When we think of sport, our minds often turn first to the big tickets – our favourite teams and players in the national leagues and competitions, the events with global popularity like the Olympics, World Cups, Wimbledon, the Premiere League, and Formula 1.
But local, community-run sports bodies and facilities are the backbone. For example, in Australia, around a third of its 25.5 million population regularly use community sport facilities. That’s eight million people using tennis courts, rugby, cricket and football pitches, swimming pools and gyms.
'My volunteer roles in sporting clubs definitely helped me get my role at Basketball NSW, which in turn helped me get my director role at a national governing body'
In a country known for rugby, cricket and surf sports, it may come as a surprise that basketball has a big following too — in the state of New South Wales alone the not-for-profit Basketball NSW supports over 70,000 members.
‘Basketball NSW governs the sport and facilitates learn-to-play programmes, state competitions and high-performance pathways for athletes, officials and administrators,’ says its CFO Caroline McLuckie FCCA. ‘The aim of the organisation is to grow, promote and develop the game of basketball throughout the state by engaging and supporting its community of members.’
This is the grassroots, where tomorrow’s athletes and support staff are nurtured. Community sports organisations are tasked with promoting healthy active lifestyles and participation in sports.
Beyond this there are often wider social causes like inclusion and diversity, and improving access to sports. Within McLuckie’s scope of responsibility is the Reconciliation Action Plan, a strategy for Basketball NSW to contribute to reconciliation with the First Nations Peoples of NSW and remove barriers for their participation in the sport.
‘I get to meet some incredible people, not only in basketball, but in other sports, who are at the top of their game, both from an athlete and administration perspective, and I am able to learn from them,’ says McLuckie.
McLuckie might have the highest title for any finance professional in an organisation, but working in a not-for-profit involves being pulled in many directions and helping where needed. For example, she is also HR manager and provides financial support to clubs that fall under Basketball NSW’s scope. Meanwhile, her team covers IT, grants, sponsorship, insurance and contract management.
Exposure across the organisation will be broad, with responsibilities including oversight of the organisation’s day-to-day financial operations, as well as its consolidated entities, including direct responsibility for finance, forecasting, strategic planning, corporate governance, legal, risk management, budgets, financial and non-financial policy.
Roles in the sporting industry are multi-faceted, so to thrive and grow you need to be open to learning new skills
Getting in and getting on
A love of sport will likely be a prerequisite, even if you’d like your finance credentials to do most of the talking. Involvement in sports clubs, perhaps by volunteering on the administrative and operations side, will highlight your commitment.
‘My volunteer roles in sporting clubs definitely helped me get my role at Basketball NSW, which in turn has helped me get my director role at a national governing body, and my role in the finance and audit committee of an international sporting body,’ says McLuckie.
She was involved in local clubs as treasurer in her native Scotland and Australia before landing the CFO role. ‘This gave me the insight into the challenges faced by small sporting clubs and the sporting community in general, which has been vital in my role at Basketball NSW.’
A key challenge for community sports is finding the right balance of affordability for its members and maintaining operations largely on external funding, which means you must be able to monitor expenditure closely and pay special attention to detail. Other important skills include being highly analytical, compassionate, community-focused, resilient, a team player, a networker and patient.
Roles in the sporting industry are multi-faceted, so to thrive and grow you need to be open to learning new skills. McLuckie, for example, has a Diploma in Human Resources Management and has taken part in sports-specific courses and qualifications.
Once established, you’ll find it’s a small world and your contributions will be easily spotted by people across the sector. It’s also a very collaborative environment in which you get to know people well, meaning that growing your network should happen fluidly.
‘This opens further doors and opportunities,’ says McLuckie. ‘You’ll find a person working in one sport for a period of time and then moving on to an opportunity in another. The sharing of knowledge and experience between sports is crucial. We work together rather than against one another.
‘And as you need to be involved in a variety of areas that are non-finance related, this also opens opportunities to widely vary your role or take on other types of roles.’
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