GoalNation’s Top Leaders In Soccer Spotlight on Soccer San Diego Sockers GM Sean Bowers
In our competitive, fast paced and ever changing world of American soccer, there are leaders who make a difference in the beautiful game. These are the men and women who inspire us by doing their jobs right — they are excellent role models and lead by example. These are the movers and shakers who will be featured in this new series, GoalNation’s Top Leaders In Soccer.
San Diego Sockers General Manager Sean Bowers’ high expectations
Soccer News: Sean Bowers has always inspired those around him to reach for the stars. A powerful defender on the field and in the arena, Bowers was the 1992 NPSL Rookie of the Year. A four-time Defender of the Year and a six-time first team All Star as well as the Captain of the U.S. National Futsal Team, Bowers played in the 2004 Futsal World Cup. One of the first players selected during the inaugural MLS Super Draft in 1996, Bowers played for the MLS Sporting Kansas City when they were the Kansas City Wizards and also played the San Diego Sockers. Returning to his roots, Bowers rejoined the Sockers as their General Manager last year and has established himself as the iconic leader.
Just walk the halls of the San Diego Valley View Casino Center’s Sports Arena while the Sockers are playing and you can see Bowers — a well dressed man who is clearly in control, easily chatting with fans before a game — while always keeping a watchful eye on the flow of the match. Few former professional players can assume an executive position with as much ease and grace as Bowers, and fewer still can exert his enormous positive impact.
Prior to the kickoff of the 2016/17 Major Arena Soccer League season, the Sockers announced its #Questfor15 campaign as the Sockers strive to bring the Ron Newman Trophy back to the San Diego.
GoalNation’s Diane Scavuzzo spoke with Bowers on the start to his first season as GM of the Sockers and his inspiration for working in the game.
Diane Scavuzzo: When did you first start thinking about being the GM of the San Diego Sockers? Do you often think back to when you were wearing the Sockers’ uniform and playing on the team?
Sean Bowers: I have always flirted with the idea of coming back to the Sockers. In June, when I saw the article in the Union-Tribune on John Kentera not returning as General Manager of the Sockers, I reached out to the head coach Phil Salvagio and asked what the Sockers were looking for in terms of a leader.
Phil and I had several conversations about a new direction for the Sockers organization and what it would take to become champions again! I love new challenges and, although I also loved my job at Miramar College, I felt that this GM position was an exciting career opportunity.
I understood that there was something bigger after my playing career — I have always been a student of the game, on and off the field.
Diane Scavuzzo: What inspires you?
Sean Bowers: The thought of being the best at something inspires me. I don’t like the thought of being mediocre.
I want to be associated with people who want to be the best at what they do.
The San Diego Sockers having not won a championship for 3 years motivates me on a daily basis. I am competitive and the thought of winning a championship as an organization is the ultimate goal.
Diane Scavuzzo: What about you surprises people the most?
Sean Bowers: I think I have surprised a lot of people by my work ethic and dedication to the Sockers organization. I pride myself on working hard, as I did as a player. Often times, I am the first one at work — I often want to get an early start on the day and keep abreast of what’s going on in the league.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are you most proud of?
Sean Bowers: In terms of the Sockers, I feel very proud of the team we have put together both on and off the field.
The team is a very connected group and they are learning, when necessary, to sacrifice for the betterment of the team.
Off the field, we have assembled a great office staff that works very hard at their jobs and love being at work every day. Our entire organization is one big team. Everyone has their hearts in the right place for us to succeed and that is always the first step.
Diane Scavuzzo: As the GM of the San Diego Sockers, what has been you biggest challenge?
Sean Bowers: We’ve had a few challenges — we needed to assemble a competitive and talented group of players that would be capable of being a championship team. Chiky Luna and Phil did a great job putting together our team.
The next challenge was the San Diego Sockers organization had to do a better job of being a presence in our community. And finally, we focused on our social media and launched a brand-new website.
Diane Scavuzzo: How important is it to win the championship?
Sean Bowers: Winning the championship is the ultimate goal of the Sockers’ organization. We have won 14 Championships in the past and there is nothing we would like more than to return to the top.
I will say it takes a lot of unselfish work from everyone, including players and support staff, but I do think we have assembled the right group to make a run at it.
Diane Scavuzzo: You just took over and yet you have already made a big of an impact in your first season. How did you do this?
Sean Bowers: The first thing we did was to give everyone a voice and listen to everyone that has been here and what they think is needed for us to be successful.
Specifically, we assessed how things worked in the past, what made sense and what didn’t work. We’ve tried to tap into the experience and talents of everyone in the organization.
I have learned that people want to feel empowered and that they want to feel that their voice counts.
So, we changed our process and decision making to be more inclusive and I think things have snowballed from there.
Everything, from our equipment staff, athletic trainers to our doctors are top quality and second to none.
Diane Scavuzzo: You have described yourself as a player’s GM. What do you think makes you a good GM?
Sean Bowers: I do think I am a players GM in that I believe in the following ideals:
HONESTY — Players and staff always want to know the truth and want to know what to do to get better. I have an open-door policy and I love when anyone comes in and asks questions. Creating an open and honest workplace helps to keep everyone on track.
ACCOUNTABILITY — This is something every organization needs to win a championship. Individually and collectively, you have to own what works and what doesn’t. I believe ultimately winning is dependent upon people acknowledging and owning their weaknesses as well as strengths.
Essentially, players want to be held accountable because this is a way to truly get better at the game.
WORK ETHIC — I learned at a young age that work ethic is everything.
I want everyone in our organization to give their best, work hard, and make no excuses. It’s important to stay focused on finding ways to overcome any obstacles. If we don’t attain our goal, it won’t be because we didn’t work hard enough.
HAVE FUN — There is a great group of people connected to this organization. It’s important to have fun every day. We love what we do and we are very lucky that we can do this for a living!
Diane Scavuzzo: Filling the sports arena — What needs to change so that more people think of soccer as entertainment? Why should people come out to a game?
Sean Bowers: Right now, we are averaging more people per game than we did last year –so that is a bonus for us.
Yes, we can always do better. We still need to be a bigger presence in the community whether it’s at soccer tournaments, school appearances, and/or charity events, we need to be out in the community.
While the Sockers have been the most successful sports organization in San Diego for over 30 years, it is an ongoing challenge to increase community awareness, calendar soccer games at times convenient the community, and to make the game experience more affordable and entertaining to spectators.
We just had San Diego’s youth soccer Presidio League night — it was was a huge success.
We are innovative and we are reaching out in ways that we haven’t done in the past.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do you think is the most important life lesson that you’ve learned so far?
Sean Bowers: It is important to appreciate and to be grateful for what you have and what you are doing.
You never know when it can be taken away from you.
I always say this to all of the teams that I have coached, “LIVE IN THE MOMENT.”
Don’t worry about whats going on later as that takes away from what’s happening now.
Try to stay in the moment and enjoy the people and the events in real time.
Diane Scavuzzo: Are you working harder than you thought you would?
Sean Bowers: We are all working as hard as we can and we are constantly trying to get better at what we are doing!
It’s nice to be paid for what you love to do.
I accepted this position expecting that it would require hard work and I have accepted that challenge, knowing that I would work hard. At the same time, I really enjoy the job and, most of the time, it hardly feels like work.