Rice hosts post-career workshop for Dynamo
As the Houston Dynamo professional soccer team prepares to start its fourth season against the Columbus Crew on March 21, many of its players are preparing for life after their playing days. Members of the team attended a sports business seminar held in Rice Stadium's "R Room" on Tuesday afternoon, discussing the topic. The seminar, hosted by Dr. Clark Haptonstall, Dr. Jimmy Disch, Dr. Jason Sosa and Tom Stallings of the Sport Management department, focused on providing the players with a crash course in handling interviews, as well as an introduction to the opportunities that exist in the sports industry for former athletes.
Nearly two dozen members of the team were present at the three-hour seminar. The players listened as Haptonstall gave a candid presentation of the ways that the members of the Dynamo could parlay their soccer careers into success working in the front office or scouting divisions for soccer franchises. Haptonstall also focused on interpersonal skills, networking and showing the athletes how to present themselves to the media during interviews during and after games.
Haptonstall instructed players to be cautious about representing themselves, teammates and opponents in a positive light when giving quotes, despite the very "Dynamo-friendly" media present in Houston.
Defenseman Julius James, a recent acquisition from Toronto FC, spoke highly of the presentation.
"I think it's really important [to think about post-career opportunities], especially for athletes," said James, who was recently acquired for former MLS MVP Dwayne DeRosario. "It's pretty sad, but we all have to face the fact of retirement, career-ending injuries, and stuff like that."
The program was the brainchild of Rocky Harris, Vice President of the Dynamo, who had been part of a similar seminar while working with the Houston Texans. The Dynamo brass gauged the players' post-career interests, and the entire roster - all 22 members - responded with interest in working in the sporting industry.
The Dynamo then contacted Haptonstall and the Sport Management department, and the seminar's details were finalized.
"We were pleased that they contacted us, because too many professional athletes don't prepare for a post-playing career," Haptonstall said. "If we can help steer some of these guys in the right direction, that's what we want to do."
James said he appreciated the time the professors took to make him and his teammates more aware of business opportunities after soccer.
"These guys just give us an open mind about life after the sport," James said. "A lot of athletes think about [post-soccer job opportunities] when they are done, but [by] coming in at the beginning, they have us thinking about it more now."
The presentation made James, a resource economics major at the University of Connecticut, think more about opportunities outside of soccer, as well.
"I was originally thinking soccer, but after this meeting I'm able to think about all these different things they were talking about, so I can use my abilities and opportunities to network with people," he said.
Plans have been tentatively set for a follow-up conference in September, although the second seminar will be more tailored to the players' specific interests within the industry.
Haptonstall said he was looking forward to another meeting, considering how eager the Dynamo players were during Tuesday's discussion.
"[The athletes] were definitely enthusiastic about the process," Haptonstall said. "Many of them stayed late and talked with the faculty members for about an hour after the presentations. Wade Barrett, the team's captain, [someone] toward the end of his career, recognized the value of it and said he wished he could have sat through a program like this early in his career."
Casey Michel contributed to this article.
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