Student spotlight: New grad dreams of managing a pro soccer club, researched player stress and participation


Mark J. Scarp

Daniel McElroy knows he’s still on the road to a career working for a professional soccer team, although the bachelor’s degree in community sports management he received a few weeks ago was a milestone for the self-described soccer ultra-enthusiast.

“I'm half German, and almost everything in my life revolves around soccer,” he said.

That job with a pro or semi-pro soccer club is still “not realistic right now,” but McElroy is eager to gain more experience and further his education.

He’s applied to several graduate schools in this country and in Germany and Austria.

“Because of how I look, people don't assume that I am German and can speak the language,” McElroy said. “It's always fun to share that information and educate people about the culture and the language. I grew up speaking both English and German and my family would fly to Germany every summer to visit family and travel.”

People in Germany have the same reaction when he tells them he’s German, he said. His German mother lives in the U.S. but the rest of her family is in Germany.

McElroy went beyond the field of play to gain more knowledge about the sport when he designed a survey that went to 10,000 potential respondents to find out if there is a correlation between stress and how often and at what level high school-aged soccer athletes play.

His work on the survey and a paper he wrote about it were part of an undergraduate research job he had working for Allison Ross, an assistant research professor in the School of Community Resources and Development.

“Interestingly enough, we didn’t find a correlation between stress and the frequency and level of competitive soccer players,” McElroy said of the survey, which only received a 2% response rate.

Despite the low number of replies, McElroy believes that completing the study was a valuable experience.

Read on to learn more about McElroy, his learning journey and his future plans:

Q. What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

A. My “aha” moment was after I completed an internship at a soccer club in Germany for a year. Right after high school I decided to move to Germany and complete an internship, which consisted of being a youth soccer coach and a P.E. teacher at three different schools. The internship solidified my interest in sports management and working in youth sports because I was able to combine my passion and work. I thought that the work I did was very enjoyable and I was able to make an impact in a community.

Q. Why did you choose ASU?

A. I chose ASU because of the Community Sports Management program. This was the main reason, but another reason was because my brother was already studying at ASU and so were a lot of my close friends.

Q. Which professor(s) taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A. I learned a lot from all my professors but for me the most important were Eric Legg, Allison Ross and Dale Larsen. Professor Legg inspired me to participate in an undergraduate research position and from … his own career path I learned that everything may not always be straightforward but eventually you find what you enjoy doing for a career. Professor Ross was my supervisor for the undergraduate research position and I owe a lot of credit to her for helping me finish my research project. She helped me understand the research process and has helped me with my post-graduate decisions. From Professor Larsen I really got an appreciation and understanding of the concept of ‘sense of community’ and how to define a community. I will deeply miss all three and I want to thank them for helping me along my academic journey and for always supporting me! 

Q. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned at ASU – about yourself, about what you’re studying, anything – that came to you as a complete surprise?

A. I would say how important it is to take opportunities. If I hadn't taken some of the opportunities that I was given, I don't think I would have accomplished what I have today. I gained a lot of knowledge and experience from the opportunities I took at ASU.

Q. What is your favorite sports team?

A. Bayern München (Munich) is my favorite sports team. Not only is Bayern München the best soccer team in Germany, but my mom's family is from Bavaria and the club is a big part of the culture in that region. Bayern München's motto is Mia San Mia, which means "we are who we are," and it describes the unique culture and the people in that region. This has also become a part of my identity and culture. Bavaria is very much a second home for me, so the club and the region are a big part of my identity.

Q. What’s your life motto in one sentence?

A. My life motto is a quote from Oscar Wilde which is, "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken." In my life I try to be myself and not worry too much about what other people think of me. I have my own styles and interests and I'm not afraid to express those. Furthermore, I try to follow my passion with everything that I do.

Q. What advice would you give to someone still studying at ASU?

A. Explore all the opportunities you’re given. For example, the undergraduate research position: Eric Legg told me about it, and the first time I wasn’t that interested and didn’t think I had the time. The next semester I took him up on the opportunity. Hard work still works. You don’t have to do something extra special. Always be willing to talk to the professor after class.