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Translating sports skills to the workplace

Translating sports skills to the workplace

Thomas M. Columbus May 13, 2022

“I could see the light bulbs go on in their heads,” said Alyson McAdams, a graduate assistant in Career Services at UD.

She was speaking to the student-athletes who comprise the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee on how skills they developed in athletics could be translated into a career. “For example,” she said, “the attributes you look for in a teammate can be translated to what employers are looking for.”

According to Jason Eckert, executive director of Career Services, “student-athletes don’t realize that being a student-athlete is a vocation. Often for them, it is just one line on a résumé. But it can be several bullet points.”

Career Services works with athletes on how to document their experience, not to say just “go to practice” but something like “spend hours per week in practice developing skills such as competitive drive and communication skills.”

McAdams had the SAAC athletes do an inventory of 44 transferable skills, ranking each on a scale of 0 to 4 for how much each had been developed through sport. The skills to be ranked were presented in random order. After the ranking was done, skills were grouped into categories such as communication, teamwork, leadership, problem solving, self-motivation and organization.

As the session progressed, the SAAC members realized how they did have many transferable skills developed through their experience with sports. One of the student-athletes present talked of how a series of injuries taught her perseverance. Krystal Warren, the associate athletics director who serves as liaison to Career Services, having had three ACL injuries, concurred.

A survey sent to all student-athletes, Warren said, revealed that across the board they want a workshop on the transition to the next phase of life. Plans are to do more than that. Athletics and Career Services are working on adapting the four-year series of steps in career planning used by all students to the unique situation of student-athletes.

Some of the challenges in doing that involve timing, accommodating both athletic and academic schedules. Late Sunday night, Warren pointed out, is often the only time for some meetings. Conflicts of sorts can arise even before a student-athlete enrolls. Eckert had scheduled a recruiting event presentation on a Saturday this winter at 7 p.m. The NFL had the audacity to schedule a playoff game conflicting with it.

Athletics and Career Services, besides working with students throughout their years here, continue to do so after graduation. Career Services serves all alumni free of charge. 

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