Student athletes inherit a brand that includes descriptors like rugged, fit, and competitive, and this brand can take you a long way if you manage it well. The question is, if you are a student athlete, do you know how to leverage the highlights of the student athlete brand while demonstrating what is also unique about you?
Becoming a student athlete
Do you remember when you started playing sports? Were you playing t-ball at age six? Did you compete in gymnastics when you were a mere nine-years-old? It will be important to recall when you started playing sports and why you continued to participate as a teenager. Sure, most students will say that their parents signed them up, but at some point, you probably had a chance to make your own decision. Of course, there is also a small percentage of students who didn’t have a choice because their parents really wanted to see them go all the way. In any case, there is usually a compelling story to tell.
Think back to before high school. As a middle school student, were you vying for spots on travel teams, attending summer camps, and spending time in private lessons? What skills were you developing at this young age? Did you use your stats on the high school field to get into a good college? At the same time, were you focusing on the numbers that rank you in the classroom? The term “student athlete” begins with “student” for a reason; if you can’t make it in the classroom, you will not have the chance to compete on the field.
If you have been playing sports for as long as you can remember, it’s time to reflect on the benefits of your athletic experience and how that will affect what happens next.
- Team player
- Physically fit
Make a list of adjectives that describe you as a student. They may include:
- Critical thinker
- Intellectually curious
- Technical expertise
- Effective with time management
- Good writer
- Manual dexterity
- Hands-on learner
Review your lists. Is there anything that you identified with as an athlete that helps you as a student? For example, if you consider yourself a team player, has this also helped you in working on a group project in a class? Is there anything that you identified with as a student that helps you as an athlete? For example, if you are creative, does that help you come up with effective strategies for game play? Finally, is there something that you can attribute to your personality that affects your success both as an athlete and as a student? For example, good time management is necessary to be successful in both of these roles simultaneously.
Playing at the college level
The key word here is “college”, meaning university – a place where you will have to STUDY, a lot! Becoming a student athlete means taking on the responsibility of working towards a bachelor’s or associate’s degree. If you don’t know what that means, find out before you start training camp. Before you can play at the college level, prospective student athletes should review the ultimate guide to eligibility: 2009-2010 NCAA Guide For The College-Bound Student Athlete.
You’ll find that in order for high school students to be eligible to play in the NCAA, they must demonstrate a GPA, SAT/ACT score, and required core courses within the NCAA’s sliding scale. Once in college, athletes must stay in good academic standing with the division, conference and the university. Many colleges require their athletes to maintain good grades while taking a full time course load, which can be up to five courses per semester. This can be extremely challenging to handle, particularly for first year students.
Additionally, every university athletic department publishes a student athlete handbook, many of which are online, and high school students would be remiss if they didn’t take a look at what they can expect in terms of accountability policies about academic standing and behavior.
A helpful resource for students and parents just getting started in the student athlete world is The Student Athlete’s Handbook: The Complete Guide for Success, by Perry Bromwell and Howard Gensler. This book covers the span of a student athlete’s career including suggestions for how to take advantage of the professional network of alumni athletes from their university. Alumni athletes form a tight nit group and are often willing to help college students. Teams and athletic associations post alumni athlete contacts for students and provide online resume books of their student athletes for employers and alumni interested in hiring them.
For college students who want to expand their network beyond their own campus network, The AthleteAlumni Network is an effective networking site where students can connect with a mentor, learn about job and internship opportunities like the 10-week Wall Street Summer Internship Program, and join a community of career-oriented student athletes.
The ultimate online branding site for student athletes
First there was Facebook . . . then there was LinkedIn. . . Let me introduce you to YourCompletePlayer.com, the ultimate online branding site for student athletes featuring player profiling, athlete networking and scouting services. The brainchild of visionary Peter Palermo, the site was designed with Peter’s son, a 13-year-old star athlete, in mind. With more than ten years in planning and promoting events in the sports and entertainment industry, Palermo endorses personal branding as an effective strategy for student athletes of all ages. Furthermore, his site provides access for students involved in a wide range of sports as well as students from diverse backgrounds who may not otherwise get noticed through the usual channels. If you are involved in a competitive activity, YourCompletePlayer.com is the new online community for you. You can also check out other websites that cater to specific sports or types of events and tournaments like All Star Junior Golf Tour, Premier Basketball Report and TCS Rising Stars Events, offering students the opportunity to present their brands to a wider audience.
Who Likes the Student Athlete Brand?
Last week I lunched with a banking employer who was on campus to conduct interviews for full time jobs, and I learned that she likes to hire athletes. She mentioned that her firm groups students into one of three categories: students with relevant internship experience, campus leaders, and student athletes. What does she like about student athletes? Some of the qualities she mentioned were positive attitude, team player, good time management, meets deadlines, competitive, motivated, driven, and the list went on.
Being a successful student athlete means managing your brand from the very beginning. Colleges are looking at this brand when they recruit high school students, and employers are impressed with this brand when they recruit undergraduates for internships and full time jobs. So, if you are a student athlete, look in the mirror and see what you have to offer!
Nicole Anderson is an Assistant Director/Career Counselor for Tufts University Career Services. With fourteen years of experience in college career services, Nicole’s expertise includes career counseling undergraduates, graduate students, and alumni from liberal arts, science, engineering, business, and education.