An interview with Maria Angelova 

As a part of our series about the work ethic lessons we can learn from professional athletes, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Kavanaugh.

Jim Kavanaugh is a former St. Louis University, Major Indoor Soccer League, and U.S. Olympic and Pan-American Team player in the 1980s. After a short stint in the league, Kavanaugh turned to a career in business and co-founded World Wide Technology (WWT), a technology services provider based in St. Louis, Mo., in 1990. Kavanaugh and his management team have guided WWT from a small start-up to a world-class $14.5 billion information technology systems integrator with more than 8,500 employees. Incredibly passionate about athletics and soccer, Kavanaugh was chairman and founder of Saint Louis FC and served as chairman of Scott Gallagher Soccer Club, and is currently an investor owner in the St. Louis Blues and in St. Louis City SC, a new Major League Soccer franchise.

MA: Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is a great honor. Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

JK: I was born and raised in a blue-collar family in north St. Louis. My dad was a bricklayer, and we were a very middle-class family. I just had a great upbringing with great parents. I was athletic, and I enjoyed hockey and soccer — soccer mostly. Going into high school, I was cut from the soccer team, and so I found a club team and continued to play and improve. That led to me eventually making the JV team in high school.

When it came to college, I was fortunate enough to get a soccer scholarship to Saint Louis University — a well-known and nationally recognized soccer program. My personal background though really starts with my parents at the foundation. My parents provided a set of values that were taught at a very young age — the importance of hard work, honesty, integrity, and being loyal and trustworthy to friends and family — all values that are still very much instilled in me today.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career as a high-level professional athlete?

My first year with Saint Louis University, I played well, and my coach, Harry Keogh, liked how I played. Freshman year, he recommended that I try out for the Olympic team. My parents said, "Go for whatever you can go for," as they were always very supportive, positive and encouraging any time I would talk to them about a potential career in soccer. So I went to the tryouts, and I was the only player out of St. Louis to make it to the Midwest Olympic tryouts. I then made it to the national tryouts, and then from there was asked to join the developmental Olympic team to go to Korea. Soccer-wise, the caliber of people we were playing against was incredibly impressive. And I was proud to play in the Pan American Games, while also traveling around the world to play in different tournaments. Being a part of the U.S. Olympic Men's Soccer team was an incredible experience on and off the field. Playing and competing with some of the best players in the world while also seeing and experiencing different countries and cultures was amazing. I was later drafted as the second overall selection in the Major Indoor Soccer League where I played for Los Angeles and then later for St. Louis.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

There were different people at different times…




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