Walk-On

Whats up everybody?! Welcome back to another installment the best sport business and lifestyle blog in the world; Carters Call! This summer has really been flying by! Can you believe that this is already our final call of July??? Neither can I! Its fitting that this call is our final call of the month because it addresses a hot button topic among young professionals across all industries and business functions especially in competitive industries. Working an unpaid internship tin exchange for experience or what I like to call being a business "Walk-On". In sports, specifically in collegiate athletics, "Walk-On's" have become commonplace. These are student-athletes that are not recruited nor on scholarship but participate in an tryout held by the team in hopes to earn a roster spot. In some cases, these "Walk-On's" that add value to a team will earn athletic scholarships as a reward for their dedication and contributions to the program. This is the best case scenario for a "Walk-On" student athlete. In most cases however, "Walk-on" student athletes do not earn athletic scholarships but are instead rewarded with the experience of being a collegiate athlete and all the perks associated with that. Depending on whom you ask, some would say it is a fair tradeoff given the circumstances. Contrarily, there are some who dismiss the idea of "Walk-On's", claiming that playing for free is a waste of time. Ideally everyone would like to be rewarded for their works, however, dismissing an opportunity because of a lack of compensation may be more costly in the long run.

I liken the experience of being a "Walk-On" student athlete to being an unpaid intern or an business "Walk-On". Unpaid interns are typically hired by companies for a temporary period; this period acts as an audition/tryout for the intern to prove to full-time employees and ultimately hiring managers their worth. In the best case scenario the unpaid intern adds value to the company and earns the respect of full-time employees. This may also lead to a full-time position which is the equivalent of earning a scholarship. However in most cases, these interns are only rewarded in experience they can add to their resume, and an expanded network that can be leveraged into a potential interview for a position with another company. Depending on where you are in your professional pursuits, the experience you gain in your internship may be well worth the lack of monetary compensation. 

As we can see, there are some clear parallel's between an athletic "Walk-on" and an business "Walk-On". Both "Walk On's" have the opportunity to gain a great experience and grow their personal/professional network. There is also the opportunity to earn a full-time position with compensation. These experiences have even been played out on the big screen most notably in the 1989 film 'Rudy', staring Sean Astin as Rudy Ruettiger and the 2013 film 'The Internship' starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. In Rudy, Astin's character decides to "Walk-On" the football team at Notre Dame in hopes of realizing his dream of playing college football. Throughout the film, we see Astin's character whom is at a great physical disadvantage, out work the more talented scholarship athletes both on and off the field. At the film's climax, Astin's character Rudy is given the opportunity to suit up for the final game of his senior season. In which, Rudy, (Astin) records his only two tackles of his career on the final two plays of the game as the stadium chants his name. In 'The Internship, Wilson and Vaughn's characters are laid off from their longtime sales jobs and decide to apply for unpaid internship at Google. The internship doubles as an extended audition for full-time positions at the company. Initially, Wilson's and Vaughn's characters struggle to adapt to the millennial work environment. Not to mention, competition with the other insanely intelligent interns from all over the world. However, with great effort, social wit and a ton of luck, they were able to lead their team to victory by generating the most revenue and creating the best solution to the proposed problem. 

Granted, the previous examples are movies and they romanticize the process of being a "Walk-On", there are relevant takeaways. Particularly for those of you who are currently "Walk-On's" or considering being a "Walk-On" for a team or company. 

  1. Consistency: Just because you are not realizing the fruits of your labor immediately, does not mean that you won't achiever your goals in the long run. Consistency is a major key.
  2. Hard work > Talent; The most intelligent or most physically gifted people are not always the ones who are the most productive. Sometimes its the intern or the athlete that arrives earliest and practices the hardest adds the most value. 
  3. Intrinsic Motivation; The successful "Walk-On's" are those that are most passionate about what they are pursuing. Intrinsic motivation will drive you much further than anything external. 

I understand that being a "Walk-On" isn't for everyone. I also understand that many people can't afford to work for free. However in highly competitive industries like Sports and Entertainment, that may be the only way to get your foot in the door. 

If you can negotiate compensation by all means I support you whole heartedly! Get your money! But remember that it is not always the most important thing. There are few better feelings then rising up the totem pole after starting from the bottom and earning every penny. 

To those of you reading who are currently "Walk-On's" I encourage you to keep fighting for what you want! Be passionate, consistent and out work everyone you work with. I can assure you, you will be happy with the result no matter what. 

Until our next call, have a wonderful finish to you week!

- Christian A. Carter