How Student Athletes Succeed in the Working World

Only an elite few of the most promising high school and college athletes make the transition from amateur to pro in sports. In fact, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) estimates that only 1 to 2 percent make it to the professional level. Moreover, even if they make it into a professional league, sports careers are typically short-term, a few years at most.

That said, student athletes may not end up in an athletic career, but competitive sports participation gives them a variety of skills that prepares them for any type of career. These skills have little to do with athletic prowess and everything to do with an athletic mindset. Here’s how it works.

The Mind of the Student Athlete

A survey conducted by the NCAA of 21,000 student athletes reveals some surprising facts. Researchers found that the typical student athlete prepares for or competes in sports more than 20 hours per week. More than 70 percent of those surveyed considered themselves more “athlete” than “student.” Student athletes balance sports activities with academic requirements, which often means missing out on extracurricular activities and coursework. Fortunately, participation in student athletics builds valuable transferrable skills that prepare athletes for a successful career. Here are a few examples of transferrable skills student athletes develop that make them great employees, managers, administrators and entrepreneurs:

  • Working in a team environment.
  • Staying mentally tough under pressure.
  • Ability to think outside the box.
  • A strong work ethic.
  • Self-motivated.
  • Enjoys a challenge.
  • Excels in time management.
  • Thrives on competition.

Student Athletes and Business: The Perfect Match

Business is a logical career choice for student athletes. Many of the same attributes cultivated by athletes are present in the most successful business executives. In fact, businesses increasingly look to former student athletes to fill vacant positions.

Because most college athletes began their sport at a very young age, they have learned how to bounce back after a loss and keep trying. They’ve learned how to be resilient, focus and eliminate unnecessary external influences. If they don’t succeed, they keep trying. Most athletes develop finely-tuned problem-solving skills and a willingness to take risks.

Because most student athletes compete with a team, they learn what their role is and how it benefits the group as a whole. They develop strong communication skills and don’t cave under constructive criticism. Student athletes have been listening to coaches all of their lives and are open to new ideas. They also realize that if they don’t sharpen their skills and work to improve, they’ll most likely end up on the bench.

In a Washington Post article dated January 2015, Marie Artim, vice president of talent acquisition at Enterprise Rent-A-Car said, “We see a lot of transferable skills in athletes.” Enterprise hires more entry-level graduates than any other U.S. company and recruits athletes because they know how to multitask and work on teams.