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Job shadowing gives Kentucky State athletes head start on careers

Kentucky State basketball players Kevin Hayes (right) and David Jelks got a firsthand look at law enforcement during ride alongs with Frankfort Police Sgt. Will King and Officer DeJanee White. Chanda Veno / Frankfort State Journal

For Kentucky State junior Ditalion Battle, life always has been centered on two favorite things: basketball and video games. If he isn’t shooting around on the court, he’s playing the latest games on his Xbox or PlayStation.

After college, Battle hopes to build his own video game business. This spring, men’s basketball coach Jamaal Jackson implemented a program that allowed Battle to spend a day at Frogdice, a video game studio in nearby Lexington, Kentucky. He had the chance to meet with the CEO and staff, tour the facility and play all six games Frogdice has developed.

“It was really nice,” Battle says. “This was my first time ever actually job shadowing, besides in high school. But this one was in my field. … I enjoyed seeing other people’s perspectives on video games, seeing where they’re at and where I’m at.”

Battle’s visit was part of Jackson’s plan to pair each men’s basketball player with an area business. Jackson and assistant coach Shaun Smith learned what careers the players were interested in, and Jackson reached out to the central Kentucky community to help set up job shadowing experiences.

For the student-athletes who were uncertain about their careers, Jackson and Smith sent them to places that could pique their interests, including law offices, schools and banks.

“As a coach, I don’t want to just bring in guys and have them help us win games,” Jackson says. “When their eligibility is over and they get their degree, I want them to go wherever they want to go and be leaders in their community and their families.”

This year, Jackson hopes to expand the career learning opportunities for his players, with resume workshops, practice interviews, personal branding training and other exercises. “The mission of our basketball program isn’t just to develop our guys athletically,” Jackson says, “but to allow them to grow academically, athletically, socially, personally and professionally.”

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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