Friday, June 22, 2018

Changing Mindsets: A Clear Sign of Industry Evolution

I remember the day that I declared that I was going to pursue Sports Management as a career back in 1996 while in my hometown of Huntington Beach, California. My parents, Uncles, Aunties, heck even my friends not only didn’t support this choice, most of them didn’t even understand what I was talking about. Thankfully the hit movie Jerry Maguire was released the same year and although I had no interest in becoming a player agent, at least people had a reference to relate to when I mentioned anything about the business of sport.

Now fast forward 10 years to 2006. I am the Director of Fan Engagement for Major League Soccer, living in New York City, making a decent salary and loving the projects I’m working on and the people I work with.  During those days, I would fly back to Los Angeles at least once a month for meetings and events and would always make time to drive down the 405 freeway to Orange County to see my parents. And, of course, like any proud, doting parents, during each of those monthly visits there would be small get togethers organized at our home so my parents could show off their successful Sports League Director son to our Southern California based Gujarati community. Although, even then, my family, friends, etc… didn’t clearly understand the work I was doing (I think some people thought I was a mascot for a soccer team in New York), they did fully support the concept of choosing sports management as a career option.

Now fast forward to 2009. I’ve just moved to India as I’ve chosen to leverage my energy and experiences to support the professional and sustainable growth of the Indian football ecosystem. Much of the first year after arriving to the country is working with my client Conscient Football to help them build their program FCBEscola in schools across Delhi NCR. While interacting with the school management and parents, I’m just amazed about how few of them could understand or even accept the concept of Sports Management as a career option. The funniest thing was actually seeing the reactions after telling people that I not only studied Sports Management in the US, I actually left my high-paying New York City job to move to India to support the growth of football in the country. Most people were  speechless and left feeling sorry for me – so not surprisingly the next words out of most of their mouths would typically be, “Beta, please come to our home for a nice meal” as I’m sure they felt that I was either not right in the head and / or there was no way that I could look after myself with a ‘Sports Management’ salary.

Now fast forward to 2018. I’ve been invited to speak at the Times of India Education Show events in Mumbai and Pune. As per the events page, the vision of this show is to provide economic independence to 10 million students in India and overseas by bringing to them inspiring stories to relate too. My session was on “Careers in Sport” a topic which I love to speak about and I was prepared to enter rooms full of youth eager to hear about what it is like to work with clubs like FC Barcelona and Manchester United. Instead, at both sessions, I was greeted by the faces of well over 100 committed parents ready to fully support their child’s dream of working in the sports industry.  What was even more incredible was the types of optimistic and informed questions the parents asked me about the scope of Sports Management as a career option during and after my sessions.  

As the title of this post states, changing mindsets are a clear sign of evolution for any area of life. I was blessed to be a part of the changing mindset around careers in sports management in the United Sates and now I’ve had the honour to experience and also influence the changing mindset here in India.  People are waking up to the fact that not only is the Indian sports industry rapidly expanding and thus creating viable career opportunities within the landscape, but more importantly, that we should all support individuals with pursuing their passion as their profession as long as they are willing to garner the courage required to take this extraordinary leap of faith.

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