The 3 Most Important Questions to Ask Yourself BEFORE Paving Your Path After Sports
Sports never truly ends once you’ve identified yourself as an athlete. Everything you’ve experienced while part of a team, on the field and off, have gone into creating who you are today; and it will shape the decisions you make going forward.
I was a former Division I baseball player now on the path to becoming a sport psychologist and mental performance consultant. My path wasn’t linear. I’ve experienced many setbacks and self-described failures. I used to see these adversities as clear signs that I was just doing the wrong thing; now they’ve given me the confidence to know I’m heading in the right direction. What solidified my career choice into Sports Psychology are three questions I believe are essential before an athlete approaches their next step. I’d like to share how my own experience brought me to the importance of these questions. I’m confident that these questions provide self-awareness that can guide any athlete in key decisions throughout their post-sports career.
What Adversities Have You Gone Through?
After competing at IMG Academy the summer following my junior year of high school in Lynn, Massachusetts, a University of Arizona alum put a call in to then head coach, Andy Lopez, and my fate was sealed as a recruited walk-on. As an incoming D1 baseball player, I relaxed. I spent that summer sleeping in, hanging out with my friends, going to cook-outs, going to the beach, and enjoying summer parties. Don’t get me wrong, it was a blast, but looking back, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into in Tucson. Going into my freshman year at Arizona I didn’t know how to do my own laundry, I wasn’t on a lifting or speed program, I didn’t have tangible goals, and I didn’t know just how home sick I would get. After getting two hits all fall, I was rightfully cut from the team. It was the first time I experienced not being wanted in the game and it was soul-crushing.
From there, I transferred to the University of Rhode Island and had a decent freshman season. Still, I thought that there was more out there for me, so I transferred to Chandler-Gilbert Community College in Arizona, which was an amazing junior college. I was right. I was the MVP of that team and, after being told that I would be a late 2nd day MLB draftee, I decided to accept a scholarship to Coastal Carolina University. However, once again, I got too high on myself and ran into an atmosphere that I let get the best of me. All of it succumbed to hardly sniffing the field and ruining my chances of playing professional baseball. I did play a few years overseas, but I ultimately left the game burnt out and depressed. I say all of this to give insight to the answers that arose when I asked myself, “what adversity did I go through?” My mind wasn’t focused, I didn’t have S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goals, and I didn’t know how to keep my emotions in check. All of this contributed to me, in my own time, wanting to figure out what real mental toughness was. My adversities motivated my actions. Now that I know what went wrong in my playing career, I’m strongly positioned to guide others down the right path. But most importantly, I’m motivated to help others avoid my failures and thrive pursuing their own goals.
What job (not industry) gives you the greatest opportunity to learn skills AND properly lead a company?
Like most millennials, I held many different positions at different companies after baseball ended because I had zero clue of what I wanted to do with my life and career. So, I listened to a mentor who told me to experience as much as I can. I worked in government contracting, finance and investing, banking, human resources, fitness, and ultimately made it back to sports. Every company, position and industry, including sports, was ultimately wrong for me BUT they were developmental. Each role and company taught me the right and wrong way to do business.
While working for Fidelity Investments in Houston, TX as a Financial Adviser, I had a boss and team that did things the right way. I loved coming to work and getting to be with my team even though I knew that this isn’t what I wanted to do with my life. I learned the fundamental skills of consultative-selling from experts at their job. Conversely, while working in fitness and sports I had work environments, for various reasons, that weren't ideal and roles that handcuffed my growth. With that, my advice is to prioritize jobs over industries. Choose jobs that allow you to learn valuable skills and allow you to work every day with leaders you admire. I love sport and I love fitness. I love some of the people I met within these companies and industries. However, if I had to choose again, I would choose to work at that Fidelity office in Houston over every other position.
How can you get to know the culture and environment before working in it? Ask the interviewee if you can speak with employees in the role you’re interviewing for or individuals that you’d work closely with in that role. If you are offered the role, ask to speak to the CEO before accepting it. This accomplishes two things: 1) you’re asking something that most likely no other candidate is asking and 2) you can pick the CEO’s brain on his or her leadership style (not to mention get career advice by asking about their background).
What vision and version of yourself literally makes you smile?
The final threshold in choosing the Sports Psychology route was that it literally made me smile when I envisioned myself within the role. (Please remember - just like in sports and relationships, you’re not going to smile all the time when you love something). Careers are hard work and there will be times when you’ll have to push through resistance but the vision that I have for where I’m going makes all the pain worth it. At one point in my life I couldn’t imagine doing anything else besides playing baseball. However, the man I am now brings so much more joy to my life than I allowed baseball to bring. Would I be ecstatic playing ball right now in the BIG’s? Absolutely! That was my first love. But with everything I’ve experienced to date, I often think that this new platform will allow me to do a much greater good.