After The Ball Drops- A Message to Athletes on the Importance of Getting a Degree and Networking

One of the biggest unanswered questions that collegiate athletes face is what to do after they’re done playing. Everyone encounters moments of uncertainty or self-doubt, especially in the vulnerable post-grad phase of life, but for athletes leaving the sport they’ve known their whole life it’s a whole different story. You work years and years during your life to get to where you’re at and to hear it’ll all end one day is one of the most terrifying things in the world. I’m here to share with you not only the importance of getting a degree, but what to do with it. I don’t know your majors or minors, but I do know how to navigate through the rough terrain of networking, job applications, and branching out. 


college graduates throwing their caps


Do I really need a degree?

I’m sure that we’ve all heard and seen those people that say you don’t need a degree–or maybe you’re one of them. Whatever the case is, getting a degree isn’t so much about the piece of paper, it’s about the work that went into it. We had the chance to interview a former NBA Champion with the Philadelphia 76ers in Clint Richardson on the importance of getting a degree. Plot twist– Clint doesn’t have a degree nor did he ever go back to school to get one. However, what he said wasn’t so much about his experience, it was more about the experience that he wished he had. Clint stated, “In my case, I didn’t graduate from college nor did I ever go back and get my degree. Looking back, I should’ve done it. The ball stops bouncing eventually and you need something to fall back on— even if you’re a millionaire, a degree is more than a piece of paper, it’s an asset that’ll be carried with you for the rest of your life.” The purpose of me telling you this today is that a degree is more than what it says on it, it’s a token of your work and a progress report of how far you’ve come. Getting a degree doesn’t mean you’ll always get a job, but it means you’re ready. It’s like going onto the field for a game having run some routes beforehand, it’s like getting up 500 shots before the National Championship, or going to batting practice before the big game. You’re equipped and you’re ready for whatever comes your way. Look at a degree as more of an investment of your time, it’s something that you can pride yourself on and carry with you wherever you go.


So what’s next?

The next thing you need to know is how to network and navigate through those awful and awkward meetings. I remember going to my first networking event and thinking what did I get myself into? We’ve all been there, trust me. I hate to say it but it’s a part of the process. The best thing to do as an athlete getting ready to graduate is to ask anything to anyone that you know. People want to help you. If you have a desired field, look it up on google, see the nearest place where they do it and call to get some tips or advice from someone there. If you don’t have a desired field, choose something you like to do and then go from there. Networking is the easiest, yet hardest thing to do because it’s usually right in front of our faces but it’s hard because you don’t know how to start. There is no whistle to wait for to start networking, you just have to do it. Talk, ask, and listen– to everyone! Some people have no idea what they’re talking about, but there is always something you can take from what they say. As for those meetings… Yes, things can get awkward and you don’t know what to say. Something that helped me was come up with a list of three or so questions that you can ask, when the conversation dies, ask another question. Those three should be broader questions and they should have sub-questions or answers that are branches connected to them. For example a big question may look like, how did you start doing what you’re doing? And a branch or sub-question may be– what was the hardest obstacle you ran into when starting? It’s not easy, but it shows people that you care and are willing to go out of your way to ask and seek advice, that’s what really matters. Competency gets you in the room, but character keeps you there. Be yourself, show a little courage and you’ll do great.