H.L. “Rye” Tuten III ’99 and his wife, Lainey, traveled with their four children to Barcelona, Spain, after their two boys, Harrison (age 9) and Camp (age 8), were selected to participate in a week-long soccer camp at FC Barcelona.
It was like something out of a movie. Blakely Mattern was picking up her journal one day in 2014 when a newspaper clipping slipped out of its pages. It was a small article she’d cut out months before from The Greenville News. Flipping it over, she saw, fitting perfectly in the cut-out square, an advertisement for Clemson’s MBA program. Mattern took it as a sign.
A Greenville native, Mattern attended the University of South Carolina on a soccer scholarship and graduated with an international business degree in 2009. She went on to play professional soccer abroad in the Netherlands and Sweden before returning to the U.S. and taking a head trainer position at a gym in Greer. In between playing overseas and nursing an ACL injury, Mattern met India Trotter through a mutual friend. Trotter was the assistant coach for the USC Upstate women’s soccer team at the time but had previously played overseas and on the U.S. women’s national soccer team.
While playing on various teams and coaching different groups, both Mattern and Trotter discovered a need in the young soccer community: comprehensive, supplementary soccer training. In addition to regular practice, girls were paying monthly gym memberships to keep up their strength and were also seeing trainers or personal coaches for technique and speed work. While Trotter was coaching and Mattern was training at the gym, the beginnings of a business model were taking shape.
“A couple of girls that summer asked if India and I could train them, so we started putting together sessions. … The funniest thing is that we started on this random baseball field like a mile away from my house, probably the worst field possible,” Mattern laughs. “But it was all we had at the time.”
Soon after, Mattern began to think of grad school, and the fateful newspaper clipping practically fell into her lap. She decided to pursue her MBA at Clemson, a decision that would help to catapult 11.11 Training from a developing idea to a full-fledged business.
11.11 Training, cofounded by Mattern and Trotter in 2016, is an all-inclusive soccer training facility for girls in the Upstate. Ages range from 10 to 18, and every girl is asked to come in hungry for improvement.
“Any girl that comes here is obviously taking the time and financially investing whatever it takes to get better, but those who grow fastest are those that learn — those who are humble and listen to those who have gone before them,” Mattern says.
While it was certainly a winding road to get to where she is now, Mattern is in her element — back in her hometown, training young girls in the sport she loves.
“11.11 is very much who I am and who India is. It’s a product of both of us and our experiences. And now, we’re giving back to the community and the girls that are trying to achieve what we’ve done.”
Fabio Tambosi spent his childhood with a soccer ball rolling at his feet. Soccer came naturally to him, and he moved from playing in the streets of Brazil to playing in the youth academy of a professional club in São Paulo.
It was here that Tambosi received his first pair of cleats — two freshly worn Nike Tiempos from Zé Roberto, a living soccer legend. “I was walking out of the locker room after practice and [Zé Roberto] said, ‘Hey shorty, what’re you doing? Do you want some shoes?’” Tambosi said. “That pair lasted me another two years.”
These days, Tambosi isn’t bumming cleats off the most famous players in the world — he’s partnering with world-class athletes to sell them. As the director of global football brand marketing at Nike, Tambosi is a leading voice for an iconic brand.
It’s a dream job, but he took a long journey to attain it. Early on, Tambosi played forward for the men’s soccer team at Clemson where he helped the team to an ACC Tournament championship in 2001. “The atmosphere at this school, it’s contagious,” Tambosi said. “You get there, and on a weekend when there are a lot of sports happening, you get a real sense of the community. You have the sense of being part of a family.”
Tambosi hasn’t left that family behind, despite his success. He stays involved as a board member at the Erwin Center for Brand Communications, where he helps students develop advertising and marketing skills. “There’s nothing better than being recognized by my alma mater and going back and giving back what Clemson has given to me,” Tambosi said.
Tambosi wants students to understand that it isn’t possible to fulfill one’s dreams without risking failure. He knows this to be true because he has risked it all. In 2012 he was working a stable, well-paying job in London for Nokia. But, Tambosi wasn’t satisfied — he had other ideas. “I wanted to go back to sports, and I wanted to have a role in the World Cup in Brazil. And I wanted to work for Nike,” Tambosi said.
So, he quit Nokia, and left for Brazil in January 2013. While he had no job offer on the table, he told everyone he was going to work at Nike. Once in Brazil, he spent his time networking with Nike employees, which eventually helped land him a job as Nike brand manager for the 2014 World Cup. “Growing up playing football at a very high level in Brazil, it was a dream to play in the World Cup,” Tambosi said. “I didn’t have the opportunity to do it as a player. But I had the opportunity to live the World Cup, to impact the World Cup, personally, in Brazil through my job.”
When the World Cup ended, Tambosi stayed on with Nike. Now Tambosi can stay in touch with the game he loves, the game for which he has crossed borders and risked professional failure. That passion, that commitment, is something he wants to impart to Clemson students and young people everywhere. “Know where you want to go,” Tambosi said. “Don’t be afraid to fail, and follow your dream.”
— Glenn Bertram ’18