by Kevin Owens
So where does an ex-athlete seeking gainful employment go? Well if you are like me, then you attend a local high school’s career day… as a presenter. As flattered as I was to be invited to a career day — without a career — I felt I may be deceiving these kids. Especially when I saw the information card waiting for me at my table, which read:
Professional Basketball Trainer,
Professional Writer and Former
Professional Basketball Player
Looks great on paper. Very, ummm… What is the word I’m looking for here? Oh right, professional. Although technically, to be considered a “professional,” one must be able earn an income comparable to the rest of the field. The other participants were doctors, nurses and business persons. Even though I made more than most of them during my playing career, now that I am retired… not so much. They may all currently have substantial work, but I think I had the coolest information card. (Although Scott Palmer, a legend of Philadelphia broadcasting was in attendance, and definitely is way cooler than I am.)
I arrived and set up my area, which consisted of brochures to my basketball camps, a business card holder sans business cards and a half-dead cell phone. I was ready. My table was set up in a row consisting of myself, my brother and my brother in law.
Then in came the swarm of kids. They flocked to my table mostly because of my height and the prime real estate I was set up with. They became intrigued with the fact that I played professional basketball, however this point was lost on some of the kids.
One student said it best, “What if we are not tall? How do we become professional basketball players?” I explained to him that it took years of hard work in order to achieve what I have. He just stared at me wide eyed. I informed him that he may be focusing too much on my height rather than the inspirational point I was trying to make. But I could tell that he could not wrap his head around how he could ever become a professional basketball player.
Conversations like this continued throughout the morning including this gem I had with a student:
Student: So what did you play? Basketball or something?
Me: (Looking at the huge sign on the front of my desk) Yes, I did. Do you play basketball?
Me: Oh nice…for the school?
Student: Nah, I just play and stuff.
Me: OK, why don’t you play for the school?
Student: Well…If you get over 100 disciplinary points, you are not allowed to play sports.
Me: How many points do you have?
I believe it was at that point when I turned to my two brothers and in my best snooty maitre-d from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off voice muttered, “I weep for the future.”
I guess since I am a professional basketball player, the riff raff of the school decided to congregate around me and ask me the same three questions.
“Where did you play basketball?”
“What team did you play for?”
“How tall are you?”
On several occasions I was able to defer the last question to my brother, who is taller than I am. On another occasion, after questions about Australia, I began speaking in a phony Australian accent. I had most of the group going until my brother in law gave me up. Either I have a real good Australian accent, or the kids have never met anyone from Australia. Probably the latter.
Although I may not currently have the “ideal career,” I enjoyed talking to this group about pursuing something you love. For the most part the students understood the life lessons I was throwing at them. They hopefully took into consideration the hard work and dedication needed to achieve your goals. Maybe there is some hope for the future of our country after all. Perhaps next year as opposed to 800 points, my man can get his discipline points down to a more respectable number.