Student-athletes on the Clark University men’s basketball team are receiving extra guidance and support as they navigate college and prepare for life after graduation thanks to a new initiative that connects current and former players.
Coach Tyler Simms has drawn upon the program’s vast alumni network to establish a mentorship program that includes regular Zoom meetings and one-on-one relationship building. During the fall semester, the team met weekly with professionals representing a wide range of fields — from finance to sports psychology and beyond — who shared their career journeys and life experiences with the student-athletes.
“Our alumni are not only successful, but passionate about Clark and Clark basketball,” Simms says. “That passion really helps our guys. At the end of the day, you come to Clark to get a great education, but also to set yourself up for what’s after.”
Co-captain Chuck Stevens ’21, a political science major with a concentration in international relations, found a mentor in Lawrence Norman ’94, MBA ’95, a former Adidas executive who teaches a course at Clark called Marketing to You. Stevens and Norman were paired up because of their shared interest in the business side of basketball, and after enrolling in Norman’s class last fall, Stevens was hired as an intern with Israeli basketball team Ironi Ness Ziona. He works directly under head coach Brad Greenberg, who is a former NBA general manager, to help with a variety of tasks, including scouting.
“I’m a senior and I’ll be graduating into the world we’re living in right now. It’s tough to network and land jobs, and the fact that I’m able to work remotely for a team in Israel while completing my course work at Clark has been huge for me,” Stevens says. “What I’ve learned throughout the internship will carry over throughout the rest of my career.”
Stevens says he and his teammates enjoyed networking with alumni because it allowed them to hear from former players who were once in their sneakers. Guests included Kevin Cherry ’81, chief financial officer of St. Mary’s High School in Lynn, Massachusetts, and former budget director for the Boston Public Schools; former Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash ’83, who spoke to the team during election season; Lawrence Norman ’94 MBA ’95; renowned sports psychologist Dr. Joel Fish ’75, and many others.
“These are people who went through our program and shared a lot of the experiences that we did. It means a lot to us,” Stevens says. “Every single Zoom call we’ve had is transferrable to what each of us want to do going forward. Every speaker has been incredibly valuable in their own unique way.”
The basketball team also worked with several partners across campus who provided additional support during a challenging year — including Nadia Ward, director of the Mosakowski Institute for Public Enterprise and one of the men’s basketball faculty liaisons, who met with student-athletes regularly to check in about their wellbeing and discuss current events.
“Dr. Ward’s background in psychology with a focus on adolescent youth of color has helped our program immensely,” Simms says. “She can relate to our guys and connect with them in a way that makes them feel comfortable. We’ve had a lot of different conversations, especially around the racial injustices that are happening in our society.
“I tell our players and our recruits all the time that Clark is a special place,” Simms adds. “These are people who really care about our student-athletes.”
Through ClarkCONNECT, you can meet Clark alumni who not only share industry expertise and career-preparation advice, but also provide internship and employment opportunities. #clarkconnectsyou