Panel Treats Realities Of Pro Sports Careers

Sports management experts yesterday urged students contemplating a career as athletes to maintain a backup plan.

While the lure of professional athletics is strong, members of yesterday's first annual Professional Sports Counseling Panel at the Murr Center Hall of History gave students a glimpse of the industry's realities.

"You have to understand what life on the cusp is really like." said Chapman Professor of business Administration at the Harvard Business School Stephen A. Greyser '56.

The panel, comprised of students and experts in sports management and sports law, spoke about option as well as sports-related fields.

They encouraged athletes to pursue athletic aspirations, yet cautioned that it would be a hard road.

"Things won't always be rosy," said Jeffrey S. Mitchell '94, a 42nd round selection in the Major League Baseball draft. "Injuries happen."

And they did to Mitchell, who left Harvard after his junior year to pursue a career in professional baseball.

After bouncing around in the Montreal Expos organization for four seasons, he moved on to a job at Fidelity Investment.

The start to Thomas J. McLaughlin's '98 career also embodies the vicissitudes of life in athletics.

Things appeared ideal for McLaughlin as he was signed to a contract by the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer on the day after his last final exam.

Only one month later, he was released and is now playing with their farm team, the Worcester Wildfire.

Donald Lowery, a New England Patriots official, summed up the difficulties that rookies faced in professional sports.

"You're trying to take somebody's job," he said. "And in a league as the NFL, the guys are out to kill you."

Despite the admonitions, Crimson athletes continue to pursue athletic careers.

"It's always been a dream of mine to be a pro athlete," said Daniel S. Saken '01, a member of the baseball team.

Last year's slight increase in the normal trickle of Harvard students into the world of professional athletics made last night's panel especially relevant.

Graduates from the Class of 1998 are currently playing professional baseball, basketball, football, ice hockey, soccer and tennis.

One of the most visible of these athletes, Alison Feaster, was drafted fifth overall in the Women's National Basketball Association's (WNBA) draft last April. Some participants said Feaster is a symbol of the increasing opportunities for female athletes after graduation.