Charlie Adams

How Being a College Athlete can Separate you in the Job Market

This past weekend I was driving up to Kalamazoo, Michigan to see my 10 year old play in a travel team basketball tournament when I passed Stryker Orthopaedics. I immediately thought of a young lady that works there that used to play college lacrosse, and how being a college athlete can help you stand apart in the work force.

If you have the ability to play your sport at any level of college, I strongly urge you to consider it because of how it can separate you in the job force. If you play college sports and work hard athletically and academically, you will have an advantage over many others in the job market. I have been delivering motivational talks to the corporate world for years. I can’t tell you how many times I have sat with company leaders at the head table before giving my talk and heard them say how they often look to hire “that athlete from such-and-such college” because of all of the positive qualities he or she brings with them.

I recently did a motivational talk for a company at their sales retreat. Their president got up and told them that an emerging company in a neighboring state was preparing to come into their state, build an office, and look to take their clients. He said all of the employees of that competing company were reading ‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tzu so that they would be in a conquering mode. I watched as several of the employees seemed taken aback and looked rattled. Now, how do you think the former college athlete would react to that statement? He or she would probably roll up their sleeves and say bring it on because of their competitive natures.

Alyssa Priebe is a current example of the value of the true college student-athlete in the workforce. The former Indiana Tech University lacrosse player was hired not long after her graduation as a IVS Marketing Associate at Stryker, a Michigan based medical equipment firm.

“Commitment, dedication and time management are things they look for in the corporate world,” Alyssa told me recently. “I learned how to prioritize and manage my time at Indiana Tech.”

Alyssa managed her time so well that she graduated in 3 1/2 years. She graduated on December 13th, 2012 and started at Stryker on December 17th.

Alyssa was part of the very first lacrosse team at Indiana Tech, a NAIA school in Fort Wayne, IN. The fact that she was able to help their program win a national championship her final season was impressive to prospective employers. It showed her ‘team’ abilities. She also developed leadership and perseverance qualities that transfer to the working world. “I became the defensive coordinator of our team as a player,” she said. That position helped to develop her as a leader. As far as her perseverance? “In the spring of my freshman year, I tore my right ACL. I rehabbed hard and came back. Then in my junior year I tore my left ACL. When I did my job interview they saw that I kept fighting back. In my last year at Indiana Tech we won nationals. Stryker saw that I was a team player and was dedicated. I think continuing to persevere after the two knee injuries was impressive to them.”

Alyssa says many of her co workers at Stryker are or have been former college athletes, including a former Hillsdale baseball player and LSU softball player.

Although Alyssa came from a high school with over 3000 students (Penn HS), she is glad she went to a small college like Indiana Tech. She was able to be involved in all kinds of things because her sport did not consume her at the small college level. She was all-league athletically and academic all conference. She was also president of Indiana Tech Student Ambassadors, Society of Human Resource Management student chapter member, winner of a campus wide Omega Plastics Corporation Marketing Plan contest, and a volunteer reader at Learn United. She was able to do all of this by being at a smaller college that has its priorities on academics. “My coach preached academics over sports,” she said. “He said whenever I had an academic requirement to let him know and I could miss practice. Our team really didn’t have to because we made a commitment as a team to get our studies done together even if it meant staying up late.

“I would encourage people to consider smaller colleges,” she said. “I considered smaller colleges like St. Mary’s and Ferris State. I made the right decision. At a smaller college, or any size, as an athlete you develop relationships that the normal student is not able to.”

In talking with Alyssa’s parents recently, her dad told me that during Alyssa’s short job search, they learned that many employers like to hire true (strong grades) college athletes as well as ex military because of all their positive qualities. Now, in no way do I mean that someone that didn’t play college sports can’t be an outstanding employee. There are people that come from 4H, debate, drama and many other backgrounds in school that do great work. What I want to get across is the reality of the world today and what company leaders tell me when I am on the motivational speaking trail. Employers are very big on wellness with health insurance issues, which is another reason they like to hire former athletes. They like that college athletes almost always look to continue to stay in peak condition.

For those of you that have the ability to play your sport at the next level, consider it because of how it can help develop you to be a more attractive candidate in the job market. Alyssa Priebe is an example of how being a college athlete can help build the foundation for future success.

Charlie Adams

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Charlie Adams was a sports anchor for 23 years in markets such as New Orleans and South Bend where he saw many families struggle with the recruiting process because of a lack of education on the subject. Charlie is a supporter of NCSA’s message of Athleadership and often speaks on the recruiting process. His son was a college athlete, his oldest daughter will be a freshman college swimmer starting this fall, and his youngest daughter is very involved in AAU travel team basketball as a 6th grader. Since 2005 Charlie has been a motivational speaker with his keynotes and seminars often being based on sports-related themes. Corporate leaders that bring him in as a speaker often tell him that they seek to hire former college athletes because those athletes bring the ability to manage time, lead, compete, set and reach goals, and work as team players because of their college athletics background. For more information you can reach him at or go to

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David Frank