From the basketball court to the class-/conference room – Tougher than expected (Episode 19)

Highlights, challenges, obstacles and how pro-athlete mentality fits into business world

In this Episode of WUEconomics Outside the Box Podcast I had the chance to talk with two former professional basketball 🏀players Chris Mc Naughton and Christof Henneberger about highlights, challenges, obstacles, the transition to work-life and how pro-athlete mentality prepares and fits into business world. Among other stations, both played together for two years at s.Oliver Baskets Wuerzburg, the home club and town of Dirk Nowitzki and Maxi Kleber. Although both looked back at different careers and followed different ways afterwards, there are a lot of parallels.

SPORTS CAREERS & HIGHLIGHTS 🏀

Chris played for several professional teams in Germany (BBL) and Spain (LEB). In Germany he joined s.Oliver Baskets Wuerzburg from 2012-2014 and became a member of the German National Team, where he played at the FIBA World Championship Tournament 2010 in Turkey. From 2003-2007 he played in the NCAA at Bucknell University and was part of the team that that made it to the NCAA tournament and booked two consecutive first round victories. Christof Henneberger, born and raised in Wuerzburg, Germany, has been the local hero for his home-team s.Oliver Baskets Würzburg for several years. He played on the team from 2007-2014. From 2011-2014 he  played with the s.Oliver Baskets  in the BBL, first national league in Germany.

We talked about the motivation, preparation and challenges of the career after the career. Chris and Christof talked about their career as athletes, the highlights, losses and how their sports life prepared them for their second careers.

CAREER AFTER THE CAREER 👔- NOT AS EASY AS IT ALWAYS SEEMS

Christof and Chris followed completely different paths and along the way they faced various challenges. Christof was studying to become a teacher in mathematics and sports before he became a pro athlete,so the future-plans were pretty clear. He has now been a teacher at Dag-Hammarskjöld-Gymnasium in Würzburg for over a year.

For Chris, the transition turned out to be tougher than expected, which is probably the case for most athletes because they have to start from scratch again in a new, competitive environment.

When you are in the midst of a professional sports career, you think it will work out easy. Especially when you have a degree in electrical engineering and a decent network outside of sports – but when you end your career, it is an illusion to think that the world is waiting for you with open arms. Especially in the field of electrical engineering, companies are looking for people with working experience – as an athlete, this is mostly one thing you cannot bring in. In some way similar to Christof, Chris was looking for s.th. in the business world that he could relate to as an athlete. He was looking for a team environment where it is possible to collaborate 🤝, where goals are set and you are responsible for achieving them – so that hasn`t really changed from athletics so much. He was looking for something fast-paced – something that requires a lot of hard work for success. He found all of those things at Gartner, where he got the opportunity to start as a Strategic Business Partner to SMB clients of Gartner in North America.

It plays out that the experiences they gained in sports and the team setting and goal-oriented mindset led them to where they are today and remain a part of their professional lives.  In the end, you will learn that the transition was tougher than expected and what is currently on the agenda to stay healthy.

GOALS 🎯

Professional athletes are constantly focused on goals. Therefore, Christof and Chris outlined their intermediate and long-term goals.

As an intermediate goal, Chris is working on becoming a team leader for a unit like he is currently a part of at Gartner. In the long-run, Chris can imagine working in a strategic role for larger enterprises. As Gartner provides a lot of opportunities to work all over the world, he wouldn`t rule out coming back to Germany one day. He has learned to go one step at a time.

Besides the further development as a teacher, Christof is working on two amazing projects. Currently, he is building a basketball academy at his school, where he provides talented and motivated kids the opportunity to participate in a program based on basketball training.. Under the roof of the planned academy, young and ambitious kids get basketball hours in addition to regular class, school sports and practice at the club. Let`s see if he can find and promote the next Dirk Nowitzki in Würzburg. In addition, Christof works on a “tiny house project”: he bought a “tiny house” – a house of around 35 sqm which is portable on a truck and provides the possibility to live completely autarkic. He wants to get more into that living style. Christof says he wants to show people other opportunities to live – basic, minimal, self-sufficient. The system provides options to produce your own energy (via solar cells) and your own canalizations and has its own water system. He is passionate about that project and wants to bring the idea to other people.

EXPERIENCES IN DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

To digress, we talk about the impact of digital transformation of SMB in the US (North America), the sports industry and schools. Chris describes that in many cases, he starts with shaping people`s mindset and introducing digital core technologies. For instance, moving businesses to the cloud, getting them ready for new things in the market, and preparing them for the time when Blockchain, AI and others get integrated for SMB more easily. The manufacturing industry is a really interesting place right now for Chris because there are a lot of dynamic and amazing projects.

Concerning sports, new technologies and data bring a lot of opportunities that have the potential to make scouting, training and the game itself better in the long run. It comes down to the point that one big challenge is to transform data into information that can be used to make better decisions and strategies.

Concerning school, Christof shares some critical notes. No doubt, there are huge opportunities at school too. But he still thinks that talking to people is highly important. In fact, the basics are important in almost every field. For example, if you think about learning a technical occupation in the German dual VET system (mechanical engineering / mechatronics etc.). Although digital transformation is present at schools and at work and has a huge impact on the current workflow and processes, apprentices still need basics and need to know how the e.g. the material (steel) feels. Therefore, it is an basic, but important part of their training time. Additionally, communication has changed a lot in the last years; however, basic communication skills as well as team behavior and leadership aspects are still highly important.

FUN FACT – THE REAL MAYOR OF WUERZBURG

Chris told us an inside fun fact at the end – he pointed out, that Christof forgot to mention one important goal, which is to become the mayor of Wuerzburg. As a local player, original born “Wuerzburger Jung” he had a large network in town and therefore all of the foreigners on the team of s.Oliver Baskets Würzburg said he was the mayor of Wuerzburg. Now this was just fun, the mayor doesn`t have to be afraid.

For more details, listen to the full podcast Episode!

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