Each year recruiters approach Mary Burke, Bryant College’s women’s basketball coach, inquiring about top prospects among her senior players.
These recruiters aren’t, however, looking for centers for the Boston Celtics or a Bryant Bulldog to round out the Chicago Bulls roster, now that Michael Jordan has hinted at retiring again. Instead, they are employment recruiters interested in hiring employees with an athlete’s discipline and competitive drive, Burke explained.
Such characteristics are highly valued by many employers. This perhaps explains statistics cited by the American Association of University Women, which indicate about 80 percent of women “leaders” employed by Fortune 500 companies played sports as children.
It is not surprising to Burke, who has coached the team for eight years and played basketball at Providence College in the 1980s, that pharmaceutical firms looking for sales managers and other companies with jobs to fill would approach her.
“Athletes are automatically competitive; that’s usually why they excel in sports. I think that’s why they get such an edge over other students,” Burke said. In addition, she said, “they learn to sacrifice a lot. When you’re on a team, you don’t have the same amount of free time that others do.”
The 12 team members must balance a full class load at the business college with the rigors of a season that runs from September to March, Burke said. “There’s huge commitments to that, but it does have its rewards.”
Bryant, which is charging $15,600 for full-time tuition this year, offers 10 full scholarships to women basketball players and 10 for male basketball players, Burke explained.
And when Bryant officials visit high schools to recruit players for the women’s team, Burke said they use the school’s academic reputation and history of helping students secure jobs as ways to attract top players. Players, Burke added, are eager “to let basketball be an opportunity for them to get a great education.”
With the advent of the Women’s National Basketball Association two seasons ago and the U.S. women’s Olympic ice hockey team bringing home a gold medal from Nagano, Japan, last winter, it seems women’s sports are commanding unprecedented respect and attention in the United States.
“I think with women really getting into more sports they’re not settling on lower positions in a company,” Burke said.
In April 1996, Liz Chase, a Rhode Island real estate business owner and Brown University alumna, donated $1.5 million to Brown’s women’s basketball team. The money will help fund the coach’s position and other team expenses for a long time, according to school officials.
It also created the second of only two honorary chairs for women’s basketball at U.S. universities and only the second endowed sports chair in Brown’s history, according to Brown officials. “It’s the most significant gift in the history of women’s sports at Brown,” Zucconi said.