Dr. Pamela Wojnar
Current Job Title:
Associate Professor, Sports Management
American Public University
Dr. Wojnar has worked in higher education for over 25 years, holding such positions as athletic director, assistant athletic director, sports information director, head women’s basketball coach, assistant women’s volleyball coach, and compliance officer. She also spent six years working in public relations for the U.S. Navy prior to starting her athletics career.
Dr. Wojnar trained as a leadership facilitator for the NCAA’s Division III Student-Athlete Leadership Conference and is a graduate of the NACWAA/HERS Institute for Administrative Advancement. Additionally, she served on numerous NCAA conference and institutional committees, including the NCAA Research Committee and the Division III Women’s Basketball Committee.
Did you ever work in the sports industry? If so, how did you land your first job or internship?
Yes. I volunteered to coach girls’ basketball for a county league in Arlington, Virginia. During my second year volunteering, one of the program directors—who also coached tennis at a local university—informed me that the head women’s basketball coach at the local university was looking for an assistant. He recommended me. I met with the coach, and he asked me to manage his evening camp for post players. This was a paid position, but also a test for the assistant coach position, and I passed the test.
After serving as the assistant coach for one year, and continuing to volunteer for the county, I decided I wanted to leave my public relations job working in the federal government and transition into fulltime college coaching. I spent as much time at the school as possible trying to learn as much about coaching at the college level as possible.
At the end of my second year as an assistant coach at the college level, a head coaching/sports information director position opened up at a conference school. Due to my professional PR background, combined with my sports information and coaching experience, I had unique qualifications that made me a strong candidate. I was awarded the job.
What advice would you give to students looking to make sports their career?
Network and be willing to help out in all areas. It doesn’t matter in what area of the sports profession someone works, there are always lots of little things that can make or break a successful event. Don’t be afraid to help out with the little things—they can become big opportunities!
Start networking early, while you’re still in school. When you graduate, your goal is to find a job, and others know that. However, if you reach out to others while you’re still studying then it paints the picture of someone who takes initiative and is focused on learning as much as possible about the profession. Basically, there’s no time like the present to build your network and increase your chances to open new doors.
Why is it important to get a bachelor’s degree in sports management for people who are looking to work in sports?
A sports management degree not only provides the education necessary to be skilled in the profession, it also provides opportunities to connect with others looking to get into the profession and network with established professionals too. Since it is a distinct and respected degree program, many sports management programs are taught by professors who are either working or once worked in the sports industry. The learning you receive includes aspects of other disciplines, but it’s focused specifically on sports-related applications, so you’re getting a hands-on education that can be applied immediately in the field.
How important is it for students to do an internship before they graduate? What advice would you give a student looking to select a sports internship?
It’s extremely important. Internships not only provide opportunities to get hands-on experience, they are great ways to work on networking. Not all internships lead to a full-time job, but many do, and no matter what, they are critical stepping stones to success. When selecting a sports internship it is important to pick something you’d like to do in the future. It’s a great opportunity to gain practical experience, and therefore, focusing on an area that you’re passionate about is key. The biggest institutions are not always the ones that offer the most hands-on experiences, so be open, and do your research.