September 26, 2017

Tapping the awesome power of the student athlete—off the field

The founder of Game Plan, Inc., challenges students with the question, 'how are you more than an athlete?'

The nonprofit Game Plan, Inc., engages student-athletes to be leaders on and off the field. Founder Sam Sesay spoke recently to football players at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Maryland. Photo by Dayo Kosoko/The Art Hype

Every year around this time, I get excited about the upcoming events and programming with Game Plan. This school year is the most enthusiastic I have ever been because we have great things in store to ensure our student athletes are primed for success on and off the field.

One reason for my excitement: we will be kicking off the “I Am More Than an Athlete” campaign. This campaign has been months in the making and we are looking forward to revealing it to the kids who are part of our program.

“I Am More Than an Athlete,” is not just a statement, it’s an affirmation. We want every student in our program to know and believe they are so much more than athletes. They are leaders, scholars, and future college graduates. Their sport and their athletic ability will not define them.

We want every student in our program to know and believe they are so much more than athletes. They are leaders, scholars, and future college graduates.

We want our students to reflect on what makes them more than athletes. We want them to understand their athletic careers will someday end, so they must plan now for their futures.

Like many youth, I had dreams of being a professional athlete. I did not have any other future aspirations. While I did well in school, I was always focused on being a great athlete and someday making it to the NFL. It didn’t matter what team I played for, but it would be icing on the cake if I could play for my hometown team, the Washington Redskins.

It wasn’t until I broke my leg for the second time that my life goals began to shift. While going pro would be an amazing accomplishment, I realized that at any given play, I could get severely injured and not be able to play again. I started to think of other careers—I loved the thought of one day being a business owner. I no longer viewed myself as “just an athlete.”

Unfortunately, many of my peers didn’t have that same realization. Their goals from youth never changed. It was football or nothing, basketball or nothing. They didn’t accomplish their goals of making it pro and they never had a plan B; they struggled to adjust. They didn’t realize they had so much more to offer than what they could do on the field or the court. This is ultimately why I formed Game Plan, Inc., to provide student athletes with opportunities to think about and prepare for their futures outside of their sport.

Not every student will have that epiphany moment like I had, so we provide 1st P.L.A.C.E. programming on personal development, leadership development, athletic excellence, college prep, and entrepreneurship training to assist them on their one day transition to life after sports.

A key component of our programming is allowing student athletes to hear stories of former athletes who have successfully maneuvered from athlete to lawyer, to accountant, to teacher, to artist, to chef, to entrepreneur, and other careers. These mentors inspire our current athletes to believe in themselves and to use their stories as a blueprint for their future success.

Many people say our youth are not prepared to enter the workforce, lack necessary life skills, or simply do not care. Instead of just pointing out these issues, Game Plan is attempting to be a part of the solution. Just asking the simple question, “how are you more than an athlete?” has sparked great conversations and insights. This school year will be fun.

Sam Sesay

Founder of Game Plan, Inc.

Sam Sesay is the founder and president of Game Plan, Inc. He is a former NCAA Division 1 All-American track and field athlete and team captain. Sesay holds a Masters in Entrepreneurship from Southern Methodist University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Management from George Mason University. His professional background includes time as a software engineer and a program manager/project manager consultant for multiple Fortune 500 companies and federal government agencies. Sesay also was a high school track coach, where during his four-year tenure, he led his team to two state championship titles, two runner-up state championship finishes, and multiple school and county records. Many of his athletes received athletic and academic scholarships to major universities. Sesay is happily married to Kristina Sesay and they reside in Bowie, Maryland.
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