A sporting business
As Ash Barty smashed her way onto the international stage to take the title of women’s tennis No.1, media commentators were quick to predict a spike in young players taking up the sport in Australia. Southern Cross MBA graduate Jackson Hills was watching with keen interest.
After twelve years with Tennis NSW and in his most recent position as Assistant Director in the Sport Advisory unit at Sport Australia in Canberra, he has been intimately involved in the sporting life of Australia, from the grassroots level up.
“We have 1.8 million people involved in sport in this country and 90% of them are volunteers,” he said.
A keen amateur tennis player with dreams of turning pro, Jackson reached an impressive level of competition in his youth representing the state at a national level, before an administrative role in Tennis Tasmania drew him into the organisational side of professional sport. It was here he started to realise that his love of sport could also become an off-court profession.
He knew a lot about tennis, but was aware he lacked the skills to progress his career in the business side of sport. Jackson’s mentor while later working for Tennis NSW was Glenn Tasker, former Chairman of the Australian Paralympic Committee, CEO of Tennis NSW and Swimming Australia. Tasker suggested he undertake a Master of Business Administration to develop the skills he would need to progress further in his career.
“I had learnt a lot on the job but academic referencing during my study was an eye opener. The practical skills I gained at SCU were essential, especially in finance and accounting. Being able to read and interpret profit and loss statements, balance sheets and manage budgets are really fundamental to any business,” he said. Jackson studied his Master of Business Administration (MBA) online and enjoyed the flexibility of managing study and work together.
After Tennis NSW, he switched sports and progressed to AFL in Tasmania where he developed a deep understanding of the importance of community sport participation.
“There is a lot of burn out and natural churn in community sport as parents are often time poor and then of course kids grow up and move on. I think we need more leadership training in community sport, to allow people to develop skills that keep them engaged – these are skills that can often be applied in the workplace and across industries”.
With 64 funded national sporting organisations in Australia, that cover everything from bocce to soccer, Jackson said that new careers in sport are opening up all the time. “220,000 people are paid to work in the sports sector in Australia – it’s an industry that has doubled in the last 10-15 years, with a huge push towards getting business smarts into the game, not only at a professional level but at a community level too,” he said.
An advocate of continuous learning, Jackson is pursuing postgraduate studies in policy and politics with an eye on international forums. “I’m fascinated by Olympic sports. Often they have low levels of capacity and resources but produce great results – I think there is a lot we can learn there,” he said.