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From The Game Field, to The Game of Life: Examining Student-athlete’s Value in Corporate America

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In Good to Great, Jim Collins (2001) notes that the leaders of phenomenal companies, in which he studied throughout his career, paid tremendous amounts of time and resources when striving to hire the “right people” for their organisations.

“In determining the right people, the good-to-great companies placed greater weight on character attributes than on specific educational background, practical skills, specialized knowledge, or work experience. Not that specific knowledge, or skills are unimportant, but they viewed these traits as more teachable (or at least learnable), whereas they believed dimensions like character, work ethic, basic intelligence, dedication to fulfilling commitments, and values are more ingrained” (Collins, 2001)

Collins (2001) stresses the actuality that “good-to-great” companies have a lucid understanding that people serve as a company’s biggest asset when attempting to gain a competitive advantage within their respective marketplace. These deemed “great” companies understand that once an individual with the right talent is found, he or she can obtain the specific knowledge and skills needed for a particular role through training (Gordon, Crabtree, 2006). According to an Economic News Release published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2017, 368,000 students earned an associates degree. 1.2 million students earned a bachelors degree, and 442,000 students earned an advanced degree, that being, a master’s, professional, or doctoral degree in the United States of America (, 2018). What seems astonishing on the surface, in reality serves as a crisis. The excess supply of university graduates serves as problematic for human resources departments, responsible for recruiting, attracting, hiring, and retaining initiatives. Similarly, students find themselves constantly searching for fruitful methods to differentiate themselves from the excessive and oversaturated candidate market.

In the United States ### students participate in collegiate-athletics, as well as balance the mandatory curriculum in which the Institution sets amongst all of its’ students, with no exceptions. Employers are beginning to recognize the value in which student-athlete’s experiences bring forth to their corporation and overall work environment. As a result, new recruiting and career services firms, with undeviating focus on acting as intermediaries between corporate businesses and former athletes, are becoming more prominent. In an interview with the CEO of Game Theory Group, Vincent McCaffrey, he stated, “Six out of the past 11 U.S. presidents were collegiate athletes… You can train an employee on the day-to-day job requirements, but you cannot change work ethics. Athletes already have that dedication.” However, oftentimes the value in which collegiate-athletes bring to the “real world” goes left unnoticed by not only the corporations in which they aspire to work for, but also the student-athletes themselves.

In some cases however, student-athletes recognize their worth, as well as the applicable skills in which their collegiate-athletics career brought to the surface of their life. But what, precisely, are these embodied skills? Are they of value to corporate organizations, and are they capable of creating a competitive advantage in the workplace? Historically, scholars have continually questioned the extent to which intercollegiate athletics align with the mission of higher education (Enlinson, 2013; McCormick & McCormick, 2006; Sack & Staurowsky, 1998; Sperber, 1990, 2000; Zimbalist, 1999). When it comes to drawing correlations between intercollegiate athletics and education in the United States, most of the existing research is concentrated and targeted towards GPA and other conventional educational views. However,

The broad goal of higher education, however, is to prepare individuals for the rest of their lives and develop productive members of society (Dressler, 2014). There are many different theories on how to best accomplish this task, but most scholars agree that a broad-based, holistic education is tremendously valuable (Haynes, 1990). Intercollegiate athletics issue students a chance to receive an aggregate learning experience and education. However, miniscule research has been conducted in order to gain a true perception as to how these sporting activities directly impact students, beyond the physical skills they develop on the field or on the court.

While there has been informal and bounded research hypothesizing that participation in intercollegiate athletics may make athletes more marketable when applying for employment (Long & Caudill, 1991; Henderson et al., 2006; McCann, 2012; Rivera, 2011; Shulman & Bowen, 2001; US Department of Education, 1990), there is limited literature specifically addressing this phenomenon. By distinguishing and pinpointing the distinct palpable skills, capabilities, and intangible qualities that are associated with intercollegiate sports participation, this study aims to contribute to the already existing literature examining the value of athletics. The results of this study will assist in determining whether or not intercollegiate athletics are aligned with the goals of higher education, and ascertain whether or not they help develop student-athletes into future business leaders. If so, what competitive advantages, if any, can these former student-athletes provide for human resources sectors that understand the value in hiring for long-term success?

Purpose of study

The overarching motivation of this study is to distinguish the tangible skills and intangible qualities that are commonly associated with former student athletes. As well as the addressing of the competitive advantages, if any, accumulated by former student-athlete acquisition in Corporate America. A great deal of well established corporations are beginning to target former collegiate-athletes for employment opportunities and this dissertation assignment aims to discern why. Strictly speaking, the perceived attributes in which employers closely identify with former collegiate-athletes will be at the forefront of discussion, as well as the value in which former collegiate-athletes believe they bestow upon the corporate world.

In an interview with Business Insider (2015), business owner Steve Bell-Irving was quoted saying, “Employers see how athletes are driven to compete, strive to constantly improve, and have the thick skin to accept critical feedback. Industries that require great tenacity target these individuals when hiring, because the employer believes these skills will transfer to the workplace.” The results of this study aim to broaden awareness of how employers view these extracurricular activities in comparison to other supplemental experiences highlighted on a resume submission. Also, being evaluated is whether the specific sport, gender of participant, level of competition, success levels, and leadership experience, have a distinct effect on employers overall view on employable collegiate-athletes. Lastly, interviews will be conducted with student-athletes in order to garner an idea of their experiences with collegiate-athletics, academia and employment opportunities. Whether or not they are even cognizant of their perceived value will surface. With companies constantly striving to find and maintain competitive advantages, people are becoming corporation’s biggest “assets”, not solely business processes, or technology, making selection process information relevant in present times.

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From the Game Field, to the Game of Life: Examining Student-athlete’s Value in Corporate America. (2019, March 27). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 23, 2023, from
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