When Clayton Dawes was accepted to Georgia State in 2018 and offered a spot on the men’s soccer team, he jumped at the opportunity to play the game he loves at the collegiate level.
In his first year on the team, Dawes helped the Panthers win the Sun Belt Conference Tournament Championship with a 4-2 victory over rival Georgia Southern.
“When I first came in August, I played with a group of guys I didn’t know. But by November, we’d won the Sun Belt, I’d met some great people and we went on a journey together,” he said.
Dawes sustained an injury that forced him to redshirt his sophomore year, but he remained dedicated to his team. They won an NCAA Tournament game against the University of North Carolina at Charlotte his senior year. Then, in his final year of eligibility, he was named captain.
The coaching staff encouraged Dawes to embrace this leadership role both on and off the field, and he took the responsibility seriously.
“This was the best year I’ve had on the team because it showed me who I could be as a leader,” Dawes said. “Being captain challenged me to be a better listener and soccer player. It’s about leading the group toward one common goal, and it takes a village to do it. In every game, there are 11 leaders on that field, even though only one of us is wearing the captain’s armband.”
He was drawn to the program for the connections he could make with major sports teams and organizations — opportunities he believes are unmatched by other universities in the Southeast.
This semester, Dawes interned at Collegiate Consulting, a firm owned by fellow Georgia State alumnus Russell Wright (M.S. ’96). Their work includes conducting studies on gender equity and recommending how colleges can move to different divisions or conferences. The firm also searches for athletic directors and coaches, among other projects.
During his internship, Dawes analyzed data, wrote reports and sat in on athletic director interviews. Those experiences gave him an inside look at how a career in sport administration can affect the athletes who play and the coaches who lead them.
“The work we do has a lasting impact on athletic departments and colleges, and it’s been really good exposure to what the real world is like,” he said. “We recommended changes that will help teams compete and put people in positions to succeed.”
Dawes hasn’t nailed down his exact postgraduate path, but he’s had promising conversations with local and international sports teams and made connections with peers in his program.
He’s excited by the prospects that lie ahead and encouraged by the network he’s built. And he’s ready to get to work.
“The sport administration master’s program has opened so many doors that I don’t feel nervous about graduating. It’s just deciding what opportunity is best,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed meeting people who I know can make an impact on the world, and, down the line, I know we’ll have each other’s backs.”