5th year Finance Major Ben Donovan played on the men's tennis team as a mustang for four years. Ray Ambler Photography

As the quarter comes to a close, many graduating students prepare for life after college. For some, this means taking a gap year to figure out their next step. For others, a job already awaits. Whatever the case may be, there are a few students who find themselves in a unique position: transitioning from college athletics into life after sports.

The transition for some of these athletes can be challenging, as the majority of their time in college has been dedicated to training, traveling and competing for their respective sports. Business administration fifth-year Ben Donovan played for Cal Poly Men’s tennis for four years and was nationally ranked in both singles and doubles. Upon finishing his playing career at Cal Poly, Donovan said he understands the difficulty of finding an identity outside of the sport he worked at for so long.

“Tennis has been the singular focus of my life up until this point, so without it I definitely felt lost for a period of time. I’m slowly starting to discover my identity outside of the sport, but it’s still a work in progress,” Donovan said.

How athletics prepares you for the workforce and beyond

Despite the challenging time Donovan has faced upon ending his playing career, there are several aspects of a collegiate athlete experience that teach and prepare athletes for life post-college. Recreation, Parks and Tourism Administration senior Garret Auproux also competed for Cal Poly men’s tennis and compiled a strong record in both singles and doubles during his four years of eligibility. Auproux reminisces about his time playing, emphasizing the team aspect of athletics.

“I feel like I gained some important skills from being on the team. It’s interesting with tennis because it’s such an individual sport, but the team aspect of college tennis really helped me with practical skills I would have normally not gained. As a junior and senior, I was able to lead the younger players which helped me with communication and leadership skills. I feel like I can take those skills and my experience into a job and thrive in a team-oriented working environment,” Auproux said.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of college athletics is the value and rarity of a student athlete. The discipline and professionalism cultivated in a college team environment can be practically applied to other areas in life. In athletics, there is adversity and stress that applies to life after college. Donovan said his participation in athletics gave him the skills necessary for the workforce.

“I think college athletics has prepared me the most for life after college. Outside of the career and academic counseling we get through the athletic department, being a part of a team and taking on the role as a leader of that team has taught me how to better work with people and take on a level of responsibility that I would argue most people my age haven’t experienced yet,” Donovan said.

Standing out in the workforce

When employers look for candidates who stand out, student athletes may catch the eye of many companies. The skills of leadership, communication and responsibility are highly valued, and the resume of a collegiate athlete speaks for itself from the commitment and dedication required to succeed. Auproux said he feels confident in the growth he experienced as an athlete and believes he can carry his experience into life after college.

“I learned some valuable life lessons from college tennis that I can apply to my life after school. College sports [are] like a job. You have a fixed amount [of] hours every week, and you have to take responsibility how much effort and focus you put into it. This aspect of college sports really makes a practical connection in the transition of an athlete to life after college,” Auproux said.

Regardless of the path student-athletes choose after college, there are distinctly unique attributes of hard work and dedication that are not found anywhere else. The experiences of athletes serves as a testament to the Learn by Doing philosophy present in Cal Poly athletics, a means to facilitate success in the workforce for years to come.

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