April 3, 2009
By Matt Pucak
Athletic Media Relations
FORT COLLINS, Colo. - When watching any televised college sporting event, it is easy to see the commercials from the NCAA that states there are 380,000 student-athletes and almost every one of them will go pro in something other than sports.
Colorado State University is no exception to this rule, so that is why on Wednesday night former CSU student-athletes reached out to the Rams' current crop of student-athletes, sharing experiences and offering guidance about the transition from collegiate athletics to a professional livelihood.
The Varsity Athletes Club set up a career development workshop and a panel of former athletes who have gone on to successful careers. On the panel were former athletes Justine (Square) France, Krista (Swartzendruber) Wilper, Mark Driscoll and John Polousky. The moderator for the event was former football player and college of business professor Bill Shuster, while employment specialist Katy Piotrowski, who writes for the Fort Collins Coloradoan, led the career development workshop.
"The Varsity Athletes Club felt that the connection between former and current student-athletes could be stronger," said Jack Capp, a Varsity Athletes Club board member. "In this day when job placement after graduation is so critical and intimidating to so many of our student-athletes, we felt that insight and advice from a few of our successful professionals would be a great enhancement to the student-athlete experience."
Driscoll, the president of First National Bank and CSU Athletic Director from 2003-2006, spoke to the student-athletes, stressing the connection between competitiveness in sport and in the business world.
"Don't underestimate the value of what you learn in athletics, and don't ever think that this world is not competitive," said Driscoll, a 1975 graduate from CSU and a record-setting quarterback during his playing days. "You already have a leg up on most students at universities all around the country because you already understand competition. If you don't have a competitive advantage as a person or business, you will fail.
"Someone asked me, `How are you successful at life?' To be successful, show up early and leave late. That's it."
The most recent graduate on the panel, France ('07), Director of customer relations for Shred-It, explained how her basketball experiences helped prepare her for her interview.
"All the aspects that make up who you are as a basketball player, or as an athlete, you can market yourself that way," said France. "In my interview, I was asked about difficult situations that I had worked through. I felt bad for always bringing it back to basketball, but, as an athlete, I had been in every situation that was brought up. I had been there before, and finished tasks before, so that is why I got the job.
"That alone should give you confidence as soon as you walk in the door."
Polousky, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at the Children's Hospital in Denver, reminded those in attendance that they have to take control of their futures.
"You are student-athletes, and the student part comes first and you have to realize that," said Polousky, a 1995 graduate, was the starting center on the 1994 Holiday Bowl squad. "You've got the rest of your life to look at. There might be pressures about athletics, but if you have to take a class or get an internship, you have to stand up for yourself and take the heat. Nobody in this room is going to be an athlete for the next 40 years, so you have to have the discipline to do both things."
Wilper, a sales representative and recruiter for E. & J. Gallo Winery, addressed how athletes need to learn to sell themselves, rather than be pitched to, if they want to be noticed.
"Athletes are often not very proactive in the career search," said Wilper, a 2001 graduate who was a volleyball academic all-conference selection in 2000. "You are used to all these recruiters coming after you and you had your choice of colleges. In the real world it is a lot different. You have to put yourself out there."
The event was attended by around 60 current athletes, and the VAC hopes the event will grow as the club makes it an annual tradition.