TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) — Leaders Yearning for Excellence (LYFE),hosted a networking event on Oct. 16th, called LYFE Ignite with their mission to help student-athletes establish business contacts and develop networking skills. LYFE Beyond the Spear is a Florida State community and development program that seeks to increase academic motivation and success among student athletes, particularly African American male student-athletes at Florida State University.
While the goal of many student-athlete is to play professionally, the reality is that less than two percent of all student-athletes actually move on to the professional level. Many of them have only ever known what life is like while playing their sport and making business connections while in school are crucial to a student athlete’s post college success.
Brandon Bowden is the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs at Florida State. He also provides leadership for the university’s Black Male Initiative (BMI).
“Derrick Coles reached out to me a few months ago about a potential collaboration between the FSU LYFE initiative and BMI,” said Brandon Bowden, the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs at Florida State. “We had thirteen BMI mentors commit who all participated in the speed networking event.”
The event was set up with one to two mentors at each table and each student-athlete sat down one-on-one with a mentor. The student-athletes rotated every five minutes.
“The student-athletes were charged with having a conversation with the mentors about their background, what they are studying in school, and what their plans are post-college, and perhaps even after their sport,” said Bowden. “Not only was this an opportunity for them to engage with staff members and faculty from across campus, it was also an opportunity to get them out of their comfort zone and to talk about things other than their sport.”
According to Bowden, the event was “overwhelmingly positive” for the student-athletes.
Jessica Francis, an Assistant Director of Educational Services in the Athletics Academic Services Unit at Florida State, helped put together the networking event.
“We brought in Dr. Calvin Williams, from the Career Center on campus, as our facilitator,” said Francis. “He worked with the student-athletes on the importance of networking and how to build their communication skills through networking.”
“The LYFE Administrative staff was so proud of how the guys overcame their fears and soared at this event,” said Francis.
With the constant pressure to compete and win that student-athletes face, it can often be easy to forget about life after athletics. The LYFE initiative helps to bridge that gap.
Michael Ojo, a member of the Seminole basketball team, had many positive things to say about the networking event as well as the LYFE initiative.
“It’s one thing for you to dream about something, and it’s another thing for you to pursue that dream,” said Ojo. “They taught me that if the business world is something that you really want, you need to start working towards that direction, start meeting people that are helpful. One thing that stuck out to me is don’t second guess yourself. If it is something you really want, go for it.”
Ojo, who is from Lagos, Nigeria, is currently working on earning his Master’s Degree in International Affairs. He plans on playing professional basketball, but he wants to be prepared for life after basketball.
“The mentors told me that I could be an ambassador for my country”, Ojo said. “There is always a life after basketball.”
One of the goals of the event was to collect as many business cards as each student-athlete could.
“This event was not just about getting business cards,’” said Auden Tate of the Seminole football team. “It was about using those business cards to follow up with the people that we met afterwards and building on that connection.”
By Sean Asher
Florida State Sports Information