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Hard work will pay off so don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and get in the trenches.

Matthew Kassabian

General Manager

Erin Mills Soccer Club

× The interview with Matthew Kassabian was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

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1Tell us about your role as the General Manager for the Erin Mills Soccer Club and what does a typical day look like for you?

I am relatively new in my role as General Manager with the Erin Mills Soccer Club. However, I have come into this position after serving as General Manager for the Newmarket Soccer Club for nearly three years.

Erin Mills S.C. is a large club with more demands so it has been a very positive challenge for me to get used to new surroundings, personalities, expectations and procedures.

In my role, there is no real 9-5 as I am responsible for quite a lot. I strive to create balance but it’s hard not to check my emails when I first wake up at 6:00 am or ahead of going to sleep at 11:00 pm! It comes with the territory and I understand it.

A typical day for me involves catching up on emails, working through my agenda or notes/tasks for the day, attending meetings/1 on 1’s with staff and stakeholders, catching up on phone calls, planning for the rest of the week and week after, reviewing any accounts payable/receivable items.

I like to be as organized as possible and to me, that starts with an accurate work-week plan/list of items to complete daily. I try not to deviate from that as it helps me ensure I can operate as efficiently as possible in a week. However, I understand things do come up!

2Describe some of the toughest situations you’ve faced in this job so far.

Various situations have come through navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the GM of a not-for-profit youth sports organization, there is always a lot on your plate. From accounting to house league coaches’ manual creation, there is a lot that goes into the role.

In March 2020 when everything came to a screeching halt, I was taken completely out of my comfort zone and forced to make some very difficult decisions in order to safeguard the operating future of the club.

Working with a volunteer board of directors as we tried to navigate the pandemic led to many sleepless nights. Managing grant and subsidy applications, furloughing staff, cancelling programs, etc. were all very, very tough situations to deal with.

Through collaboration with our board of directions, our accountants, and key banks staff, we were able to come out of the first big wave of the pandemic on the other side and into the summer 2020 season, where limited programming takes place.

I am a big silver lining person, always looking for the positives and/or opportunities when faced with an unfavourable situation.

I can safely say that the pandemic has truly taught me a lot and made me more confident in my role.

Another silver lining, if you will, with the pandemic has been the number of collaboration peers at other soccer clubs in the province. We formed a united front, shared ideas and built each other up; it’s been a great thing to see!

3Since you’ve started working at Erin Mills Soccer Club, what have you done to help develop the organization?

I haven’t been here long and am still observing how things work before making any large-scale enhancements.

However, I have been able to work with the Board to recruit and hire a Technical Director, enhance the payroll structure, secure new partnerships with the club that will enhance the member experience at the club within the community (can’t say too much more on that yet!), make facility upgrades and enhancements.

I am particularly excited about our new Technical Director (Steven Carroll) as he is the key piece to implementing a new and standards-based club technical plan.

4What are your plans to help develop the club in the future? Where do you see yourself and the club in 5 years from now?

This question might require a full report in itself!

I hope to work with the staff, board and stakeholders to help grow the club membership while continuing the enhance the member experience on and off the field.

It doesn’t come over a night and there is a lot of work ahead of us, however, I feel confident that with the staff, board and stakeholders we have, we can get the job done!

I would like to see the growth of our indoor facility as well in order for it to be THE place to play soccer, and potentially other sports, in Mississauga and Peel Region.

I would like to continue to work very closely on ensuring the club is fiscally responsible and sustainable.

I would also like to work with the board as we shift from an operational board to more of a governance board.

5What is some advice you would give to someone trying to become a GM at any sports organization?

Hard work will pay off so don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and get in the trenches.

As you work your way up in your career, you will often be faced with tasks that aren’t necessarily in your job description.

However, if you display a strong and efficient work ethic, you will get noticed and opportunities will show themselves. So don’t be afraid to do the dirty work (with a smile on your face).

Career growth doesn’t come overnight and can take time. Be patient, keep growing/learning and find excellence in the role and you will be ready to take the next step when your name is called.

We live in a society of instant gratification and that might lead some to think they are ready to take the next step right away. However, it doesn’t work like that and you will have to put in some time.

Always keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to fail. Let failure shape you and act as an educational moment in time so you can get better and start to see any potential failures ahead of time.

Try and stay are organized a possible too. Strive to grow your network of peers, especially in a field/space you one day want to be in. You never know where that’ll get you. Be a good person and treat others with respect, ALWAYS!

Oliver Tolo Oliver's Final Thoughts

Erin Mills Soccer Club's General Manager Matthew Kassabian has engagingly described his role and experience in the industry. Matthew talks about the commitment it requires to be a general manager of an organization, and explains that you have to be ready for absolutely anything that can come up. You have to be willing to make sacrifices in order to become a general manager and make your career your greatest priority. Matthew discusses his new aspirations and plans for the club and is extremely excited to see them come to life over the next couple years. I enjoyed that Matthew went into depth on the work and dedication it takes to be successful in the industry and gave us a good idea of what comes with the general manager role. Lastly, Matthew shares useful advice for any sport professionals, especially any pursuing a role as a general manager.

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