Preparing For Life After Sports by guest writer, Jessica Freeman

Have you ever wondered about former student-athletes who didn’t go pro and what are they doing? Where are they working? Are they coaching? How are they living? It’s funny because just like coaching staffs, booster clubs, and alumni at some institutions, people don’t care to know. Student-athletes struggle to find employment after the athletic program has spit them out and used them. I mean, what work experience will they have?

Most student-athletes aren’t able to complete internships and also meet the demands of being a collegiate athlete so one takes priority over the other. Don’t get me started on the NCAA and how they don’t care. On top of that, student-athletes have to change their desired major to fulfill responsibilities. Coaches and academic advisors push for majors such as communications, sports management, or liberal studies degrees. I’m not saying these majors are bad but if a student-athlete wants to major in engineering, that dream would be shot down. 

I played Division I Basketball and was pretty darn good. I’ve broken records, was ranked nationally, and performed at the top of my conference but of course that wasn’t always enough. After not signing my professional contract right away, I began to panic and wonder what is next? Did I set myself up? Fortunately I did. I used the school like it used me and was able to build a decent resume. That doesn’t mean I didn’t struggle. Finding a part-time job was a piece of cake, but it was the full-time positions with benefits that were difficult to find at first. Because of my adventurous journey, I’ve learned some things that can help college athletes deal with the challenges of finding a career after graduation.

Here’s some advice:
  1. Try to get a graduate assistant coaching position after graduation. I didn’t sign my professional contract right away, so in that time frame of waiting, I receive my Masters degree and gained some coaching experience at the Division I level. This helped me build my resume and gain experience for a possible profession. Keep in mind that this option also allows your schooling to be paid for.
  2. Look for companies that adore student-athletes. For example, Enterprise. This company even made a commercial showcasing their former student-athletes and how they make great employees and team players. These are the type of people you want to work for.
  3. Get a big buddy or mentor with some status. This person can make a couple calls or write a nice recommendation for you. I’m not saying to use this person but there’s no reason to have a mentor that is in the same position as you. Get someone that is established with an open door.
  4. Look into the NCAA’s After Game Center task force. This program was started in 2015 but I’m not sure how successful it is. I’m confused as to why the NCAA doesn’t market it more. It is designed to help student-athletes find employment and be able to apply on the spot. 
  5. During off-seasons, find a job on campus or internship within the sports department. This may require you to get out of your comfort zone. I played basketball in college but ended up working with volleyball and cross country for my internship. It turned out great because now my background is diversified and I gained more relationships to use in the future. This may require you to sacrifice a summer or two to work and attend summer classes instead of a taking a break, but it is worth it.
At the end of the day, student-athletes need to start thinking about life after their collegiate career. It is not always a fun topic to think about, but you’ll have to deal with reality eventually. Don’t procrastinate. Start planning for your future. Do you want to try to play professionally? What if you suffer a major injury? What will you do after your playing career is over? Remember, only a small percentage of collegiate athletes go on to play professionally. And even a smaller percentage have a long, successful career. And not everyone can or wants to go into coaching, which seems to be the next popular choice. There’s a good chance you will have to find a “normal” job. How are you preparing now while in school? Think about it.

Jessica Freeman