The international adventures of a singing, dancing zombie queen.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sports Management Questionnaire

One of my students asked to interview me on my career in Sports Management. I thought it was pretty interesting to hear myself answer these questions, mostly because I'm chuckling & thinking to myself "aww... I sound all grown up!" Heee hee!

Please introduce yourself and how many years have you been a director and choreographer?

My name is Amber Steele, and I have been a director and choreographer since 2000.

What area of specialty did you study in college that lead to a career in sports management?
I received my BA from the Theater, Dance and Performance Studies Department, with an emphasis in Dance from UC Berkeley. I received my Masters of Fine Art from Mills College in Dance, emphasis Choreography.
I also began my own dance company in 2005, which has given me invaluable experience with managing employees, booking, taxes, billing, etc. I wish that they taught that in the schools I went to, but they did not. I have been teaching since 2002, beginning with individual private lessons, then teaching classes at dance studios and also teaching my dance company's master classes.

How involved are you with your athletes?
Very, especially the younger ones. Mentoring athletes often involves getting to know their health and mental issues so that you can work collaboratively on making a productive team in the midst of whatever their personal life may throw at them. It's also important to maintain a bit of emotional distance as the manager. I have to be able to direct the room, stop personal moments from interrupting rehearsal time, and to be able to have some sort of disciplinary recourse when the athlete is not able to fulfill his or her obligations to the team.

What are the positives and negatives of your job?

Positives: I love teaching students and seeing the joy on their faces when they achieve something they didn't realize they could do. I get to dance every day! I get to work on big projects with relatively short (one semester) deadlines, which means I get to see them through from start to finish. I have a fairly open schedule.

Negatives: It takes decades to get job security. I have lots of time when I am not at work... but doing work (email, class prep, scheduling) that I am not getting paid for. In terms of my company, I almost never make more than a couple hundred dollars in profit, yet I spend most of the year in the red, paying for rehearsal space, costumes and makeup. (They only pay you after the gig.) Even when I do get paying gigs, they almost never pay enough money to compensate for time; just expenses.

What percentage of your clients pay are you entitled to or is that confidential information?

For my dance company, I rarely make a profit/compensation for my time, so I usually just pay the bills. My dancers don't get compensated unless we are going out of town for a paid gig, and in that case I bid for them to get a set amount, plus travel, room & board, and I charge extra for administration & booking fees. I would collect all additional profits, as it is my company & my choreography. When a different member of the troupe was managing, she took 10% of the total bid as her fee.

If you are teaching dance at a studio, you usually have to get a certain number of people through the door, for which you collect 30-40% of their class payment, and then, if your class is in high demand, you begin to make a higher percentage.
Some places will simply rent you the space, and allow you to take the money directly.

Do you have a large staff that works with you as a management team, and if yes, how do you accomplish your task through them?

Normally, I do the work myself. When we were planning more travel (and I was in grad school), I hired one of my company members to take on the job of booking our tour. For this, I gave her 10% of the bid, and paid her separately as a dancer. When a smaller gig comes through, I often have certain jobs delegated. For example, one member of the team is the Rehearsal Manager. It is her job to gather everyone's schedules and to pick rehearsal times, keep track of absences, and to keep everyone informed. Another job is Prop Manager; this person makes sure that we have all the equipment, props, makeup, etc. that we need for each performance. The Stage Manager keeps track of our interactions with the venue on the day of the event; including making sure we have water, space to change, a locked room for our belongings, correct lighting and sound. On the side of General Management, I collect all payments, keep the books, file the taxes, reimburse for uniforms (when there is profit), reserve and pay for rehearsal space, create promotional materials, etc.

How secure is the job? What happens when an athlete wants to change managers, gets cut from a team or retires?
It is not secure at all. There is plenty of work for me to make for myself, but there is no constant influx of payment.
As with most creative/athletic endeavors, the only way to have a consistent paycheck is via teaching, and even that is not very consistent when the state government is in financial upheaval.

For my dancers, they are all free to come and go as they please, since I am not able to pay them most of the time. For each event, I poll the pool of dancers to find out who has the time to be able to rehearse and perform. Most of my dancers also perform with other groups and have other full-time jobs or educational endeavors.

Can you recommend this career to up and coming students who are studying hard to be sports management?
Managing a dance company is a side project that I do because I enjoy the process. I love teaching, I love rehearsing, and I love choreographing. I deeply enjoy organizing, managing, and seeing projects through from beginning to end.
If a person is studying sports management because they love the sport, that may lead them down the path of enjoying this work, but loving the sport alone is not enough -- taking part in the sport is only a small percentage of the job. A great sports manager must love communicating, negotiating and helping others to achieve their goals.
Conversely, an athlete who prefers to work on their skills alone, who prefers to be directed and challenged by someone else, or a person who is passive (or passive aggressive) in confrontational situations is probably not going to be a good sports manager. Despite being in a position of authority, good management frequently involves putting one's own ego aside and helping your athletes and team to surpass you. Good management is about facilitating team success.

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Dance & Fitness Faculty member at San Francisco Peninsula Community Colleges, Director, Choreographer & Featured Dancer, Founder of the Living Dead Girlz, and Owner of the Steele Dance Company, which provides entertainment for festivals, corporate events, conventions and private events. Teaching private dance lessons and creating choreography since 1997, Steele graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a Double Major in Dance and Comparative Literature and completed her Master of Fine Arts in Dance and Choreography at Mills College. She has toured all the major cities in Germany and performed at the Cannes Film Festival as the featured dancer in TRIP -- Remix Your Experience, a multimedia exhibition of film, live music and art. Steele has also performed as a featured dancer for RJ Reynolds (CAMEL) promotional events. Steele currently manages the go-go dancers of "Poor Impulse Control," who perform frequently in San Francisco's industrial, alternative, and rock venues.