Begin Your Sports Career with the End in Mind - Work in Sports podcast e141

If you can master this simple concept of reverse engineering your career from the end, backwards, you will find great success in your sports career. 

Hi everybody I’m Brian Clapp, Director of Content for Work in and this is the Work in Sports podcast!

Gina Miller on Wednesday – which is also my birthday which I share with Reggie White, Kevin McHale, Warren Sapp and Jake “the Snake” Plummer – fun fact Jake and I are actually the same exact age.

Growing up in Boston, I had one of those sports facts a day calendar, which would also list the birthdays on it, and it used to make me so excited that Kevin McHale and I had the same birthday.

Alright, I am officially off topic, so I’ll get us back on.

Today’s question comes from a myriad of people actually.

John in Duluth says “I’d like to become an athletic director at a major university, how do I do it?”

Melanie in Colorado says “I’d like to become a sports reporter, how do I do it?”

Keith in San Francisco says “I’d like to become a baseball GM, how do I do it?”

I can keep going and going, it’s literally a daily occurrence when someone says “I want to be X, tell me how”

Today I’m going to give you what might be the most important advice of your entire career. But before I get to that.

In recent years I’ve had it in my mind that I wanted to write a book. But I realize I have this one weakness, well, likely many weaknesses but this one comes to mind. Almost all self-help, business motivation, advice style prose – is quippy. Full of unique sayings where people jumble around the words to make an alternative meaning like:

It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.


There’s no traffic on the extra mile.

I just don’t think this way – I tend to be much more straightforward in my advice, saying things like stop being afraid and go for it, rather that “opportunity only knocks once.”

 And that doesn’t always play in a marketing sense. You need quippy quotable statements…and that’s just not me. I don’t do quippy.

The reason I bring this up is because some of these statements, while they aren’t my style, they really really resonate with me. And the one I want to focus in on today, that I honestly believe is some of the best advice you will ever get…is:

Begin with the end in mind.

Ok, so now that Yoda is done talking, lets break down what this means.

Whether you want to be an Athletic Director or a Director of operations, or a VP of sales, or a scout or a reporter…or a whatever. You’ve already done the most important part, you’ve identified your end.

You’ve identified where you want to go, you’ve set your goal, you’ve put your stake in the ground. You get it?

You aren’t saying “I really love sports and would like to work in sports.” That is not enough. Stop doing that people. No one can decide what you should do in sports but you. You need to figure out what you want and declare it. Shout it from the mountaintops. Ok, not really, but you need to figure that out.

Yes, things will change over time, and you’ll switch around a bit… but get yourself an idea of who you want to be. That is your end. Start here.

Let’s use the example of an Athletic Director. Hi I’m Brian Clapp, and I want to be an athletic director at a power 5 university.

There it is, that’s my end goal. Pretty powerful to write it down and see it before you. BTW, this is a made up scenario I don’t want to be a power 5 athletic director so just play along.

Now that I know that and have written it down, two things happen.

1: you are 1.5 times more likely to accomplish your goal if you write it down. Fact. Just the power of articulating it does wonders for your focus. You remember something better if you have it displayed as a visual cue you see daily. And according to neuroscientist Mark Murphy, writing down a goal actually encodes it in your brain, helping to turning it into a long-term memory.

2: You can create a strategy to get there. You see once you acknowledge where you want to end, there is a plan a strategy a set of tactics that already exist. You aren’t starting from scratch - someone out there is already doing this job. So how did they get there?

Let’s take the Athletic Director example … if I went through the Linkedin profile of 20 different athletic directors in power 5 universities I’m going to pick up on a few trends.

#1: They all have their Masters. Many have multiple masters including an MBA

#2:  They all worked at a minimum of 5 universities before being an Athletic Director of their own program

#3: many coached early in their career

#4: most if not all at some point had roles in development and fund-raising

#5: All have experience negotiating deals with sponsors

Now that is my 20 minute analysis of 5-10 athletic directors ranging from Greg Byrne at Alabama to Sandy Barbour at Penn State. Imagine what you could discover if you spent an hour or two studying the career arc of people who are currently holding the job you want.

If you want to be a sports reporter – go look at Tom Rinaldi’s resume, Michelle Tafoya, Ian Rapoport, look for patterns for how they got where they are.

If you want to be a sales executive – go use linkedin to look at 30 different sales executives all across the sports spectrum and look for the key attributes that got them where they are, what are the patterns.

I mentioned at the beginning I have this desire to write a book. Truth is it’s less about the desire, and more about I see that as an important stepping stone for where I want to be.

If I was going to make a statement about myself – it would be something like “ I want to be THE undisputed top voice and resource for career advice in the sports industry”

Well, when I look through other people who are considered the top voices of their sector – most of them have New York Times Best selling books. So that’s on my radar. That’s part of my plan. And I wouldn’t have known that if I didn’t have the END IN MIND.

So right now, you can all do this, formulate your career goal and start doing research into what it will take the get there. You do the research – don’t ask me how to get there – you put in the work. It’s not because I don’t want to help’s because when you do the legwork yourself, you’re going to push this mental encoding in your brain to another level, and it’s going to become part of who you are.

It’s going to push you toward you goal, much more that having someone else do the work for you.

The tools are all out there for you – get to work, right now, figuring out your steps to reach you end goal.

That’s it for today – you have work to do.

By Brian Clapp | December 17, 2018
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