5 Things You Need to Know About...Court Jeske (’01)
Court Jeske (’01) always thought he’d end up with a career in college athletics until a summer studying abroad got him thinking about the global athletics community. Last fall, he was named as the Nashville Soccer Club’s first chief executive officer as it prepares for its 2018 inaugural season in USL. Jeske previously served as vice president of international business for Soccer United Marketing (SUM), the commercial arm of Major League Soccer. He recently helped organize Nashville’s Mexico vs. New Zealand soccer event at Nissan Stadium, and during his eight years at MLS, Jeske strategically orchestrated international events involving CONCACAF, the Mexican National Team, the U.S. National Team and elite clubs from Europe.
You’ve been named chief executive officer of the Nashville Soccer Club, which will begin play in the United Soccer League in 2018. Do you ever find yourself sitting back and thinking, “wow, I have to build this thing and get us ready to play next year”?
Not really, there isn’t time for that. Before I took the job I outlined the priorities that the club would have for the six quarters before we took the field, so I have a very clear game plan. As long as I do my job -- put a great front office team in place and provide them the opportunity to succeed -- the club will do the same. Currently we are focused on listening to the community to build the kind of professional soccer club that they want. I tell people constantly that Barcelona, Manchester and Munich all have international clubs that those cities are proud of and Nashville will be no different; we are just starting 100+ years after they did so we have a little catching up to do.
Soccer is the world’s most popular sport. How does a kid from Oklahoma end up in Tennessee, both football (American style) crazy states, hoping to grow the sport in Nashville?
I fell in love with soccer during the 1994 FIFA World Cup and was intrigued with the international scope of the event and how nations would celebrate or fall into despair based on one bounce of a ball. However, I had never thought of international sports being a career possibility, rather focusing on college athletics. That all changed when I had the chance to study abroad in Italy through the Price College of Business. My eyes were opened to the possibilities of an international career in sports, which led me to work in MLS, for the US Soccer Federation, and attend graduate school through FIFA. I have loved every moment since.
A recent Mexico-New Zealand match in Nashville’s Nissan Stadium, which you coordinated, drew a crowd of more than 40,000 fans. What went into that effort?
All of our international events required planning, collaboration and an element of international diplomacy. Whether I was working through last year’s Copa America Centenario, dealing with the Brazilian National Team, or executing a Manchester United Tour, you learn that every country and people of the world have a slightly different way of doing business. Once you understand that dynamic, success in the international event business becomes very achievable.
You earned your bachelor of business administration from OU’s Price College of Business and served as a development associate in the OU athletics department. How did your time as a student and your professional experience at OU shape where you are now?
I can’t thank my parents, the OU Athletic Department, or Price College enough. I had so many great mentors including Joe Castiglione and the late Dean Evans. The college provided excellent experiences inside the classroom and the Athletics office challenged me with an experience in the rapidly changing college athletics landscape. 2000 was obviously a special year when I worked in Athletic Development and took home a Football National Championship.
Okay, we know tailgating, a cocktail and good barbeque are a must for properly experiencing a Sooner football game. Give us your ideas for a good day at the pitch.
I have been fortunate to see soccer or “football” matches all over the globe. Each one has its own flavor, but the key is to take it in with the local supporters and see the matchday through their eyes. The culture and traditions are varied, but in the end, the 90 minutes on the pitch are the same.