How The World Cup Can Help Guide Your Sports Career

sports career lessons from the world cupBorn: Nacogdoches, Texas

College Team: Furman University Palladins – Greenville, South Carolina

Professional Debut: New England Revolution (MLS) at 21 years old

Name: Clint Dempsey


sports careers lessons from the world cupBorn: Croxteth, Liverpool, England

First Club Team: Everton Youth Team at age 9

Professional Debut: Everton Senior Team (English Premier League) at age 16

Name: Wayne Rooney

Go down the rosters of the United States Men’s National Team and compare them to their English counterparts, there is a clear winner from 1 to 23 on paper. The pedigree will always favor England.

Their players all play in the English Premier League which is arguably the best league in the world. Even if there is an argument to be made there, there isn’t an argument that it is far superior to MLS.

Best coaches, best training, best competition.

But there is one major difference – in the 2014 World Cup, England is done after just two games and the US won it’s way out of the “Group of Death”.

England did not advance. Spain, ranked #1 in the world, did not advance. Italy did not advance.

This isn’t a United States propaganda article, the likes of which you will be force fed on many other sports sites, there will be no more stats trying to convince you the boys in Red, White and Blue are superior to either England, Spain or Italy – they aren’t. If they faced those nations ten times they’d probably win three, draw two and lose five.

Respectable, but not superior.

The real reason for this angle and approach isn’t to take shots at England, instead it is to show that sports are a microcosm for the world we live in. Our daily life requires us to work, to earn and to survive – that is where the true lessons from sports become clearer.

Pedigree Doesn’t Matter – Something Else Does

Every week during the NFL season betting decisions are made by people deciphering the better team on paper…and every week during the NFL season people lose a lot of money gambling.

sports careers pedigree doesn't matter

Christiano Ronaldo has the bigger name and pedigree, but that doesn’t matter to Clint Dempsey and it shouldn’t matter to you

Sports are not played based solely on statistics, salaries or history, and neither is getting a job in the sports industry.

Let’s say you wanted to work in sports broadcasting, the best schools may seem pretty obvious: Syracuse, Missouri, Indiana, USC and a handful of others. These are great schools and if you are lucky enough to get in congratulations.

Now let’s flip it around. Let’s say you didn’t get into Syracuse. Or Missouri. Or any of the other top schools. Do you give up? Hang you head in shame? Think your dream is over? Nope.

The pedigree doesn’t matter, you matter. No matter what school you attend, ask yourself:

  • How much effort am I willing to put in?
  • How far will I go to get internships?
  • How focused am I on learning the skills employers want?

Do you think Clint Dempsey started the game against Portugal and thought to himself, “these guys all play in premier soccer leagues and I started out in the MLS – there is no way I can compete.” Hell no.

He believes he is better than they are, but it isn’t false bravado, he’s put in the work, trained hard, refined his skills, taken coaching and improved.

So what are you going to do to compete for sports careers with all those guys and gals with fancier degrees?

sports careers skills needed jermaine jones

Jermaine Jones’ (far right) goal vs Portugal was a world class strike – it took skill, not just hard work and determination

It Isn’t Just Grit and Determination

I get a little annoyed when people define the US team with phrases like, “never quit” and “gritty”,  which imply they are the plucky little team that tries hard and at the end of the day gets a nice pat on the head and a medal for competing.

While some of those descriptive terms may be fitting, they are also supremely talented and have the skills necessary to stand up to anyone on the biggest stage.

Yes, it is a compliment to call them “tough” and “determined” but those teams don’t win games, they win respect.  This team wins games, and they do it with more than just “want to” and a “willingness to compete”.

I’ll tell you another thing that really annoys me – getting emails from people saying, “I’m a huge sports fan and I’ll do anything it takes to make it in the sports industry please tell me how!” I respond to these emails, outline a plan, give them skills to focus on developing, a path to follow…and never hear back.

You have to work at it. Being a fan isn’t enough, it doesn’t differentiate you from the crowd.

It always comes down to skill so analyze the current version of you:

  • What skills do you have?
  • What skills do you need to develop?
  • What skills to employers want?

The US team stood out in the World Cup because of their skill on the field – how do you plan to make yourself stand out?

It Takes a Team

They call soccer the beautiful game; always in motion, a flow of athleticism on full display, orchestrated artistry. The 11-man team moves as one unit, always supporting and providing options to one another.

sports career guided by USMNT

It takes a team to make a real difference

The same holds true in your sports career – while you may feel alone you aren’t.

These are all of your teammates, they can help you and you can help them. They say it takes a village to raise a child, the truth is it takes a community of supporters to do just about anything.

You have a bigger team than you think – lean into them, you’ll like the results.

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the sports media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for &

Recently, Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, do it.

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  1. Stefenmanhard Manhard says

    I too love sports and am pursuing a sports related career. I used to be a high school sports writer and have written several published sports articles which gave me some experience, but I need an opportunity to practice my talents on a bigger stage! Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. How does one get started writing a sports blog? Can I make enough money doing this p/t eventually leading to something full time as a career?