Mike Chabala is no longer just best known for his various accomplishments at the professional soccer level. Although during his career he won MLS championships with the Houston Dynamo, Mike has been making bigger waves in the Sports tech space through his latest venture – Sphere Club – a soccer inspired community platform.
We got a chance to chat off the pitch on some of the core elements of Sphere, and what keys to the future it holds for Mike, Soccer, and building community through fitness.
You HAVE to tell us your story
My name is Michael Chabala and I am a 2 time Major League Soccer champ and 9 year former professional player. Originally from Fresno, Ca I went to the U of Washington where I played collegiate soccer and graduated with a degree in economics. After my soccer career abruptly ended in 2014, I went to work in corporate America where I bounced around jobs from private equity to brokering natural gas. Struggling to find new friends, meet a new girlfriend and stay in shape, I started taking the game into my own hands and started created sphere, a business to connect people through soccer and fitness. Most of my knowledge as an entrepreneur came from my time in the locker room, and as a professional from our championship seasons in 06 and 07 where I learned what a success locker room and team looks like. Since then I have been chasing that feeling and atmosphere while focusing on doing my part to make the world a better place by bringing it back together and keeping people healthy both mentally and physically.
Given your current success, can you remember a failure that set you up later?
It is hard to list one setback because my life has been one constant uphill battle. I am very lucky and blessed when the ball bounced my way, but the truth is that nothing has come easy for me. From injuries to rejection I have struggled but the practice of being told no or that you’re not good enough is only the fuel it takes to propel oneself further than before and the extra fuel it takes to really make a difference. I like to call that fuel, dark energy but nonetheless, free motivation. The best practice is bottling up the negative energy (someone fires you, a bad break up, rejected sales call or deal, etc.) and using it to get better and work harder than you did before. The valuable lesson of losing only makes one more resilient and stronger. The greatest motivation for me was when the Houston Dynamo didn’t pick up my contract on the last day of preseason in 2014 and threw me into a deep spiral until I hit rock bottom. Homeless, carless, jobless, and so much more tested me to once again, start again. The sphere Netflix series will be good.
Ultimately, you are building community – connecting the world, as you put it. What other community aspects do you plan on introducing to Sphere?
Technology is next. Economies of scale is really the key indicator for us and right action at the right time but truly gamifying the experience and giving our team a “locker room” to help the stay connected on and off the field.
Given the winding and challenging journey you’ve embarked on, what’s some advice you wish you could have told 2015 Mike Chabala? What’s some advice 2035 Mike Chabala might give you (assuming you’ve also mastered time travel)
Don’t forget to play. Enjoy the daily practice of being an entrepreneur. Trust your gut and hire slow/fire fast. Don’t be afraid to take chances and no matter what, always keep moving forward!
You have the world of SportsTech at your fingertips, what new gadget or technology do you introduce into Sphere to make it better?
Hopefully we can do this together but our app will help players connect on and off the field by creating the next social movement of human connection and physical touch. Eliminating the time wasted on small talk convos and get people together while checking as many boxes as possible (soccer, fitness, community, outdoor, playing, networking, etc.)
(Look out for a future episode of PokaTalk with Mike Chabala…)