Written By: Dionne Evans LA Loves Cobi
Photographed By: TC Franklin
The Expert: Cobi Jones
Credentials: American former soccer player and analyst for the Los Angeles Galaxy on Time Warner Cable SportsNet
Though currently retired, Cobi Jones, who spent 15 seasons with LA Galaxy as both a player and coach, shows no signs of slowing down. The 45-year-old recently got into broadcasting as a soccer analyst for multiple stations including Time Warner Cable SportsNet, the Galaxy’s broadcast partner, Pac 12 Network, and Fox Sports. Jones also joined NBC for their coverage of the 2012 London Olympics for the Men’s Soccer Tournament and may also cover the 2016 Rio Olympics. He’s also recently taken part in several business ventures, including a social app, high-end men’s fashion line, and a decal company. Between shooting a quick interview with his broadcast partner, Joe Tutino, and heading to a soccer game to work in the broadcast booth, Jones kindly made time for an interview with LOCALE. We met up at the StubHub Center, a multiple-use sports complex center on the campus of CSU Dominguez Hills in Carson. The well-known three-time US World Cup player and member of the 1992 US Soccer Team is instantly recognized by fans (no doubt the dreads tipped them off) and he happily takes a picture. Out on the practice field, several other fellow soccer players come up to Jones to say hello and joke around. It’s very clear he knows everyone who plays and works at the center, and even though he has a game to get to soon, he doesn’t mind taking the time to chat with everyone who stops him. Jones, who is friendly and constantly smiling, is very well spoken and eager to talk about how his passion for soccer has gotten him to where he is today.
Q: How old were you when you started playing soccer?
Cobi Jones: I was 5 years old and played with AYSO.
Q: When did you realize you were good at the sport?
CJ: Every kid thinks they’re really good. I never really got attention; never got any scholarships or anything like that. Once I started the Olympics, that’s when I realized I was good.
Q: Why did you decide to make soccer your career?
CJ: After the ’94 World Cup, that’s when the opportunity came for me to go and play in England. That’s when I was like, “Okay, maybe there’s something there for me.” Until then, I thought I’d go back to school and finish my degree. When someone gets the opportunity to get paid to do what they love, they gotta take it. Thank God I was given that opportunity. Everything seemed to work out and push me towards it.
Q: What do you think made you such a successful player?
CJ: Determination. It might sound like self-aggrandizement, but I had to work really hard to get to where I’m at. I was told at a young age that I wasn’t very good at playing soccer. In high school, I had a coach tell me that I was the worst player he’d ever seen. I was cut from the Olympic team twice. Through all that, my strength of character got a little bit stronger. Any athlete that wants to succeed has to have that and push against the will of others.
Q: Just a few years ago, you became an analyst. Why get into broadcasting after you retired?
CJ: I wanted to still be a part of the game, but this time, step back and look at it from afar. It’s allowed me to still be a part of it and gave me free time to spend quality time with my family. Since I was 18 years old until I was 37, I was playing soccer. People don’t realize that when you’re playing all season long, year-round, you’re traveling, or on the field or practicing every day. I did that for almost 20 years. Having a little free time is nice.
Q: You’ve been very involved with charitable foundations. Do you have any new projects you’re working on?
CJ: I’m working with LA84 Foundation, they’re the foundation that started when the ’84 Olympics were held here in LA. They’re providing sports education and fundraising to build soccer fields. We’re trying to get fields so people and kids can play the sport I love.
Q: Talk about your fashion line and decal company. What made you want to get into these businesses?
CJ: SlapItOn is pretty cool. You can take any type of picture, like of your kids, and get it in any size and you can slap it on anywhere. It has a charitable aspect. Ten percent of the profits go back into schools. When you have P.E. and recess cut backs, kids aren’t able to find a source of release. It can have a negative affect. SlapItOn allows schools to get some of the money back to keep those kinds of programs in place. Asaf Ganot is the fashion line I got involved in with. It’s a high-end boutique men’s fashion line. I met Asaf Ganot, the line’s creator and namesake, in New York through my manager and I spent some time with him and I love it. Every time I see him, I’m amazed with the line. He’s a former college athlete and his line really talks to the athlete consumer. I don’t think any athlete would wear something from the brand and not love it.
Q: How have you been able to have such a busy schedule?
CJ. It’s been difficult, but thankfully I have people helping with everything. One of the biggest things that helps is exercise. Forcing myself to exercise four or five times a week keeps me energized. The more I exercise, the more I’m able to handle everything. I’m trying to stay fit to help me be able to handle everything like all the traveling I do. That, and trying to be a lot more organized. Technology really helps me with that.
Q: Do all of your projects have some connection to soccer?
CJ: Not all of them. For instance, the fashion line doesn’t have a direct connection with soccer though it does have to do with sports. One thing I’ve learned is stick to what you know. There’s an app I’m involved with called GameOn that’s a social platform for people that love sports. It’s a great way to talk with friends that love sports. When I was younger, my friends and I would talk smack about each other’s sports team, but we’ve lost touch over the years. This app allows us to reconnect, and we can talk smack, too.
Q: You’re also a father. Are your kids into soccer yet?
CJ: It’s still early on. Cayden, the 4-year-old, is somewhat interested. He’ll pick this team or that. The 1-and-a-half-year-old loves kicking the ball already, and he’s a lefty. He’ll sit still and watch a game which is pretty good for his age. I don’t want to force them into soccer, but they will play sports. They’ll play one team and one individual sport when they get older.
Native Knowledge: Jones works closely with youth soccer organizations around the country as an ambassador to Cal South and AYSO. He works with the US Soccer Foundation, America SCORES, Grassroot Soccer, Cycle for Survival and the Mia Hamm Foundation. He soon hopes to launch his own foundation to help combat childhood obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.