retention numbers, and develop young men and women into future leaders have inherent key skills that transfer easily to a relationship management role.

Athletic personnel who have been successful consistently at the small college level have often found success based on certain interpersonal skills and abilities to work well with others. Success in an environment can come quickly because of institutional or organizational advantages but not often sustained if the right skill sets are not present. At the small college level long-term success over many years is usually a result of outstanding people skills and a strong work ethic more so than institutional advantage.

I have witnessed successful people in collegiate athletics demonstrate strong interpersonal skills and through patience build rapport with a broad base of people with their ability to relate with and trust others. The ability to work closely with a broad base of audiences help them to develop working relationships across campus and in the local community. Communication skills increase relationship opportunities with parents, recruits, donors, supporters, boosters, local businesses, volunteer organizations and alumni. Improved relationships in any organization are good for business.

To be successful in any role you must build great relationships with those individuals who can help make you successful in in your duties and responsibilities. Possessing active listening skills while demonstrating a true interest in others helps managers connect with others. Both athletic and business managers need good judgement and an ability to persuade others to support them. This requires strong negotiation skills and a strong knowledge of the passion of the audience they are working with. Great coaches and staff do this daily.

Athletic programs rely on word of mouth in recruiting and therefore it is imperative they learn how to keep happy clients. Relationship managers are governed in much the same manner. Both must be honest and have the leadership skills to perform their duties effortlessly. Coaches who recruit successfully must develop and maintain good relationships with high school and amateur coaches and in some cases professional scouts and organizations who can provide leads on quality recruits. It is about long-term relationships built on trust and comfort with each other.

Successful relationship managers are sensitive to the needs of the organizations they represent. Each job varies in the level of education or skill needed to perform them at a high level, but in each role successful individuals have great communication skills that puts those around them at ease. Those who are successful in relationship management must be like good doctors and develop a strong bedside manner to discuss sensitive issues and handle difficult discussions with those they communicate with. It is not easy to have difficult conversations with others, but successful people do it with confidence.

Successful people realize that most new referrals or recruits come from happy clients, and their families and friends. In many ways, athletics at the small college level is the ultimate commission job. Coaches recruit student-athletes and develop and mentor them and hopefully over four years get a payoff in terms of outcome. Administrators recruit and hire coaches hoping for the same type of success. Successful outcomes is the result of having a great strategic plan.

Athletic personnel and relationship manager's employers are interested in growing their business and finding new opportunities or clients. The larger the range of contacts the better chance an employee has of being successful. All successful people must build a large and vast network, and no one understands doing this better than small college coaches.

If you are looking to fill a relationship management role, look no further than your local small colleges and explore their successful coaches and administrators. They bring an amazing skill set with them that allows them to be supportive of your mission and know how to motivate others to want to be a part of it.


bottom of page