Prepare yourself to make necessary sacrifices.
As a part of our series about sports stars who are making a social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brad Davis, Club President of the St. Louis Scott Gallagher (SLSG) Soccer Club.
Brad Davis was born in St. Charles and developed in the Scott Gallagher youth system before attending Chaminade High School and Saint Louis University. He would play two collegiate seasons with 40 appearances and 21 goals scored before being selected as the third overall pick in the 2002 MLS SuperDraft. Davis would go on to amass 392 appearances with 57 goals and 123 assists in MLS over a 15-year playing career. He also made 17 appearances for the U.S. Men’s National Team, including a start against Germany in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. His honors include two-time MLS Cup winner (2006 & 2007), being named to the MLS All-Star Team on six occasions (2005, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013), and registering the third-most MLS assists all-time.
Upon retiring from professional soccer Brad returned to St. Louis Scott Gallagher serving as the Technical Director at the affiliate club Kansas City Scott Gallagher for three years. Davis was then promoted to Club Director of the Missouri Boys Division overseeing the SLSG Missouri Boys Program and the Saint Louis FC Academy Program. In his new role as club president, Davis oversees all SLSG soccer and business operations.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to your career path in professional sports?
Soccer has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. My father jokes that my brother and I started playing before we could even walk, passing the ball around with our feet as we held tightly onto nearby furniture. I was always trying to keep up with my brother and his friends who would play whenever they got the chance, with me tagging along as the pesky little sibling. I lived and breathed the game from the beginning, which wasn’t all that common at the time; Major League Soccer didn’t hold its inaugural season until 1996 (at the time, I was in high school).
I was born in St. Louis, Missouri and grew up in St. Charles. When I was six years old, my parents signed me up for the St. Louis Scott Gallagher Soccer Club, where I continued playing until I graduated high school — Chaminade College Preparatory School. I grew up with the club and had the privilege of being taught by nationally recognized coaches, who not only rounded me as a player but also served as role models off the field. Being part of such a renowned club at an early age with such quality individuals supporting me every step of the way gave me the passion and drive to keep going. However, it wasn’t until high school that I began to really think about the possibilities of what a professional career could offer.
While I was attending Chaminade, I began to receive opportunities to play with youth national teams. That energy quickly (and excitingly) began to build for me. I was putting in the hours and getting better… and getting noticed for it. In high school, I was given the opportunity to play in the FIFA U-20 World Cup, for male soccer players under the age of 20. I started having important conversations with college coaches and eventually was granted a scholarship to play for St. Louis University.
My family has always prioritized education. Both my siblings attended and graduated from St. Louis University. I had to have some hard conversations with my parents on what direction I saw myself going in. Should I attend college while playing for the university, or pursue a career in professional soccer? In Europe, it is very different, where players are scouted from a young age and go directly into a professional career, but getting an education was always something that was important not only to my family but to me as well. As with any hard decision, I had to weigh the outcomes and think about what I wanted and believed in for myself. Ultimately, after my sophomore year I was drafted and made the decision to play professionally for Major League Soccer.
Throughout my professional career, I played for the New York MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls, 2002), The Dallas Burn (now FC Dallas 2003–2004), the San Jose Earthquakes (2005), the Houston Dynamo (2006–2015) and Sporting Kansas City (2016). During that time frame, I was fortunate to play on the national team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2005. In 2014, I played in the World Cup for the United States, which I would consider the pinnacle of my career. I was 33 at the time. After the World Cup, I had a few years left on my contract, and I asked to be moved to Kansas City to play close to my hometown. There, I played for one year before retiring in 2016. After playing for 15 years, I was ready to dedicate myself to my family and help raise my children with my wife. I’m now back in St. Charles, president of the club I played for throughout my youth soccer career, and living just two miles away from the home I grew up in. Funny how life works that way!
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What were the lessons or takeaways that you took out of that story?
My favorite player has and always will be David Beckham. I realize that it sounds cliche; I’m a soccer player and my favorite player is Beckham, but it’s true. I grew up watching Manchester United with my dad and brother, following Beckham’s career from the beginning. However, he’s not just my favorite player because of his obvious athletic prowess. In truth, he is a shockingly genuine person, and possibly one of the most down-to-earth people I’ve ever met in my life. People often say you don’t want to meet your heroes in person in case they fail to live up to your expectations. When I met David, this could not be further from the truth.
I had the incredible opportunity to compete against him in multiple All-star games. Playing against a player of his stature and caliber was rewarding on its own, but what truly inspired me was that even with the fame and fortune he had acquired, he remained humble and grounded. I can only imagine what his life has been like, living in the limelight for so long. It’s easy to shut yourself off when you acquire that much fame, to only focus on your own success, and to not pay attention to others around you. For David, this is not the case.
David’s last year was in 2012 before he retired. His last game was with LA Galaxy for the MLS Cup. At the time, I was playing for the Houston Dynamo. As some may know, we, unfortunately, lost the match against them. I remember going up to David after the game, to congratulate him on his career. At the time, some had compared me to him in our style of game; our set pieces, our free kicks. I was eager to chat with him, and I ended up asking for a pair of his cleats from the game. I knew it was his last, and I wanted something to remember our match by. He told me he wasn’t sure if he could make that happen, but that he would think of something and figure it out. Of course, I took that as a polite way of saying no, and went on my way, at least grateful that I was able to speak with him after his last game. That was in December.
Two months later in February, I was at home with my son in my hands and running around the house, when I heard knocking. I opened the door to find a small package addressed to me. I didn’t think much of it and set it aside to open later when I didn’t have a kid to wrangle. When my wife got home, she saw the package and asked me what it was. I had forgotten about it. I went to open it. Inside were David’s cleats from that game. He had remembered.
It shocked me that a man with so much fame, talent, and most definitely a packed schedule, had remembered that small encounter we had. He went out of his way to find my address and send me something that had so much meaning to me. I think if someone like that can go out of their way and demonstrate such thoughtfulness, then anyone should be able to. It showed me that even with an immense platform like David Beckham, there is a way to use that platform for good. And that’s what I wanted to do.
What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?
It takes hard work, mental fortitude, and real sacrifice to become a professional athlete. From a young age, it’s important to set realistic goals for yourself if this is the path you decide is right for you. It’s also important to be realistic with those around you. Surround yourself with people who know and understand what it will take to get there. With mental strength, I truly believe people have the ability to do whatever they want in life, but that is not always an easy feat. The true work happens just as much off the field, as it does on.
Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?
David Beckham. He is a tremendous athlete and just as good of a person. He has inspired me both professionally and personally to be humble and do good with the opportunities you are given.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about what it is like being a professional sports player?
I am blessed to have had one of the best lives you can ever imagine, and I am thankful every day for my career, the opportunities I was presented, the experiences I lived, and the people I encountered along the way. But anyone who says this life is easy would be lying to you. You must come to terms with the fact that you will be away from your family, sometimes months at a time. You will inevitably miss important moments and events with loved ones. You must follow a strict schedule and regime. You have very little downtime or time for yourself.
People often view professional athletes as having this glamorous lifestyle; always traveling and seeing new places, attending big events, being on tv, etc. But what you don’t see are the hard-earned successes. That win you see was months of hard work; hours spent at practice, meals and nights spent in hotel rooms, long bus and plane rides to get there. You have to eat and sleep right, you can’t go out to parties with friends, you may have to miss holidays, weekends, and family get-togethers. These are all very real sacrifices.
I wouldn’t trade the life I have lived for anything. Having a career in professional sports has been one of the biggest blessings, and I am grateful every day for it. But it was also a lot of hard work, dedication, and commitment that I had to devote my complete self to, and I don’t think everyone looking from the outside in realizes that.
Ok super. Let’s now move to the main part of our discussion. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?
Being the president of the St. Louis Scott Gallagher Club has been an honor. The significance of being part of the club that molded me as a person and a player is not lost on me. In the short time, I have been part of the club’s leadership, we have worked on some groundbreaking initiatives. With the privilege we have as a nationally recognized club, I think we have a commitment to not only give back to the communities we serve but ultimately serve as leaders in the soccer community.
Earlier this year, we ran our third year and 6th consecutive season of the “St. Louis Scott Gallagher City Program,” which was founded to bring soccer to inner-city kids. The program is completely free for participating families, who receive instruction and equipment donated by members of the club and the community. Kids in the program receive cleats, shin guards, socks, uniforms, balls — everything they need to play, including great coaches that want them to succeed. We work with several inner-city schools to determine the needs in the communities they serve, to make sure we are meeting players where they are.
The fall and spring seasons run for 15 weeks and include twice-a-week practices with games on the weekends. The City Program is 100% privately funded; funding comes from community donations as well as the SLSG Upper 90 Outreach program. A core mission of this program is to serve any interested youth and never allow a lack of funds to prevent kids from accessing club-level soccer experiences.
This year, we also celebrated the close of our first full season of our Women’s Leadership Initiative, which operates on the mission to help young girls and women advance into leadership positions on and off the field, both in the traditional world of soccer coaching and at all levels of play. It is widely known that there is a real disparity in the number of female coaches in soccer. We began this initiative at SLSG to provide a pathway for women to pursue their coaching certification, helping to uncover opportunities in soccer beyond just an athletic career. Representation is also important to us, and we wanted our female players to have real role models and coaches that represented them and what they could achieve. As part of the program, we also regularly bring in a slate of speakers from all walks of life, to share advice and experiences with our younger players. We hope that through this initiative, we are inspiring these girls and helping them achieve their goals not only as players on the field but as young women off the field, whether it be in school or in their professional lives.
More recently, this summer we continued a program that has a very special place in the hearts of our club and community members. The Living Legacy Scholarship Program honors members of the St. Louis soccer community who have passed away, granting scholarship awards to talented young athletes who may not otherwise get a chance to play. Each Living Legacy recipient plays during the 2021–22 season in memory of a specific honoree, many of whom form a special bond with the family of the honorees. Players receive full and partial scholarships, depending on need, to cover soccer fees, equipment, uniforms, and more for the season. Funds for the scholarships come from the Living Legacy Endowment Fund, which has grown over the past seven years from when the program was started. Individuals donate through our website, or with funds donated by teams and individual players who plan their own fundraising initiatives. It’s a club-wide (and often community-wide) initiative that we are proud to continue.
When the program began, five former players who had passed away were recognized, and six scholarships were awarded. Today, over 80 scholarships have been awarded this season, in remembrance of 14 people who were connected to SLSG and the St. Louis soccer community. Through this program, we hope to provide opportunities in soccer for those who may not have the financial means necessary to play. At the same time, we remember those who came before us, who served as leaders, role models, and friends to our community.
Before I joined the leadership team at the club, I also worked on some initiatives of my own during my time as an athlete. I want to use the resources I’m so fortunate to have, wanted to use the resources I was so fortunate enough to have access to, to give back to my community.
I come from a military family. Back in 2006, my cousin was serving in Iraq when his vehicle was hit with an IED. At the time, I was playing my first year in Texas with the Houston Dynamos. I remember getting a call from my mom that my cousin was in the hospital and that he was badly wounded. None of the other individuals in the vehicle had survived. My cousin and I had always been very close, spending time together at our family farms throughout our childhood. I was devastated.
That week at practice, I just wasn’t there mentally. I remember explaining what was going on to my coach and asking if there was anything we could do as a club to help in some way. I didn’t know what I was going to do; just that I had to do something. We were in Texas, widely known as a state that whole-heartedly celebrates its veterans and military families. Ultimately, we came up with the idea that at every Houston Dynamo game, we would give free season tickets to 4 service members. Eventually, that small act became a full-on initiative at the club known as Brad’s Brigade. We had military appreciation nights, we gave fans the opportunity to donate a ticket to military families, and we had an annual event to honor all those who served. I am incredibly grateful my team and my club were supportive and receptive to the idea. I wanted to use the platform we had as athletes to give back to the community in a meaningful and positive way.
Something else not many know about me is that I am an avid fan of the outdoors and hunting. Outside of soccer, I wanted to take this hobby and my appreciation for our military and use those passions to create something good. I met a few folks while I was in Texas that shared my love for the outdoors, and together through a group effort, we formed what is known today as Banded Brigade Outdoors. As a nonprofit 501 c organization, we provide newly injured service members, severely disabled veterans, active-duty veterans, and military families an outlet to be active, get outdoors, and connect with other service members who share their experiences. We provide all our hunting outings at no cost to the service member and provide all equipment, meals, ammunition, etc., including any adaptive equipment they may need. The program started small, with just 4 of us with the idea that we wanted to give back to service members while enjoying an activity together in nature. Today we now have over 1,000 veterans in the program.
For us, Banded Brigade is all about creating a community of individuals who understand each other; the camaraderie and relationships formed last a lifetime. We don’t need to be in the spotlight. We just need the program to be the best it can be for these veterans.
What methods are you using to most effectively share your cause with the world?
At St. Louis Scott Gallagher, we use a few different methods to help share what we are working on, and what our players and members of the club are achieving. Of course, we are active across our social media platforms, keeping followers up to date on all that is happening at the club. We are also grateful for every opportunity we have to share what we are doing at the club on a wider scale, whether that be through media appearances and opportunities, or holding events for the community.
On July 31, we are hosting the Jim Scott Music Festival, a night of music, fun, festivities, and of course, soccer. The event is held in honor of our club’s founder, Jim Scott, whose love for soccer was only rivaled by his love of music. All proceeds of the event will go towards our Living Legacy Scholarship Program. We are so grateful we can hold an event of this magnitude and we can’t wait for our community members to join us in the celebration.
Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?
In early 2007, St. Louis Soccer Club, Scott Gallagher Soccer Club, and Metro United Soccer Club explored the possibilities of bringing together the three groups to better serve the St. Louis soccer community. By combining all three clubs’ talent and efforts, they hoped that St. Louis would boast a unique vertically integrated soccer organization of the highest quality for players of all levels. They hoped that this vision would allow St. Louis to remain competitive nationally, while also presenting the opportunity to serve as a leader in the soccer community. Our successes today are only possible due to the many years of dedication and commitment from the staff and volunteers of the three clubs dating back to the 1970s.
Behind every initiative at St. Louis Scott Gallagher is our mission: “To build the best club in the country. A club that positively impacts the development of our players on and off the field and positively impacts our community.” With each program, whether it’s the City League, the Women’s Initiative, or the Living Legacy Scholarship Program, our goal has been to help round athletes on and off the field and provide pathways to opportunities for each and every player.
Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
I can’t choose any one athlete or club member, as they are all inspiring individuals in their own respect that deserve recognition. We are truly humbled to see the impact we have made in some of these young athletes’ lives. We know we are doing our job when we see these players experience success, whether that looks like going into a professional soccer career, pursuing a coaching license, succeeding academically, or gaining confidence in themselves as young people.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Prepare yourself to make necessary sacrifices.
Professional athletes are some of the most selfish people in the world by necessity. You must be willing to make sacrifices if you want this career. You will miss out on birthdays, holidays, weekends, etc. and you need to be prepared for that. It can be tough.
2. Be realistic about your goals and what you will need to do to achieve them
Even in my position today at SLSG, I struggle with having kids and parents get realistic about their goals. It takes a lot to be a professional athlete; you must adhere to a strict schedule with daily regimes and routines. It’s not a lifestyle that is conducive for everyone.
3. Equip yourself with mental toughness.
I think one of the most important things that you need as a professional athlete, and in the journey to get there, is mental strength. Again, you have to prepare yourself for tough challenges that you will inevitably encounter along the way.
4. Be honest with yourself.
It’s okay to admit mistakes and it’s okay to fail. We learn and grow from the experiences we have. Allow them to shape you into a better person.
5. Be willing to ask for help
In my career, I was (and continue to be) lucky enough to have a relationship built on trust with a supportive partner. Surround yourself with individuals who know what kind of sacrifices you will need to make in pursuing your career, but also know that it’s okay to reach out when you are struggling. Having support systems in place is important for any athlete, no matter the sport, no matter their age.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I want to see the initiatives at St. Louis Scott Gallagher continue to grow and bring good, both locally and on a national scale. By spreading awareness about what we are doing, we hope to inspire others in the soccer community to implement similar initiatives, and to understand the privilege they have as leaders in their communities. Our goal is to be the best club we can be for our players, positively impacting their development on and off the field and positively impacting our community. That mission guides how we operate each and every day from player development to facility operations to our service projects. Our five “Shield Values;” unity, humility, passion, respect, and tradition, are a large part of that mission.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?
I’ve never really been a big quotes person. I can’t say there is one famous quote that I live by or follow to a T. However, I do like the saying, “No regrets, just lessons learned.” Throughout my own life, I’ve made mistakes. We all do, and I think it’s better to be honest with ourselves and admit our mistakes so that we can develop into better people moving forward. If you fail, you can’t regret that you failed if you take that experience as a learning opportunity. If you dwell on the things you can’t control, you get caught in the reeds.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I guess you already know my answer to this: David Beckham.
How can our readers follow you online?
I’m not as active on social media as my friends tell me I should be. You can find St. Louis Scott Gallagher Soccer Club on Twitter @SLSGsoccer, on Facebook @SLSGsoccerclub, on Instagram @slsgsoccerclub.
You can find me on Twitter @Brad_Davis11.
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring