A Year Later: Shawn Strickland '18 Reflects on His Bates Basketball Experience And His New Role As a Sales Consultant

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Take us to the beginning of your basketball journey. How did you start playing? 

I first got into playing basketball when I was in 3rd grade. My uncle was a coach in the Parks and Recreation league in my hometown and suggested that I sign up to be on his team. I didn’t necessarily have any background in the sport as neither of parents had ever played. The only true experience I had was occasionally shooting on the basketball hoop in my backyard. I wouldn’t say I had  a passion for the sport at this stage in my life, it was simply a way to stay active and be involved in an activity outside of school. 

When did you start to take basketball more seriously and realize you wanted to play it collegiately?

I began to take the game more seriously once I was in 5th grade. I was not only playing in the Parks and Recreation league, but also on a travel Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team that competed in tournaments all across the North East region during the Spring and Summer. This is when I had built up the dream of one day playing professionally (just as I’m sure every 10 year-old athlete once had). Once I began competing at the High School level, I was realistic enough with myself to understand that the chances of me playing pro was slim to none but knew for sure that if I continued to improve my skillset and develop as a player I could play basketball at the collegiate level. 

What was your experience as a student-athlete at Bates like?

My experience as a student-athlete at Bates was extremely positive for a number of different reasons. During my first-year as a member of the Men’s Basketball team, we finished the season ranked in the Division III Top 25 and made it to the Sweet Sixteen of the National Tournament. This was something that had never been accomplished in the history of the Bates basketball program. Aside from the great success that we had on the court during my first-year, I arrived on campus and immediately had 16 teammates that shared the same passion for the game of basketball that I did. They really helped me to navigate through my first year of college. 

What was the biggest lesson you learned and the most challenging thing about your time as a student-athlete?

The value of time management! It is already extremely tough to balance the workload of being a student at Bates, but when you add on the countless number of hours that are spent at practices, in the weight room, and away at games, this can become even more difficult to handle. I found myself consistently attending classes from 8 A.M. to 4 P.M and then practicing and eating dinner from 4 P.M. to 9 P.M., without thinking about how I would get all of my work completed for the next day. Finding a balance between being devoted to my sport and performing well in the classroom was certainly a challenge. However, the more attention I dedicated toward planning out my day and maximizing any free time that I had to get ahead on assignments, it became much more manageable to balance both academics and athletics.  

Can you talk to us about your role at Unum. Did you know you wanted to be a Sales Consultant after school?

Since graduating in the spring of 2018, I have been working in the insurance industry as a Sales Consultant at Unum. I majored in Political Science and Bates and had absolutely no idea that I would find myself working here. As a Sales Consultant, I represent Unum by educating, motivating, and building relationships with other insurance professionals and employers to sell Unum products to their clients. 

What correlations do you see between the basketball court and your work as a Sales Consultant?

In sales, regardless of what specific industry or product you may work with, there is always competition, both from other individuals or companies in the same field. This was no different than what I had to deal with on the basketball court. Every team that we played against, regardless of whether it was Bowdoin, Colby, Williams, Amherst, or any other school in the NESCAC, each of these programs also had pre-season conditioning, late night practices, early weight room workouts, and did what ever else they could to put themselves in the best position to win. 

In addition, I am competing daily against other insurance carriers and individual representatives to have my company’s product chosen over the other offers that a client may receive. To maximize my chances of “winning” a sale and having a successful career, I had to prepare and equip myself with the knowledge and expertise to succeed. I found this to correlate directly with my experiences on the basketball court. My teammates and I devoted a significant amount of time working on our craft, both individually and collectively, to prepare for a successful season. 

If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice as a student-athlete, what would it be?

Try and find the positive value in every situation, regardless of how unfavorable it may seem on the surface. Throughout my career, I suffered a number of different injuries and played on teams that lost more games than they were expected to. There are always advantages and positive takeaways to be had with these seemingly undesirable situations. It’s just a matter of finding and embracing them.