Life after sports

Kent State senior forward Jimmy Hall drives against Buffalo red-shirt senior forward Raheem Johnson during the quarter-finals of the MAC Tournament at Quicken Loans in Cleveland, Ohio. Kent State won, 68-65.

Cameron Hoover

By the numbers, Jimmy Hall can look back on his basketball career at Kent State fondly.

A three-time first-team all-Mid-American Conference selection, Hall’s accolades as a member of the Flashes go on and on: He scored 683 points in his senior season, the most in school history, and pulled down 383 rebounds, second-most in Flashes history. Hall is the only Kent State player to ever finish a career with over 1,600 points and 800 rebounds, and his 1,683 points are good for third all-time in the Kent State record books.

When he ended his historic career with a 20-point, 15-rebound double-double in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament against a UCLA team loaded with future pros, Hall began looking at his own path to playing professional basketball, with options in the NBA’s developmental league and overseas.

As Hall began that professional career, embarking on a new journey away from Kent State basketball, he realized something: The school where he’d made his name famous hadn’t prepared him much for life after college hoops.

What he did learn in preparation, he learned from former Flashes who had made the leap to professional athletics.

“I think it helped me a little bit, learning from the alumni from Kent,” Hall said in a phone interview from Israel, where he now plays for Hapoel Migdal Haemek. “It’s hard, though. From classes and stuff, there’s not much. But as far as the alumni that came through Kent State to the pros, they always dropped a lot of knowledge about it. But finance-wise, I never took a class for it.”

While Hall may have felt like his college education on financial and professional issues left something to be desired, Kent State administrators like Katie Schilling and Amy Densevich are trying to incorporate these topics into the student-athletes’ curriculums so they won’t feel like Hall should they make the jump to the pros.

Schilling, also the associate director for student-athlete development, teaches a nonmandatory class available to student-athletes pertaining to life after sport. The class covers everything from resume and cover letter writing to interviewing, from elevator pitches to financial planning and from doing taxes to picking associates.

The class is worth one credit hour and meets once a week for 50 minutes. Schilling said there are usually between 10 to 20 people in the class.

Schilling said the class is important to the development of Kent State’s student-athletes because it allows them to utilize some of the interpersonal skills they learn from sport and relate them to the real world.

“What’s really hard with athletes is that they don’t have the time to get jobs throughout high school,” Schilling said. “They don’t have time to build a resume or get into those year-long internships, so we teach them how to utilize those skills they have as an athlete to show themselves as a positive person when they leave here.”

Densevich, the assistant athletic director for academic services, teaches a class called “Winning Combinations,” which focuses on ways that student-athletes can maintain a healthy lifestyle — physically and mentally — after college. Densevich recommends student-athletes take “Winning Combinations” in sometime in their first four semesters.

While finances aren’t discussed at length and the main purpose of the course is to ensure athletes comply with NCAA guidelines, Densevich still believes the class teaches student-athletes valuable life skills. Some of the main topics of discussion are drug testing, gambling, sexual harassment and consent, career services and nutrition.

Densevich said one of the most important lessons “Winning Combinations” teaches is responsibility and the accountability that comes from being part of the public identity of Kent State athletics.

“If they made a positive or a negative choice, who’s it going to impact?” Densevich said. “It’s a ‘the bubble is bigger than just you,’ kind of thing. We want to make them more self-aware.”

One of the biggest problems Hall said he faced when he made the transition from amateurism in college to the pros was being able to choose the correct associates. Hall said alumni like former Kent State basketball star and current AS Monaco (France) forward Chris Evans had to warn him of “how the real world works,” where not everyone has your best interests in mind.

Hall said he took notice of those “horror stories” before making decisions in his professional career.

The solution for Schilling’s class is a presentation from Douglas Muccio, a psychologist with University Health Services, who comes in and gives a presentation on his researching pertaining to life after sport. This segment is generally focused on mental health and dealing with people in the real world after letting go of athletics, which had been a major part of their identities in many cases for over 20 years.

When his time on the court is up, Hall hopes to come back as a Kent State alum and give the advice to student-athletes that he got heading into his first years as a professional.

Despite entering his new journey as a professional basketball player feeling less than perfectly equipped to handle it, Hall said he’s glad Kent State is incorporating these topics as much as they can now and strongly encourages student-athletes to take advantage.

“I feel like it should be a mandatory thing for student-athletes,” Hall said. “It’s just something everyone should know. I feel like it should be a mandatory thing in college, not even just for athletes.”

As for classes such as “Life After Sport,” Schilling believes she will continue to teach student-athletes valuable life skills through what some could see as a pessimistic viewpoint of going pro.

“My speech every year is, ‘Plan on not going pro, even if you know you’re going to,’” Schilling said. “In my mind, no one’s going pro. I need to educate them on everything. My goal is that we prepare them enough so that if they don’t — or when they don’t — they’re ready for that.”

Cameron Hoover is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].