Case Study: Everything Great About a Career in Campus Recreation

For Jorge C. Juarez, the executive director of Recreational Sports at Southern Methodist University, there are many great things about a career in campus recreation. First and foremost includes the ability to make a positive impact.

“What I love about working in the campus recreation industry is the fact we teach students healthy habits for a lifetime,” said Juarez. “Even though students are coming to play, what we hope to gain is trust so the student will allow us to show them other means of physical activity while they are in college.”

Juarez was introduced to the field out of necessity. He returned to college at Texas A&M after a seven-year hiatus and as an older student, was paying his own way and needed a job. So, he turned to the Rec Sports department to find work as an official. Right off the bat, he felt at home in the industry, and even met two mentors: Jeff Dupont and Dave Hall.

In addition to the ability for Juarez to make a positive impact on students, he also fell in love with the activity aspect — something that’s unique to a career in campus recreation.

“First and foremost, our industry offices are in a gym, court, field or aerobic studio,” said Juarez. “From poolside to the top of a 40-foot climbing wall, our industry professionals are all over the rec facility. Yes, we do have traditional offices for the occasional meeting, but most of our time is spent teaching customer service skills, developing students or cultivating leaders — and that happens all over the rec facility.”

As a result, Juarez encouraged young professionals to pursue a career in campus recreation — something they may not have considered. He acknowledged oftentimes, young people don’t even realize a career in campus recreation is an option.

“I am always recruiting into our industry,” said Juarez. “The campus rec industry is not one that people know about. When I get invited by my children to speak at career day, my children’s friends know I have a cool job because they get to play in the rec center; however, it is an industry you don’t get to know about unless you attend college and are a friend of the rec center. It’s hard to explain to people what I do in life because it is a new and upcoming industry.”

For those looking to pursue a career in campus recreation, Juarez gave this piece of advice: “Get a job in your local campus rec facility, but don’t stop there. Learn as much as you can about the different areas or programs housed within your campus recreation facility such as intramurals, sport clubs, aquatics, facility operations, memberships, climbing wall, outdoor adventures, group fitness classes, marketing or personal training. When learning about all the areas, follow your heart and see which one you are really passionate about, and pursue that one in your professional beginning.”

Lastly, Juarez encouraged young professionals to seek out mentors and to not be afraid to network.

“There are many professionals, like myself, who are willing to help young students or professionals seek more about this wonderful industry,” said Juarez. “So don’t be afraid to network and find that person who will help you get to where you want to be. Seek your Jeff Dupont or Dave Hall.”