Should you Consider a Gap Year? Work In Sports Podcast

Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp, VP of Content and Engaged Learning for and this is the Work In Sports podcast…

Obviously, we are in some crazy times right now, and it feels like a bit of a struggle to come up with new ideas that are related to career development when it feels like carers are stuck in neutral… am I right?

I was reading a survey this morning asking millennials and college-age students words to describe how they feel about their careers right now, and the number one response was “frustrated”.

I think that sums it up. You’ve been in school prepping for this moment to enter the world and start your new direction… and the world is like “Hold up, wait a minute...take a break while I ravage your global society”

I have three kids, so I am constantly thinking about how this “pause” will affect their growth, and what I can be doing to help mitigate the lost classroom time… because no matter what anyone tells you, virtual learning is not the same. They are missing out on key social development, emotional intelligence, and straight-up learning. 

Side note -- we have watched a ton of documentaries though - anything from 13th - which is a documentary on the 13th amendment abolishing slavery - exploring the history of race and the criminal justice system in the United States.

To Mission to mars -- which is more self-explanatory. It’s about the Mission to Mars. 

For a little context -- 13th was produced in 2016, and it is incredible. Hard to watch. We actually watched it over three days so we could stop it, have a discussion, answer questions..and then take a break. It’s some heavy shit, that can be tough but awakening for the kids. 

It’s made an impact. My 8 year old literally said to me on the 4th of July… shouldn’t Juneteenth be independence day since that was the day everyone in america become free?

I wish I had that knowledge and perspective when I was 8. 

Ok, back on track… 

My point is, as I think about my kids and their growth, I also think about how tough it must be for high school, college and entry-level staff ages. People just getting started in their career getting things rolling, are being told … sorry go home, we’ll see where this takes us. 

High school seniors are evaluating what the fall means for it worth it to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a virtual college education? College students are wondering does it make sense to take a year off and come back later? 

These are all perplexing questions...which brings us to the thrust of today’s conversation. Yeah that was just the preamble. 

Noah writes in …

“Hey Brian, I’m a high school senior and what is supposed to be the best summer of my life full of parties and prepping for college… really sucks. I didn’t plan on spending my summer at home with my parents. Some of my friends are going to the beach still and doing things as normal, but I am not, and I am really missing out. 

True story - 4 of my friends got coronavirus after bragging about going out without masks and hanging at parties with strangers, so while I am bummed, I’m also fully understanding of my parents choice to keep me in and safe. 

Ok, my question, I had a plan to go to college in the fall, but I’m wondering if it may be smarter based on the circumstances to do a gap year, and if I did that, what should I do to enhance myself? Thank you, Brian, I love your podcast I really do.”

Noah this is a really great question and I’m excited to dig into it. 

Two notes first -

1: If you have questions you’d like me to handle on this here podcast you can email me at -- make the subject line Podcast Question - so I can easily identify it from all the other stuff I get. If I read your question on the air, I’ll give you a free month of full access to our WorkInSports job board.  At the lowest point of the corona, we went from 25k jobs down to 8! Now we are back up to 13k… which means we are headed in a better direction.

#2 before we get into Noah’s question -- I know it sucks. I know when I was a teenager, and in my 20s I thought I was indestructible and didn’t have to fear anything. That is naive, don’t be that guy or gal. Rock a facemask, it is the simplest move to help knock this thing out. Wear a facemask - it is not some attack on your patriotism or toughness, it is quite simply the easiest thing you can do to protect other people, and since you all listening aren’t selfish pricks, I’m guessing you will all wear one. 

Ok, now to get into the Gap year concept. 

If I was in your shoes Noah, I would do a Gap year. BUT, I would be ultra-productive -- this isn’t a year off so get that out of your head. But let’s talk about why and how.

First -- why a GAP year can be really productive. AND this fits for people finishing college too who may consider a year off before grad school. 

The concept of GAP years usually entails travel abroad. You take a year off before college, and join the peace corp, or teach English in France, or raise money for a non-profit in Thailand. Whatever.  Well, that part ain’t happening now. You aren’t going abroad to volunteer and learn some romantic language.  

But that’s OK. There are thousands of areas in the United States that need help and have a long-term Volunteer program you can be a part of. 

Ok, we’ll get into the specifics in a bit. First Why?   

1: Figure things out a bit. 

You may think you know what you want, but you are 17-18 years old and likely haven’t experienced a ton -- work to improve your point of view.

2: Mental break -- stress break

3: Improve your grades

4: Gain some skills and experiences

5: Get better on the phone

OK, so now … where and how?

I think you need to have a complete strategy and pitch for a GAP year -- approach it like a job you need to have 30-40 hours allocated per week, and you need to have some short and long term goals. 

So for example - on a very simple level

1: 20 hours a week dedicated to a particular volunteer cause or initiative.

2: 10 hours a week dedicated to learning Spanish through rosetta stone

3: 10 hours a week taking the New y\York Times Gap year program.

Have an executable plan for yourself, and explain what each of these things will do for you in the long run. Create a presentation you can give to your parents, or convince yourself it’s the right move. 

Now, where? There are plenty of sites that deal with Gap Year programs, a couple of quick google searches and I found all kinds of good information. Check out -- they share the programs that are accredited, so you know they are legit. 

I really like NOLS which is the National Outdoor Leadership School -- many of their international programs are canceled, but many in the US are still on, and you can learn leadership skills in a different way. 

If you want more experience that directly relates to sports -- look to non-profit organizations - Laureus Sport for Good, Global Sports Foundation, Project Fit America, Right To Play

There are tons of opportunities out there, find something that can impact you personally and professionally, and make the most out of this year!

By Brian Clapp | July 06, 2020
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