Issue: August 2008
In This Issue:
The summer Olympics in Beijing may be over, but for some the roar of the crowd has yet to subside. If you’re like most serious athletes, you too have dreams of Michael Phelps gold. Maybe you’re hitting the pool a bit harder these days or practicing your drills a little longer. Dreams of athletic glory are great to have; they’re motivating and inspiring. While the reality is that most of us won’t be Olympic gold medalists (or even see those colored rings up close and personal), sports has so much more to offer than hardware to hang on a wall. Three lessons from the field, pool, track and court to take to life’s podium:
Bronze: Always remember your competitive advantage. Success requires strategic moves and creative thinking. What sets you apart from the rest of the job candidates or college applications? Figure that out and you will know which skills to develop to put yourself ahead of your competition. Then be willing to work really hard to maintain and build on that advantage.
Silver: Teamwork pays dividends. Your individual strengths are all the more powerful when combined with those of your teammates. Did you happen to check out the rowing competitions or the indoor volleyball and swimming relays in Beijing? Now that was exciting: incredibly talented athletes working together to grab glory. This is what life’s about, especially when you go to work. A company is just another word for a team of players working with each other to score goals. Play well with others, and you’ll go far.
Gold: Victory is sweet; defeat is sweeter. Don’t expect to always be No. 1—it’s unrealistic and you will only end up disappointed in yourself time and again. Sometimes you’ll win, while other times you will come in second, fifth, twentieth. Learn from those times and accept them graciously. What could you have done better? How can you improve your skills for the next challenge? What nuggets of wisdom can you pull from this situation? Losing is just as an opportunity for learning.
What happens when a dream of sports stardom is suddenly sidelined? You need to be prepared to pursue another passion, like Newark resident Al-Tarik White. Born and raised in the city, White graduated from Malcolm X. Shabazz High School and went to the University of North Carolina on a full athletic scholarship, ultimately graduating from William Paterson University in Wayne. He went on to play pro football for the Miami Dolphins for a season and a half before an injury sacked his football career.
White knew immediately that he needed to return to the city of his youth and pass his knowledge on to the younger generation. With teaching contract in-hand, he settled into a new career of coaching, teaching and mentoring Newark youth, which he has been doing since 1995.
In the past year, White has added a new pursuit to his skill set: as an entrepreneur. In April, he opened his first Subway restaurant in the South Ward. “I decided to open a business here because Newark has one of the highest child obesity rates in the state,” explains White. “Most of our educational development is being affected because of the unhealthy foods these children eat on a daily basis. The downtown area has enough places people can go. I wanted to put my restaurant in the community where people can walk outside of their homes and take a short bus ride to enjoy good food and eat healthy. I want to expand, grow and build the communities so people have more to eat than a hamburger or greasy chicken.”
While White admits that he’s still first and foremost a football coach, he is getting more comfortable with the title of business owner. He plans to open two other Subway restaurants in South Ward communities.
You just never know where a pro-football career will take you.
Four years ago all eyes were on Dajuan Wagner, 21, then a shooting guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team. Dajuan, a Camden native, had come off a phenomenal career at Camden High School where, in 2001, he became New Jersey’s all-time scoring leader with 3,642 points. He was the ultimate high school basketball star who made it big with the Cavs.
Where is Dajuan now? His sports career hasn’t been easy. Plagued by injuries and illness, including major surgery in 2005 to remove his colon, Dajuan is now currently playing for Polish basketball champions Prokom Trefl Sopot. The team, based in Sopot, Poland, plays in the Polish League and the Euroleague. He has said he wants to make a comeback in American basketball.
Dajuan’s professional basketball career is yet another example of how challenging it can be at the top. Here is a portion of an interview with Dajuan—then at the pinnacle of his brief sports career—that ran in NJ Next magazine in 2004:
Next: Now you’re playing with LeBron James, who went straight to the pros from high school. You spent one year at the University of Memphis before hitting the pros. Any regrets?
Dajuan: I’m happy I went to college for that year. I learned a lot in that one year about the game. I’m going to go back to college eventually. Right now I’m just focused on playing. I want to take my basketball career as far as I can.
Next: What kind of career are you interested in after pro sports?
Dajuan: I want to open up a few businesses. I have no idea what types of businesses yet, but I know that’s what I want to do.
Next: How has pro sports met your expectations?
Dajuan: The injuries have been hard, but everything else has been real good. I have no complaints. I like everything about pro basketball. I’m getting paid for something I really love to do.
Next: What advice would you give to young people who are considering a career in pro sports?
Dajuan: You can make it if you’re willing to work hard. A lot of people don’t work hard and don’t understand why they don’t get there. But it’s not all about playing. You’ve got to have your grades up just in case. You’ve got to have something to fall back on. School should always come first.
A professional sports career does not necessarily have to include a uniform and hours of endurance training. The list of professional sports-related jobs is as big as a football field and equally as satisfying for all you high school high scorers. Do you have what it takes? If so, why not consider some of these great sports-related careers: