The stress of life after sports

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Despite stellar performances on the field throughout their college careers, many collegiate athletes are worried off the field when it comes to preparing for a life and career after they hang up their cleats.

Many athletes lack real work experience post-college graduation, since they spent most of their time in college honing and perfecting their skills and abilities for their respective sports.

Jackson Emery dribbles past an Air Force defender in a game in 2011. BYU defeated Air Force 76-66. Photo by Chris Bunker.
Jackson Emery dribbles past an Air Force defender in a game in 2011. BYU defeated Air Force 76-66. Photo by Chris Bunker.

“I was full-heartedly committed to playing basketball,” said Jackson Emery, former standout BYU basketball standout who graduated in 2011 with a degree in business management. “I knew I had the ability to compete at a high level professionally either here in the U.S. or somewhere overseas. I committed mentally. I was committed physically. I was there.”

According to the NCAA, less than 2 percent of athletes participating in collegiate football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s soccer and ice hockey will play on the professional level. Once their playing careers are over, for whatever the reason, reality hits and the scramble to find employment starts.

Emery, who was named the Mountain West Conference’s defensive player of the year his senior season, changed his goals and plans after analyzing his situation post-graduation.

“My wife was pregnant at the time. She was going to have our first son in September 2011,” Emery said. “I started looking at the long-term rather than the short-term.”

Just a few months after graduation, Emery was hired full-time with Eco Scraps, a job he credits to his personal efforts to gain employment.

Emery, who now works as an account development manager at Domo Inc., realized trying to make a career out of basketball might not be in the best interest of his family and decided to make the most out of the connections he had made during his time at BYU.

Like Emery, BYU baseball player Dillon Robinson must take family into consideration when it comes to plans after graduation.

Robinson has accepted a post-graduate internship at the Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., a feat he attributes to his desire to take initiative and network during his time at BYU.

“I took the initiative to give a call to one of the guys down there,” Robinson said. “I had a good feeling. Just putting myself out there gave me an upper hand.”

Robinson, a finance major, said he networked through the Marriott School of Business’ extensive professional network, allowing him opportunities for personal success.

Not all athletes, however, know how to network or have the skills to market themselves to companies, and that is where Buddy Stoddard comes in.

“When I joined BYU, my freshman year, I was already thinking about a job. I already had a résumé that’s filled,” said Stoddard, who is the life skills coordinator for BYU student-athletes. “The student-athletes don’t have that. It’s kind of natural that you’ve got an athletic department that cares about the student0athlete but wants to win. The coaches are committed to win. There’s a revenue aspect to it.”

Stoddard, who has worked in the world of finance for many years, coaches student-athletes on how to interview and helps them put together their résumés. Student-athletes even have a special career fair where athletes have a chance to meet with companies across the nation.

According to Stoddard, many athletes lack confidence when it comes to compiling a résumé, preparing for interviews and knowing how to market themselves.

“Anyone that comes in, whether they’re a star athlete or whether they’re sitting on the bench, scholarship or not, I’m gonna work with them all the same,” Stoddard said.

While many athletes have no work experience and lack the knowledge and experience to gain employment, a few athletes have extensive résumés, and some have even started their own businesses.

“My summer job, I’m a swim teacher,” said Sarah Yingling, a distance runner on the track team. “That’s my entrepreneur side of me. I teach at my house.”

Yingling, a senior from Alpine, majoring in exercise and wellness, has also worked at a reception center and a running company.

Lindsey Nielson, a senior cross country runner from Alamosa, Colo., knows her varied work experience sets her apart from many other athletes.

“One of my first jobs was at my dad’s doctor’s office just cleaning the clinic on weekends,” said Nielson, a Spanish teaching major who has also worked as a receptionist, tutor and landscaper.

As for her teammates who just landed their first job, Nielson said, “I know that they grew a lot from it. It gave them a little bit more confidence to be ready for the future and for graduation.”

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