Basketball ace to take part in innovative dual career project
“It’s a bit nerve wracking going back to school aged 37, but I can’t wait to get started and see what the programme brings.”
Olympian Drew Sullivan is best known for his professional and international basketball career, including captaining the GB team at the London 2012 games.
But the Leicester Riders player is now looking ahead to prepare for a new chapter and ultimately for life after sport.
Beginning in July, FIBA Europe’s TIME-OUT is a unique project designed specifically for elite basketball players who want to continue their post-playing careers in the field of sport.
Working in partnership with FIBA and Northumbria University, TASS will deliver the Talented Athlete Lifestyle Support certificate, or TALS for short, to the participants.
Sullivan has been selected for the innovative programme along with 80 other star players including Bostjan Nachbar, Ann Wauters, Jiri Welsch, Maria Stepanova and Nevriye Yilmaz.
After playing professionally for 14 years in six different countries, it’s not surprising that the former GB captain is approaching his next step with some trepidation.
“I was a slightly apprehensive at first as I haven’t been in a classroom for years. The last time was when I was studying for my Liberal Arts degree in the States.”
Since graduating from university in 2002, Sullivan admits he really has – pardon the pun – put all of his eggs in one basket.
“Whenever I meet young athletes I always advise them to take advantage their situation and make sure they get an education because it’s so much more difficult to go back later.”
Inspired by NBA legends like Chicago Bulls’ Scottie Pippen, he’s achieved all his aspirations on court, but Britain’s most-capped player is now getting ready for a new challenge.
The TIME-OUT project aims to integrate retired players into the labour market, supporting athletes in making the transition from elite athlete to top manager.
In addition to the TALS element, participants will gain a ‘Leadership and Management’ diploma from Northumbria University and a FIBA ‘Basketball Management’ qualification.
The work-related degree programme will build upon the players’ transferable skills as a professional sportsperson. Sullivan is quietly confident about his ability and expertise:
“I guess I’m bit of a perfectionist and like to get things done. If needs be, I can step up to be the leader and make sure everything is ‘on point’.
I’m also more comfortable in high pressure situations than most because I think ‘hey, you know what, this is just the same level of pressure as playing against another national team’.”
In recent years Sullivan has enjoyed having the chance to switch the basketball court for the martial arts mat, spending the off-season competing and coaching jiu jitsu.
The BJJ blue belt seems to have found a sport which he believes has not only improved his overall fitness, but has reinvigorated his love for basketball too. He explained:
“Doing jiu jitsu has been so good for my mental wellbeing; just being able to change gears once in a while makes you feel like you have even more energy when you’re back on court.
“When you’re on the mat, your attention has to be 100% into what you’re doing. It’s that level of focus that has been great for my state of mind”
The basketball veteran has also been giving back to the next generation, running workshops and training camps in schools across the country.
“I love seeing the youngsters’ energy, how willing they are to try new things and I find it really inspiring to see them improve.
“When I was growing up I wished I could spend some time with a pro athlete so I hope what we do makes a real impact to the young players.”
The TIME-OUT project will provide Sullivan with the chance to potentially move his career into coaching or sports management in the future.
“Being a part of this can only advance my options and I’m looking forward to broadening my experiences. It’s a massive opportunity for me and I can’t wait.”