It's About Relationships People! Work in Sports podcast e161

Relationships are the gear that turns the engine in everything you do...but not enough people are focused on them, and the repercussions are immense.

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

Wow, what a week. We’ll get more into the details of what was a crazy last week in a little bit. But first, the normal flow of the Monday shows is pretty simple, I read through the myriad of fan questions that come in either through my LinkedIn, our private facebook group, direct email – however you want to get your questions to me, I listen and I read them all.

I pick one out to focus in on that I think will appeal to the greatest number of listeners. So if I don’t read your question that is super specific to your situation, it’s generally because I’m trying to create content that helps everyone. Most of these question I answer personally, just maybe not on the show.

The people who send in questions and have them read on the show get a free month at our site the number 1 job board for the sports industry for the last two decades.

Right now we have near 11,000 active sports jobs – just checking some of the most recent postings –

I see a video producer for a regional sports network…Communications coordinator for an NFL team…senior analysts for a popular online sports site…a baseball marketing intern for a sporting goods company who I never realized was based in Chicago… huh, learned something new.

Anyway, I wanted to set the stage for what our Monday shows are… because I’m not doing that today.

I make an effort to read a lot. Not just sports stuff and not just headlines, politics, news, science, Pulitzer prize winning books about three generations of a Greek-American family in Detroit with a deep family secret…it’s called Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and it’s incredible storytelling.

I think reading makes me a better writer and communicator and introduces me to thoughts and point of views that need considering. So often when I scan through my favorite sports sites, I’m the guy who passes by the UNC-Duke analysis and reads the long-form SI story on Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer.

This isn’t come attempt to give myself a pat on the back or sound more important, it’s just trying to give you context for this conversation we’re about to have.

I stumbled across a headline this weekend from the Sloan Sports Analytics conference at MIT from the interview Bill Simmons conducted with NBA commissioner Adam Silver – the headline: At Sloan, NBA commissioner Adam Silver talks candidly about players’ mental health

The subhead is a quote “I think it’s a generational issue”

In the last few years you’ve heard Kevin Love and Demar DeRozan speak about their mental health issues and I wonder – what the heck is going on here?

Silver shares:

“When I meet with them, what surprises me is that they’re truly unhappy, A lot of these young men are generally unhappy.’’        

What is at the root of these issues, what are we doing wrong here and what is it about the NBA in particular that is seeing this issue?

Is it that they are just more vocal and these problems exist everywhere in sports, or is there something bubbling under the surface of the NBA experience?

I’m not naïve, I know people are unhappy, I know depression number are n the rise – one study last year informed that depression is on the rise among Americans from all age groups but is rising fastest among teens and young adults.

But maybe I am naïve, because I always thought…sports helped with issues of depression. I had friends growing up and through college who used sports as their escape from the ravages of real life, as their safe haven, their happy place. But now, I’m reading more than ever about sports being a catalyst, not a cure.

I got into sports for two main reasons – competition and team. And by team I mean a sense of belonging, of community, of unity. Sure I was driven by my desires to beat the person across from me, but just as important was the moments in the locker room getting ready for a grueling practice, or after a win, or on a long bus ride to a playoff game. Those moments, those shared experiences can’t be replicated.

But this is where Silver sees a problem, and frankly I do to. There is no effort to create these relationships.

I’m quoting the article:

“In his observations and meetings with players, Silver said he has discovered there are pervasive feelings of loneliness and melancholy across the league. Citing six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls as a paragon, he said he no longer sees the high level of camaraderie or team-building that once existed in previous years.

“If you’re around a team in this day and age, there are always headphones on,’’ Silver said. “[The players] are isolated, and they have their heads down.’’

Silver, who assumed office in February 2014, called Jordan’s Bulls “a band of brothers’’ who were able to strengthen their relationships via the constant travel that comes with being a professional athlete. As 12-time NBA All-Star Isiah Thomas told him, “Championships are won on the bus.’’

You may be thinking right now, I don’t play in the NBA, why do I care? Well, you should. Because we’re all losing focus on what is truly important in life. We all want to win, to achieve…but we’ve forgotten what winning actually looks like. Winning may not be on the scoreboard, or I the paycheck, or in the vacation time or the negotiation or the presentation you just nailed.

It is in the relationships we build.

One of the major reasons I decided to work in the sports industry is because I wanted to try and replicate the feeling of community and team that you get from sports. When I broke into the sports industry I started working with 200 other people I had never met, but we all started working the same crazy late nights, and weekends and holidays all with a deep love of sports and competition.

This was my team, these were my people. To this day, they are still.

It’s about the relationships we build. It’s about taking off the headphones, putting away the phone and looking people in the eyes.

No this is not some old guy with another “smartphones are the devil”…this is a guy saying, work on the relationships you have in your work, in your life in your sports, because those are something that last through all times.  

Silver recalled a conversation he had with a superstar player:

“He said to me, ‘From the time I get on the plane to when I show up in the arena for the game, I won’t see a single person,’ ’’ Silver relayed. “There was a deep sadness around him.’’

Why is this happening? I don’t know, I’ll leave that to all of you to figure out and analyze in your own world. But this is a conversation you should have with yourself.

I’ll tell you this – you should expect more, but you have to work at it. What this all proves is that relationships don’t happen based on similar circumstances – it is not automatic that because you share the same challenges you will bond and form a brother or sister hood – you have to work at it.

Two months ago, myself and the rest of the staff at Work in Sports met up for our quarterly business summit in phoenix. Together we hiked a mountain one morning before we got started – I remember THAT, more than anything we did in our conference room. I remember being at the top of the mountain with my co-workers and friends, more than the revenue spreadsheet. I remember us laughing, I remember us joking.

Those are the moments that matter. That’s winning.

I listen to many other podcasts and I’m amazed on how often hosts personalize everything, they make it about them, which is something I’ve tried to avoid. I’ve always felt that was cheap clickbait, to use your private personal issues or history to get more listens to your show. It makes me feel inauthentic, so I don’t do it.

I don’t think you want to hear me talking about me, you want to learn things that can help you…that’s been my focus. But indulge me a second here – this past week my wife was in the hospital, it was an awful week… and you know what prevented me from feeling the same fear, sadness, isolation and depression that many in todays generation are struggling with?

The relationships in my life. The people who pick me up and support me through all times, those bonds that can’t be broken even as time and distance increases.

Silver finished by saying “I think this is a generational issue” – maybe he’s right, maybe he’s wrong, maybe this generation is more vocal about their feelings and mine was more closed off – I’m not here to judge or label, but I’ll say this – hear this conversation, know that it is an issue that people are dealing with in a very real way, and challenge yourself to be the master of your own situation, to take the steps necessary to improve your relationships on your job and in your everyday, to value the people in your life, and grow that sphere of influence even broader, and to be open to new people of all backgrounds.

 Take the challenge of talking to people and going on a road trip, or hanging out at music festival or doing a spartan race – I don’t know what it is…but I know what it isn’t, real relationships don’t happen when our heads are down and our earbuds are in.

That’s it for today – thanks for all the love and care you’ve all shown me as many of you have checked in and supported me on this difficult last week. We’re all good, out of the woods and back to work.

I cancelled last Thursday’s Facebook live because I was at the hospital with my wife…but I’ll be back at it this week – 7:30pm EST on Thursday from the Work in Sports facebook page.

Work on those relationships – that bond, that familiarity, that exposure to other people and their points of view… will make you a better happier person.


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Seattle University

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Alright…Start the countdown…


Quick break to thank our our sponsor, Georgetown University. 

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Ideal for working professionals, the program offers flexible options to take classes online, on campus, or through a combination of both—so you don't have to interrupt your career to earn your degree.

You'll leave the program with the communication, business, and leadership strategies that position you for success.

To learn more about the program, visit

By Brian Clapp | March 04, 2019
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