SMBA 20 Graduate Q&A: Ewout Gouwe
At the end of May, the SDSU Sports MBA program within the Fowler College of Business held its virtual graduation celebration for the Class of 2020. Congratulations to the future sports business professionals in the graduating class!
Ewout Gouw, a Class of 2020 SMBA graduate, is an international student from the Netherlands. The SDSU Fowler News Team interviewed him about his graduate school journey, his 795: Culminating Experience project and why he chose to enroll in SDSU's Sports MBA program.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself, where are you from and where did you earn your undergraduate degree?
My name is Ewout Gouw (SMBA ‘20) and I am from the Netherlands. I finished my bachelor’s degree in Commercial Economics in Amsterdam while playing professional soccer in the Netherlands and Belgium, before moving to San Diego to pursue my MBA.
Q: How/when did you decide to pursue a Sports MBA degree at San Diego State?
I sustained a bad knee injury after extending my contract at BV Vitesse in the Netherlands. After a long rehab I signed in Belgium, trying to reinvent my career but it was a tough season for me. I made the decision to pursue a master’s degree instead of continuing playing in the minor leagues and hoping for the best. I made a realistic decision given the fact that playing professional soccer is, unfortunately, not a lifelong career. Luckily, I always managed to perform well in school while playing soccer in order to secure my place into the program. I figured that if not on the field, I wanted to reach the highest level possible off the field. Two of my close friends already lived in San Diego and the Sports MBA program seemed a great fit for me.
Q: Do you have a favorite memory from your time within the Sports MBA program?
Lots of great memories. Most definitely the time I got to spend with my classmates, we had a small but close group of people. Also, I played soccer for a local team in San Diego, called ASC San Diego, and we managed to become champions of the West Coast. Good times! The program is a lot of work but in the end, it is about the lasting connections you sustain during your time there.
Q: What was your favorite class and/or favorite professor and why?
My favorite class is probably a tie between Financial Management with Professor Frank Ryan and Business Strategy with Dr. John Francis. Given my background as an athlete, I did not have a lot of work experience coming into the program so many concepts I learned for the first time. Both professors have great ways of sharing their knowledge and are very passionate about their respective fields. It is to no surprise that these are the fields in which I would like to be involved over the course of my future career.
Q: The Sports MBA program is known for its industry guest speakers. Was there one or more that really stood out to you?
This is an easy one for me. Joost de Wit, former CEO of BV Vitesse and currently a consultant at UEFA. I played at BV Vitesse when Joost was CEO and we stayed in touch. I consider him a mentor and someone I can always call for advice. Once I learned that Joost was planning a trip to the United States I asked him to fly out to San Diego and speak to our class. He talked about leadership in soccer and shared interesting insights on how to lead a professional sports organization. I think most of our class could agree with me that it was one of the most applicable and insightful lectures of the year.
Q: The Sports MBA program is also known for its robust network of alumni. Are there program alumni from whom you remember getting good advice or who have really helped guide you or impacted your career?
I very much appreciated the efforts that Chris Clark (SMBA ‘12) made with our class. He went out of his way to create content during the year for us to enjoy. I think the value lies in the many different viewpoints you get from the alumni. In terms of really impacting my career, I think my fellow classmates will have the biggest impact. Honestly, I feel my second career after being a professional athlete is just starting so you'll have to ask me again in a few years!
Q: You were able to volunteer for several local sports events while in the program. Did you have a favorite event? If so, why did it stand out?
I enjoyed being part of the Sports Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 2019 event. The location was great and most of our class was present to volunteer. We were able to hear from some of the World Congress of Sports keynote speakers including Steve Ballmer, Chairman of the LA Clippers and Marc Merril, Co-Chairman and Co-Founder, Riot Games. Hearing from these industry leaders was very insightful. Also, the food during the award ceremony was amazing.
Q: Why should others consider the Sports MBA program when looking at graduate programs?
From the perspective of an international student, the program is a great way to be part of an accelerated and accredited MBA course and to gain work experience in the United States on CPT as well as on OPT. The faculty of the program is top notch and you will get challenged along the way. I learned a lot in a short amount of time, and you will create lasting connections with the people in your cohort. And of course, San Diego is an amazing place to spend your time, IF you have any time left after studying and all the other extracurricular activities.
Q: Any advice you would have for current and/or future Sports MBA students about making the most of their time here?
Study hard, participate in the classes, try to find a topic that interests you and specialize your career path. Also, don’t forget to have fun, enjoy the sun and hang out with your classmates. Enjoy it while you can; who knows when maybe a pandemic may suddenly occur and you’ll have to sit inside all day.
Q: Describe your current position.
For my 795: Culminating Experience I served as a General Management of a new National Premier Soccer League team in Miami called Miami Dutch Lion FC. As a GM, my responsibilities included establishing relationships and partnerships with sponsors, running marketing campaigns, budgeting, player management and operational activities.
Q: How did you acquire this position?
Soccer is all about connections. Through one of my agents back from when I was playing professionally, I got in touch with the CEO of the Dutch Lions Capital Group. We kept in touch and once I mentioned that I was looking for a job in January he mentioned this new NPSL project to me. And the rest is history.
Q: Are there specific skills you learned through the Sports MBA Program (in class or otherwise) that helped you with the role’s qualifications?
The first thing that comes to mind is not necessarily a very specific skill but more so an approach of how to keep your head above water in tricky business situations. You will get challenged a lot during the program and this will prepare you for all sorts of situations in your professional career. Skills such as being very organized and structured when it comes to handling data. You will know your worth and it will be easier to see the larger scope of a project because you have been intensively involved with all sorts of different aspects of a business during the year.
Q: Any advice to future SMBA students who are looking to acquire a position similar to yours?
This is always a tough question to answer. Everyone who comes to the program already possesses a unique background and network. Use that to your advantage. For example, I have a history in professional soccer, and I am Dutch, so through the connections I already established I managed to land this position for my 795: Culminating Experience. But who knew a couple years ago that I would end up using those connections to secure a job in the United States! And of course, if you are new to the world of sports or whatever field you want to go into, start early and be persistent. Someone in your class will know someone else and so on. If you go out of your way for your classmates, they will return the favor.
Q: What is it that you are most looking forward to as you kick start this next chapter in your career?
No more tests, at least for now. And hopefully the soccer leagues will start again soon. I may have stopped playing professionally for a while now, but it only takes one good season. Who knows?
About the SDSU Sports MBA Program:
The SDSU Sports MBA program is an intensive, accelerated MBA degree focused on the dynamic business of international sports. The program provides its graduates a thorough understanding of the skills crucial for professionals to succeed, while building a broad network of relationships in the sports-rich landscape of Southern California. Visit business.sdsu.edu/sportsmba to learn more, request information or apply to the Sports MBA program.