Master of Science in Sport Management Online

4 Things that Great General Managers Do

General managers for professional sports teams have more spotlight on them than ever before. Though this is obviously tough for them, it does give sports fans insight into what it takes to put together a winning team. That’s essentially the big picture for any GM. They must hire a great coach, negotiate deals with sports agents to get the best possible players, and then complete somewhere between six and eight million other tasks each day. Exaggerations aside, every one of them will tell you the minutiae that make up their role in an organization can be overwhelming.

At the end of the day, the owner, the fans, the players and the general manager himself all want the same thing: to win. Taking a look at the history of general managers in sports shows that those who have had the greatest success tend to understand some basic principles that allow for winning. Though methods, techniques and strategies vary widely, great general managers do the following things very well.

Facilitate a Winning Environment

This is the big one. This is what keeps the paychecks coming in and the fans happy. A lot can be forgiven and even ignored if a team is winning, and general managers have a lot more to do with winning than some give them credit for.

They are the team builders. And as certain (basketball) teams over the last decade have shown us, putting star players together does not necessarily a winning team make. Teams must have chemistry. The choosing of and negotiating for players is arguably the most important job for general managers of team sports.

The facilitation of a winning environment takes more than just assembling a team. They must create a positive locker room environment, manage player conflict, make sure the team and the coaching staff are on the same page, and make sure the materials and services needed for success are in place.

Make Great Decisions

Great general managers don’t make average decisions. They make difficult, measured decisions that impact the team in myriad ways. This is where the skills learned in an online sport management degree program can set them apart from the competition.

Evaluating talent and putting teams together like a well made puzzle are two of the skills that great GMs have. What they do in instances where disciplinary actions must be taken are decisions that can greatly affect a season. Other than a team’s owner, who is usually not involved in day to day decisions, the buck stops at the GM.

Expect the Unexpected

Regarding the job of general manager, Bill Parcels once said, “Every day there will be five things that happen that you didn’t plan on happening.” When you understand the vast responsibilities of a GM, this makes sense. When you’re managing anyone, let alone men in their early twenties who have unlimited disposable income and newfound fame, you are at the mercy of daily life and all its potential issues.

Maybe a player says something stupid to the media. Or more currently, maybe they tweet something inappropriate or offensive. As the GM, you must be prepared for these types of incidents and respond accordingly. No two days in the role of GM are the same, and they must be equipped to react on the fly.


As a general manager of a team who is winning, you feel like you’re on top of the world. Though you may not get any official credit, you know your actions are having a positive effect. Unfortunately, when the team is losing, no one fails to notice your mistakes.

General managers lead the coach and the players to success or failure. Good leadership skills let players understand who is in charge and keep everyone in line when problems arise. Great leaders aren’t typically born that way. They study hard and learn from their mistakes.

No two general managers have the same techniques, though they share certain qualities that lead to check marks in the win column. A master’s degree in sport management is the place to learn many of the skills that great general managers possess.