2 ACL Injuries, 2 Cities, 5 Jobs and 10 Years Later

Russ Martin | Trinity College ‘08 | Account Executive - Elite Sales, Hudl

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The first time the elevator doors opened at the hudl headquarters…

I was met by the overwhelming feeling of familiarity. The floors mimic a basketball floor. The conference rooms are all named after famous athletes or coaches. There are lockers, glass backboards signed by the employees, and even a jumbotron we all gather around for all-staff meetings. This feeling I got took me ten years to find. 

Let me take you back first. In college, after a week of preparing for a zone defense, our team was completely caught off guard when the opposing team picked us up in a full court man-to-man defense. All season long they had only played zone. Our game plan, something we worked on over the course of a week of practice, was useless. We were 30 seconds into the game and the time to adapt, to make game-saving adjustments, had already come. That has probably happened to every athlete at one point or another. You plan for something and almost immediately, it’s flipped on its head and you are forced to make adjustments.

When I graduated from Trinity College in 2008, my immediate plan was to try and play basketball for another few years overseas. There had been many players before me from the NESCAC (the conference that Trinity athletics participate in) that continued their careers and while you typically made little to no money, it allowed you to play for just a bit longer. In my opinion, it’s what every athlete I’ve ever met wants at the end of his or her career; one more game.

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Much like the aforementioned in-game situation, life had different plans. While playing in a pick-up game, I tore the ACL in my right knee. After 6 months of rehab and trying to get my knee back strong enough to attempt to play, I once again tore my ACL. The pain was excruciating. Not the physical pain, which surely hurt, but rather the realization that playing overseas was probably not my next step. My hope of ‘one more game’ was gone and it was time to adapt, adjust, and deploy a new strategy.

Years passed by and I went from job to job. I spent a year working at Citibank and then another underwriting insurance and while my knee finally held together, I realized playing professional basketball was behind me. At that stage in my professional life, I was not sure where I wanted to go, or what I wanted to do.

In a decision that still to this day makes my parents cringe, I decided to move to New York City without a job or plan. I had spent a few years trying jobs that were not fulfilling and always left me wanting more. I was running a zone offense against man-to-man, forcing the issue.

New York City was my halftime. New York City was my year in the locker room making adjustments and evolving a new game plan. I looked within myself for what made me happiest. Basketball was never work because I loved it. And what I wanted more than anything was to simply replicate that feeling in a job.

I’ve loved writing for as long as I can remember and while in New York I decided to begin a simple blog. Some people read the articles, most did not, but each day I wrote about life. It was my white board. It led me to realizing that I loved to create. I began a new game plan. I started writing beyond my blog and at the age of 26, I applied for internships against college students. In many ways, I fully hit, and embraced, the restart button.

If New York City was halftime, I eventually came out of the locker room to find myself in Boston working for an advertising agency. While there, I learned how to interact with clients, run accounts, and pitch new business. I learned new parts of the professional game that, down the line, would open more doors for me.

After just over a year at this agency, I was approached by the Alzheimer’s Association after working alongside them through a partnership that I brokered. They wanted me to work within their marketing department. My grandmother had bravely fought Alzheimer’s for nearly 25 years and so I saw, and felt, firsthand the destruction this horrific disease can cause a family. I accepted the job and for five incredible years, I worked my way up the professional ladder there while meeting some of the most loving, honest, and brave individuals and families I’ll likely ever meet.

For the first time in my professional life, I found myself working for a cause that I fiercely believed in. I knew everything I wrote, created, designed, or performed had the potential to change the lives of others, whether through raising donations or simply awareness.

Then in May of 2018, I learned bout Hudl.

Hudl is a software company that offers products that help professional, collegiate, and youth sports teams capture, break down, and distribute film.

A job in sports.

A return, in many ways, to sports.

Basketball was never work because I loved it. And what I wanted more than anything was to simply replicate that feeling in a job.

At the end of any game, the team leading can either do one of two things: They can grasp on to the lead and play cautiously, defensively, and pray that the clock runs out before the other team catches up.

Or they can keep attacking.

Keep building a lead.

Keep pushing forward.

I wanted to keep pushing forward.

Through the guidance of some fellow Trinity Bantams, I eventually applied for a role and was extended an offer. I accepted immediately and in August I went out to Lincoln, Nebraska to the headquarters for training. And that’s when those elevator doors opened and exposed me to the familiar feeling that basketball gave me.

After just over 5 months at Hudl, I’ve found my ultimate passion. Up to this point, I had found pieces of it, much like a puzzle where you find a new piece, connect it to another, but the final picture still wasn’t clear. 

In sports when you prepare for a zone but suddenly find yourself playing against a man-to-man defense, the reality is that you have a lot of game left to adapt. No team, in the history of sports, has won a game in the first 30 seconds. As the common phrase goes, “you play until the final buzzer.”

We have all been part of games where we’ve gotten far behind early. Professionally, I went down early. I took jobs that rarely sparked my interest, let alone invoked any ounce of passion. But after a much needed half time adjustment, I began to find the pieces that would lead me to where I am now. Much like in sports, professional careers are never won in the first quarter. It took me two ACL injuries, moving to two cities (one without a plan), and taking five jobs over ten years to find something I love. Your career is a grind, a long-haul, and if along the way you can adapt and evolve new skills, you’ll find yourself coming out on top as your professional life advances.

When you finally find a job or career you love, you’ll find that feeling that as athletes we all want more than any other; the feeling of being part of one more game.

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