Coach’s Corner: Finding Time To Gain Experience As A Collegiate Athlete

clipboardLast fall, the NCAA released a report, “Estimated Probability of Competing in Athletics Beyond the High School Interscholastic Level.”  The report not only calculated the number of athletes who went on to play collegiately from high school, but also calculated how many athletes from high school made it to the professional level.

Supplying statistics for men’s basketball, women’s basketball,  football, baseball, men’s ice hockey, and men’s soccer (representing the major professional leagues in the United States: NBA, WNBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, and MLS),  the numbers reflect just how much the cliché “one in a million” may not be too far off.


Men’s Basketball

Women’s Basketball



Men’s Hockey

Men’s Soccer

# NCAA Athletes







# NCAA Athletes Drafted







% of NCAA to Pro







Considering that the best case scenario in this study is baseball, with 9.7% advancing from the NCAA to the pros, student-athletes need to be prepared for life after sports. And while your schedule as a collegiate athlete doesn’t afford much time outside of scholastics and sports, making the most of the spare time and unique opportunities are a necessity.

We posed the question, “Any advice to current student-athletes on what they should be doing now to prepare for the workforce?”  in several of our LinkedIn groups, geared specifically towards collegiate or former collegiate athletes, and on our FaceBook, Twitter, and Google+ pages. We collected several responses with several reoccurring themes.

One of the responses echoed an earlier post on our website: aligning yourself with a mentor or two. “Think about creating strong relationships with current professionals in the line of work you aspire to enter once you graduate,” suggested Kristian Schroeder on our FaceBook page. “Finding a contact is the easy part, maintaining and growing that contact into a strong relationship is what takes time.”

Many suggested developing those soft skills, or as we refer to them “biodata” within your opportunity as a student-athlete. Your inherent skills, such as attitude, work ethic, passion, leadership, communication, and focus can be sharpened in the day-to-day grind.

And when you’re in competition, look into opportunities with your SAAC (Student-Athlete Advisory Committee).  Volunteer to lead the annual talent show, food drive, etc. These are great “bullet points on the resume” and give future employers a glimpse of your actual and potential skills. For example, organizing a food drive may involve connecting and working with a local charity, organizing the logistics of transporting the donated items, scheduling the event and the personnel working the event, and advertising the event, etc. (And make sure you keep stats on your event – “largest food drive event supporting Anytown’s local food bank in 2013.” Hiring managers love ROI!)

NexGoal intern Nikki Chiracosta is involved with the Career Development segment of the Bowling Green State University SAAC program. “The biggest event that I led was known as the Falcon Networking Night. Essentially, we reached out to athletes and asked them what fields they are interested in and then we sought on professionals in that field. We developed a planning committee and the members of the committee asked a variety of professionals from different areas to come to BGSU that night.” Chiracosta explained not only did the student-athletes have an opportunity to network and learn more about the field they are pursuing, but the practice speaking with professionals was an added bonus. “I think that this is a great opportunity for student-athletes because many of the professionals were former athletes themselves and can identify with the fact that it is not always possible to complete an internship while competing at the highest collegiate level. If anything, it is a great way for the athletes to get their name out there and I think that it is something that all universities should provide for their student-athletes,” she said.

While you may have little free time during the school year, make the most of your free time during the summers or off-season. Volunteering  and externships (job shadowing) aren’t as formal as an internship, co-op, etc., but the flexibility of time is on your side in this situation. You’ll be able to do some networking in the process as well. Contact businesses in industries you are interested in and ask for an informational interview. That may lead to an opportunity to create an internship with that company that works within the confines of your schedule or after you’re done competing.

Also, join professional organizations – or at least the student versions. As you research your major and career, keep in mind that many professional organizations have student branches which also offer scholarships – another thing to keep in mind when your four years of eligibility are up and you still have some courses to complete.

And, make the most of campus resources. In addition to those specifically dedicated to the athletic department, seek out career services on campus too. Student-athletes aren’t the only ones with unusual schedules attending college.

Just remember: it’s not the end of the world if you can’t get some leg work (internships, co-ops, etc.) in before your graduate. However, make the most of your time and resources while on campus. Don’t pass up the opportunities – no matter how small or insignificant they may seem at the time.  If you demonstrate the effort, future employers will notice.

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