It wasn’t a typical field trip for a group of South Carolina student-athletes, but for the Gamecocks involved in the Beyond Sports professional development and summer internship program, the short bus ride to Charlotte did provide a valuable educational experience in preparing for life after their playing days have ended. Nearly two dozen Gamecocks involved in the first year program offered by South Carolina Athletics met with professionals from a variety of fields in a panel discussion at the SEC Network headquarters, and later travelled to Bank of America Stadium to meet with professionals from the Carolina Panthers organization.
“Networking was the message I heard a lot,” said Ryan Bermudez, who recently finished his senior year with the track and field team. “All of the different people we met talked about how important that was in getting their start. The sports industry is a business. I think a lot of people go into it thinking that just because they know sports, then they can work in sports. That’s not really the case. These people echoed that and talked about making connections, having a good work ethic and being ready to put in a serious amount of work.”
“It was amazing to see the different career paths people took to get to where they are, and the different considerations and options they had,” said Sarah Taylor, a rising senior on the cross country and track and field teams. “It’s great to see how helpful professionals are in giving advice to help you move forward, find mentors, and a path that works for you so you can meet your goals.”
The panels stressed to the student-athletes that they won’t achieve their ultimate goals overnight. A pair of former Gamecocks were involved in the panel discussions, including former South Carolina swimmer Kristen Shaver (1999-2003), who now works as Director of Events for ESPN. She understands the perspective student-athletes have in trying to make the transition from being an athlete to a professional in a different field.
“It is about making connections,” Shaver said. “It felt like just the other day that I was sitting where they were. I’ve enjoyed a great career at ESPN, and there have been many people along the way who helped me get to where I am. It’s great to be able to pay that back and share some insights with the next generation.”
That work ethic that helped me succeed in football is something I can use for the rest of my life.Travelle Wharton
Former football student-athlete Travelle Wharton (2000-2003), who played for ten years in the NFL, was on the panel with the Panthers. He emphasized how hard work and preparation were not only keys to success as a student-athlete, but they are also key ingredients to success as a professional in any other career. That’s where a background in sports can help in any chosen field.
“That work ethic that helped me succeed in football is something I can use for the rest of my life,” Wharton said. “All of that can carry over, even if you’re not working in sports.” Wharton has enjoyed the discovery of different careers after sports as he has done some work in radio and television, and also had a stint on the South Carolina coaching staff before finding an opportunity to work with Panthers offensive line.
While many of the student-athletes in the Beyond Sports program have majors and internships that do not revolve around the sports industry, the information from the ESPN/SEC Network and Panthers’ employees was still applicable.
“This internship is a blessing for me because I never really had time throughout my four years to really have a good internship experience,” said Dessaa Legros, who recently finished her senior season and is interning at Chernoff Newman marketing and communications firm. “This is the first field trip that I’ve ever had a real takeaway and enjoyed it. It made learning fun.”
“This was similar to those field trips as a kid because of how fun it was,” said Taylor, who is interning at Nephron Pharmaceuticals and is a global studies and chemistry major. “It was really informative to learn all of the background that goes into making businesses successful and brands possible.”
“This was a phenomenal experience, and definitely one I will remember for the rest of my life,” Bermudez said.