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A sector that is changing rapidly: Today sports professionals must also manage technology and entrepreneurship

A sports education can lead to a lot more than a job as a high school sports teacher or sports association consultant. The industry is undergoing rapid change, which can lead to new competencies – and the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) has found the recipe for meeting demand.

Sponsored: This article has been written in collaboration with SDU.

If you love sports, then a university degree in sports is the ideal education for you. And with the sports industry undergoing rapid development in recent years, completely new career paths are opening up. It is a development that is based on technology and entrepreneurship and SDU already began to offer its “Sports, innovation and Entrepreneurship” sports degree nine years ago.

Lars Elbæk is a lecturer at the Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics at SDU.

“I really want to help to educate the future labour market in sports, and the market is changing while the industry is growing, becoming more private sector and business driven,” explained Elbæk.

Students still receive the traditional education in sports, but at the same time they learn to put it in the context of the new and growing part of the sports market which is screaming out for qualified professionals.

“We have to educate the students to have another mindset that is other than learning to become high school sports teachers or consultants for organisations. It’s about establishing a mindset in the students that is experimental and proactive, where you learn quickly through feedback from customers and use the resources you have available,” said Elbæk.

A bridge to the sports industry

Sports education’s closest partners have always been sports organisations and associations. But a private sector industry is growing rapidly, and the sector is about to change, to think more in terms of marketing and technology.

To get closer to the changes, the universities have started to work closely with the private sector – much as they do in engineering and business education programmes and elsewhere. For example, right now a project between SDU, Aalborg University, the University of Copenhagen and Sports Lab Copenhagen is underway, financed by “Fonden for Entreprenørskab” (commercial foundation supporting young people), aiming to build bridges to the private sector:

“Our position is that the sports industry is a unique context and must be included in the sports-cultural self-perception. This means we have to make more specific bridging models, so that students gain a more specific industry understanding – regardless of whether they intend to establish a startup or work in the industry,” said Elbæk.

It means in practice that students get some other types of courses during their education programme, and that the programme is organised in the university’s startup environment and lastly, it is linked to the external sports industry’s ecosystem.

“They must learn to focus on the customer or end user. It is not the most natural thing in our environment, where traditionally the coach knows best. But when it succeeds, it makes a huge difference, and it is helping to form the framework for the establishment of entrepreneurial ambitions among students,” said Elbæk.


Facts: Sport, Innovation and Entrepreneurship

  • The Sports, Innovation and Entrepreneurship course has existed for nine years. Students are taught traditional sports, such as dancing, transformation of energy and ball sports – but they also learn about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, digital design and marketing.
  • The course has led to 40 company projects, of which three are functioning today. Together they have received investment of over DKK 5.5 million.

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