NEXT UP ON this.
When Jason Bakker was playing professional cricket with the Victorian Bushrangers in the 1990s, long-term career aspirations weren’t a concern. He was living his boyhood dream and loving it. But as his sporting career wound down, Jason realised that he needed to look beyond the cricket field and start planning for life after stumps were drawn.
‘Sport was all encompassing,’ says Jason of his early years. After leaving school at the end of Year 11, he says study was ‘a distant consideration’. While working towards his sporting goals, he worked in his father’s pool and spa shop and completed a building apprenticeship with his uncle. He says that although he developed a work ethic, handy skills and discipline, he did it mostly to support himself financially, as state cricket players in the 90s had to supplement their playing income with other work. Eventually, ‘it dawned on me that I wasn’t getting any younger and I realised I had limitations,’ Jason says. His mentor, Dr Ken Davis, who was lecturing at Deakin University at the time, told him to get a qualification. At 27, Jason started a Bachelor of Applied Science at Deakin.
'It dawned on me that I wasn’t getting any younger and I realised I had limitations.'
Deakin University graduate
‘I wanted my degree by the time I was 30,’ Jason, now 54, recalls, and fitted study around his cricket commitments in order to achieve this. ‘I had a determination to get it done,’ he recalls, but admits that he didn’t know exactly where the course would take him. He learned everything from exercise physiology to sports administration but it was when he completed the marketing components that he started to see prospects.
‘Around the late 1990s, the media influence on sport became profound, particularly in the lead up to the Sydney Olympics. Sports organisations were only just beginning to appoint media managers,’ Jason says. The timing was perfect for Jason, who accepted a new role in communications with Cricket Victoria shortly after he completed his degree. ‘I had a lot of relationships with Melbourne sporting media and I created a department from there. It was a fantastic first job. I had to be across so many parts of the business,’ he explains.
After four years of building a department from scratch, Jason was promoted to Head of Commercial at Cricket Victoria and worked across broader projects in media, sponsorships and presentations. He remained with the organisation for almost a decade. Towards the end he found himself ready for a new challenge and decided to start his own business, Signature Sport, in 2008. ‘Growing up with a self-employed father I had that in my veins,’ he explains. He knew he wanted to get into athlete management but it took time to build up a client base. Signing Cadel Evans was Jason’s breakthrough moment. ‘Cadel’s rationale was that he wanted to work with someone from a different perspective, outside the bubble of cycling,’ Jason explains.
While some might have believed Cadel’s time in the spotlight was behind him, given he’d already stood on the podium as the Tour de France winner in 2011, Jason saw opportunities for Evans to use his influence to develop a wider appreciation for cycling in Australia. Together they developed the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. The experience has enabled Jason to branch out yet again and understand the operational realities of running a large community event.
Today, Jason manages a range of talent including Gerard Whateley, Ashton Agar, and Lucas Hamilton. He says the only challenge is limiting the number of people signed to him in order to maintain quality relationships: ‘You can only go on the journey with a certain amount of people.’
Interested in pursuing a career in sport? Check out the sport courses offered by Deakin University.
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