From Nikes to Heels: How Being an Athlete Makes Me a Better Professional

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As public relations students and professionals, we understand the importance of efficient communication. Our success lies in our ability to form lasting relationships and communicate effectively with clients, key publics, media and co-workers. Some public relations professionals were born with a natural aptitude for the career. Their effortless charm, creative thinking, leadership abilities and strong writing skills guided them to the profession, while others obtained these qualities a bit differently. Whether it was during a public speaking class, holding a student government position, joining an extracurricular activity or doing a community service project, we eventually found our niche. Mine was developed as an athlete, and I would not be the person — or professional — I am today without basketball.

When I was younger, whenever someone asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” my honest answer was always, “A basketball player.” If our future careers were supposed to be something we’re good at and passionate about, basketball seemed like the obvious choice. I had been playing since I was nine years old, and at the time I thought I was destined for the WNBA. However, my parents and teachers never failed to remind me that my education was most important and that my basketball career wouldn’t last forever. As much as it hurt to hear, the advice resonated with me.

As I reminisce on the journey I’ve taken with the sport that I love, I realized something undeniable. The impact this game has made on my life extends much further than a 90-foot court.

  • The numerous hours I spent shooting and practicing in the gym gave me the diligence and self-discipline required to study for final exams, meet deadlines and work through difficult projects.
  • Learning to listen attentively to my coaches and make adjustments in the heat of a game taught me how to respectfully listen and respond to my teachers and bosses.
  • Communicating and working with teammates from all walks of life helped me gain valuable leadership skills and understand that not all people are the same.
  • Handling the pressure of intense game situations showed me the significance of keeping my composure.
  • Juggling school, work, practice, games and extracurricular activities taught me how to manage my time.
  • The humbling experiences of losing games or playing poorly taught me the true meaning of perseverance.

Although a good education is extremely important, sometimes, the most vital life lessons are learned simply by doing what you love. It didn’t take me long to realize I wasn’t going to the WNBA, but thanks to the skills acquired throughout my athletic career, I can now confidently say, “I want to be a public relations professional when I grow up.” Basketball helped me find my passion, first on the court, and now in life.


Shannon Jack is an aspiring public relations/marketing professional at Ohio Northern University. She is a member of the varsity women’s basketball team and was recently named Academic All-Conference. She is also a member of @ONU_PRSSA and is the elected delegate to represent her Chapter at the 2017 PRSSA National Assembly.

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