Volleyball players hitting a ball at the net

Should you include sports on your resume?

One question that we often get when reviewing resumes and applications for sport management positions is “Should you include sports on your resume?”. Now, this isn’t referring to work or volunteer experience at a sports company. If you’re applying to another sports industry role, we’d almost always advise you to include that experience in your resume. Today, we’re looking specifically at whether to include experience as an athlete.

There is not a one-size-fits-all answer, but we can help guide you toward making the best possible resume for your next application. To decide whether to include this sports experience on your resume, you should ask yourself a few questions:

  1. What is your current career level?
  2. Is your sports experience important to your story?
  3. Will your sports experience create a connection with the hiring team?

Your answers to each of these will help you decide whether to include sports on your resume. Below, we’ll also discuss how to communicate your sports experience and where to include sports on your resume.

Sports experience carries different value at different career levels

Where you are in your career is probably the most important question to answer when deciding whether to include sports on your resume. The general rule of thumb is your sports experience is more valuable for inclusion the earlier you are in your career. If you are a seasoned executive or even a mid-level manager, including past experience as an athlete likely isn’t relevant to your application.

As we mentioned in our guide to building a sport management resume, hiring managers often have a large quantity of resumes to dig through, and therefore don’t spend a lot of time on each one. So, if you have more valuable work experience, volunteer roles, or education, that is likely a better use of your resume real estate than sports (note: unless one of the questions below yields a different recommendation).

On the other hand, if you’re an early career professional or just coming out of school, sports experience may add a lot of value. Experience as an athlete – especially at a high level – can show an employer that you can put in hard work and dedication. Also, depending on the type of sport you played, you can leverage athletic experience to show how you’re a team player or an independent worker. Finally, as we’ll outline below, if you’re applying for a job within a specific sport, then past experience as an athlete in that sport may even be listed as a requirement or “nice-to-have” in the job description. Definitely find room to leverage your sports experience in that case!

Your sports experience can help you tell your story

Another thing to consider when deciding whether to include sports on your resume is: “Will my sports experience help tell my story?”. Crafting an effective job application is a lot like storytelling. You need to pitch yourself to an employer and telling your story clearly and concisely could be the difference maker in landing your next job in the sports industry.

How you use sports experience in your story depends a lot on what your experience is. For example, if you were applying to a role at a professional basketball team, referencing your years of experience playing competitive basketball as a student helps show that you have had a long-term interest in the sport – and likely would stay with the company for a long time.

Your sports experience can also help explain why you might lack some other desired experience. For example, if you were a varsity athlete during university or college, you may not have had the same ability as your peers to work part-time during school or do as many internships in the summer months. In this case, employers (especially those with sports experience themselves) will likely understand the significant training schedule a high-performance athlete takes on. This shows dedication and likely reflects well on how you would perform in a work environment.

Finally, for specific jobs, past experience as an athlete can relate specifically to the candidate profile an employer is seeking. In competitive roles like sales and business development, having an athlete’s mindset can be better than past work experience in a non-competitive environment. Being able to use your competitive nature can help you achieve your targets. Likewise, in roles like sport development at the provincial or national level, being able to draw upon experience as an athlete can help you create and deploy effective programs. You can put yourself in the shoes of your stakeholders and therefore do a better job of serving them.

Using sports to connect with the hiring team

Sports can also be a way to form a connection right off the bat with the hiring manager or team. The most obvious way is what we mentioned above: if you are applying to a role in a specific sport, then having experience in that sport can help separate you from other candidates with similar work experience. However, you can take this a step further if you’re willing to invest time in pre-application research.

While creating an effective application package is mostly about tailoring your experience to the company and job description, you can also try to form a connection with the hiring team when they review your application. Before building your application, we recommend taking the time to identify and research who will be making the hiring decision. In this case, we are referring to who would be the direct supervisor of your role or who in the department would make the final hiring decision. This person’s role is often listed in the job description (i.e. this role reports directly to X) or can be found in a company’s organization chart.

Note: in larger companies, you’re likely to also interact with the Human Resources department during your application and interview process. While HR professionals can sway a hiring decision, typically the role’s manager has the final say.

Once you’ve identified your potential supervisor, you can do some research on them to see if you have any shared connections. These could be actual people in your network you could speak with or simply shared experiences you could draw upon. If you and the hiring manager were both former athletes in the same sport, that can be an easy way to make an instant connection when they review your resume. While this opportunity definitely won’t present itself in every application, in the times when it does, we recommend finding the space to include those sports on your resume.

Now that you’ve considered the questions above and know whether you want to include your sports experience on your resume, we can assess how and where to include it.

How should you list sports on your resume?

You can list your sports experience on your resume in a few ways. First, if your sports experience relates specifically to another experience on your resume, it’s best to include it there. For example, if you were a varsity athlete, include the experience with other accomplishments you list under your degree in your education section. If you have a success to speak about like a provincial or national championship, even better!

If you want to list your sports experience alone, it’s best to have it in a separate section, typically called “Interests”. This is a grab-bag section where you can include anything you think would be relevant to the role or help give a clearer picture of you. Sports experience is a perfect thing to include here, for the reasons we went over above.

In your interests section, how you list your sports experience depends on where you’re applying and what your experience was. If your sports experience includes significant accomplishments, you can include those. Also, if you’re sure the company you’re applying to enjoys a more casual tone, you can get creative in how you communicate your sports experience to make you stand out. Note: this can be a risky move, though. We only recommend doing this if you are 100% sure the employer will enjoy the tone (i.e. by doing research with other connections at the company), otherwise, it can be an easy way to get your resume discarded early in the process.

If you’re unsure, the easiest way is just to list the sports experience and the number of years (i.e. Nationally-Ranked Tennis Player, 2016-2020)

Where should you list sports on your resume?

Assuming you landed on the option of including your sports experience in your interests section, you might be wondering where that section should go. Interests sections typically either land at the bottom of your resume (bottom of page two if you are using a two-page resume format) or in a sidebar (if you’re using a format with a sidebar). The rule of thumb is to list resume sections from most relevant to least relevant, and even if your sports experience would add value, “Interests” should always land below your education and work/volunteer experience.


As we mentioned above, resume real estate is valuable. Employers and hiring managers don’t spend a lot of time looking at candidate resumes, so choose wisely whether to include sports on your resume. If after reviewing our key questions above, you believe your sports experience will add value, definitely include it! Otherwise, it’s probably best to highlight other aspects of your background in your maximum two pages of resume content.

Whether or not you have the room for sports on your resume, it can often be something worthwhile to reference in an interview or make note of in a cover letter to help differentiate yourself from other candidates. Landing jobs in the sports industry often comes down to making connections – either before or during the interview process. Sports experience can be a great way to connect and help you get the role you desire.

Don’t forget to check out our Canadian Sports Job Board to find your next role in sports. We post new roles all the time, so check back often. As well, if you’d like help crafting your application, check out our services page or contact us for more information on how we can help you build your career in sport.

Career Resources, Development, Resume