The Formula for Sports Career Success - E6 Work in Sports Podcast

By Brian Clapp | September 27, 2017

Welcome to the Work in Sports Podcast – I’m Brian Clapp Director of Content for

About a year ago I finally saw the movie Moneyball – Brad Pitt’s foray into the world of statistics in baseball. I had read the book, because every good sports dork should, but hadn’t seen the movie because, well, lets be honest my wife had little no interest in a movie about baseball statistics.the formula for sports career success

The movie reminded me once again how our view on sports has changed, and no I’m not talking politics, I’m talking big data. What was once a world driven by experience, and guts and instincts, has been replaced by regression models, predictive analytics and Wins above replacement.

Don’t interpret this is me being the old man wishing for different time while telling you to get off his grass, quite the opposite, for one I’m only in my early 40s that isn’t old man range yet…but really, this demand for more data and utilizing algorithms over someone saying “just believe me, I’m the expert here” I think is a more trustworthy and objective decision making model.

Where else can this take place? Where does the statistical revolution enter into our daily lives? Can we create world the quantifies how to reduce cavities, or lose weight, or increase your vocabulary – sure of course we can.

Can we create a model for success? Is there a formula that says do X and good thing y will return? Well, maybe…

Which is why I’m bringing on Dr. Daniel Sweeney, Associate Professor of Business and Sport Management at Lindenwood University. Dr. Sweeney caught my attention with a LinkedIn article he wrote earlier this year attempting to quantify success in the sports industry. He’s been a professor for 10 years, watched students come in fresh and go out learned – and he’s tracked what made some successes and others not as much.

This to me is fascinating and I hope it is to you as well.

But first – a fan question:

Marla from Springfield Illinois wrote in – and you can too just email me your questions bclapp at – Marla wrote in “Hey Brian love the pod – when are you going to have T-shirts made up?

Great question – we are efforting some merchandise, but that’’s not the gist of Marla's question.

Marla continues – I graduated last year and feel like I am not being taken seriously in the sports industry, everyone I tell that I want to work in sports expects me to be a sideline reporter, as if that is the only role for women in sports. I go to bars, and guys feel like they have to test my sports knowledge. I feel like I am always on trial like I have to prove myself. Can you inspire me with some happy stories about women in the sports industry doing things other than being a pretty face?

First off let me say this – I’ve worked with some great, and I mean great sideline reporters, who are true journalist but given just a few minutes per game don’t always get to show off their chops.

But that said – Dudes – you need to step up your game and realize that women have a growing role in the world of sports, with far greater influence and power than you may recognize.

Let’s list some:

Katrina Adams – President and CEO of the USTA – fun fact she’s the youngest person to serve as top executive of the USTA.

Lisa Borders – President WNBA,

Karen Brodkin – Exec VP of Content Strategy and Partnerships for IMG

Heidi Browning – Exec VP of Marketing for the NHL

Kenyatta Bynoe, VP of Global Brand Marketing for Spalding

Pamela El, Chief Marketing Officer for the NBA, WNBA and NBA Gatorade League

Dawn Hudson, CMO of the NFL

Adrienne Lofton, SVP Global Brand Management for Under Armour

This list goes longer and it’s to inspire women to think big within sports, and to educate the men who doubt them…that you better step up your game.

Now let’s get into my conversation with Dr. Daniel Sweeney of Lindenwood University

Questions for Dr. Daniel Sweeney - Lindenwood University

*I’ve read articles of yours where you’ve discussed your role as a professor explaining your commitment to helping students discover grow and develop many of the necessary ingredients for finding meaningful careers – what are those ingredients?

*(PassionXHustleXgrind = Success)

*Lets unpack this a bit – Passion is a big word, we use it in our business tag line “Make your passion Your Career” so we’re obviously on board with this concept – but how does someone who is 17-18 years old even know what that is? It feels daunting.

*I’ve mentioned before that I started college as a chemistry biology double major but was miserable and my mom kept asking me, what do you love?…and almost instinctively I’d say “I don’t know!” finally I realized it was sports and I shifted to my passion and never looked back.

*BUT, passion for sports is not the same as working in sports – knowing who won the 1984 AL MVP isn’t the same as having the skills to work at a Sports Marketing firm. So how does someone go from “I love sports” to “these are the specific skills I want to develop so I can work in sports”

*Hustle – so important. We have this saying in our house that everyone should “focus on what you can control” – you can’t control how your friends act, but you can control how you react. Same thing goes for the workplace, you can control your effort.

*This is a knack on Millennials – the saying goes they don’t want to work hard – you work with them daily do you find this to be true and accurate?

*Hustle can sometimes be defined as moving fast – but if you are moving fast in the wrong direction that isn’t good either – so how does someone hustle the right way?

*What about Grind – separate that from Hustle –

*Grind sounds a lot like mental toughness – the sports industry can be brutal – long hours, late nights, holidays, road trips – how does someone learn mental toughness or grind?

Next week - part 2 of our conversation, Dr. Sweeney and I will focus on the components of a good sports management program and whether a student should pursue sports management, or just get a business degree.

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