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Perseverance, Communication And A Focus On The Little Details – Austin Beech: Durham University Business School

Austin Beech - Durham University Business School
Austin Beech

Determination, resilience, an appetite for success and a dedication to self-improvement. Such qualities can be typically found on the CV or personal statement of anyone seeking to gain entry to the C-Suite – a seat at the table in the boardroom. The same skillset can also be found in the locker rooms and on the courts and pitches of any sport in the world – from ping-pong to football.

Indeed, professional athletes share a skillset and an attitude akin to many of the most successful and ambitious leaders in industry today, so it’s hardly a surprise that so many of the world’s sporting elite find their way to business education, and excel at it. Whether to satisfy their consistent desire for professional growth and improvement or to set in place a plan B – a way to continue their legacies when their sporting glories are behind them, business schools around the world are opening their doors to students from less stereotypical backgrounds such as sports, recognising the value such individuals can bring.

In this BlueSky Thinking mini-series, we sit down with sporting stars around the world, transforming the attitudes, values and ambitions developed through lifelong competition to the classroom. Here they share how their own experiences have helped to shape their futures, and provide learning opportunities for those around them.

Name: Austin Beech

School: Durham University Business School

Programme: MSc Management (Finance), graduated January 2022

Nationality: American

Tell us a little about yourself. Where did your journey in competitive sports begin? How have you grown as an athlete over the years? 

My competitive journey in basketball started around the age of 12 when I started playing with my first club team – or Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team. I began to play in tournaments at weekends against different kids and teams in different cities around Southern California. I played for an AAU team as well as my school’s basketball team through middle school and into high school.

Once I was in high school, basketball became a year-round activity for me. In the Fall I played in a Fall league, which led into the Winter high school season, and the AAU season ran throughout the Spring and Summer. 

During high school, I was fortunate to be able to play on an AAU team that gave me the opportunity to play in tournaments across the whole United States. I was then able to spend four years playing for a Division 2 team at Adelphi University in New York, one year playing for Durham University, and one year professionally with Belfast Star Basketball Club.

Throughout my journey I have grown tremendously as a person, gaining invaluable lessons, skills, and experiences that make me who I am today.

“Sports require high attention to detail, teamwork and great communication, a drive to keep training and improving, and perseverance to deal with adversity.”

Studying and training for competitions must take up a lot of time. How do you balance your busy timetable, so that you are able to perform both academically and athletically? 

Studying in higher education and training for competitions takes up a lot of time and requires adaptability. Most of my time was spent going back and forth between training and classes, finishing one and running straight to the other. 

Competitions would take place during my studies as well which also involved travel times, sometimes of more than eight hours. Balancing my studies and sports took a lot of planning, organisation, and communication. I would need to plan out my weeks and months, noting important dates for each of my classes as well as my competitions and days of travel. Any time there were conflicting events, I would have to communicate with my professors to find a solution to be able to fulfil all of my obligations for my studies and my sport

Are there scholarships/schemes/facilities at Durham that have helped you keep competing in sports while studying? If so, how have they helped you?

Initially, in my search for an opportunity to study business while being able to still participate in basketball, I was assisted by the Student Athlete Network, which put me in contact with top academic and top sports universities in the UK, which is when I connected with Durham University. 

Team Durham assisted me through the entire process of applying to the university, finding housing, and gaining access to facilities once I arrived in Durham. Financially, Team Durham was able to offer a partial scholarship towards my Master’s program while being a member of Team Durham’s Men’s Basketball first team. Durham Men’s Basketball offered great coaching at a top level of competition within British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) and amazing facilities for training. 

All the assistance before arriving in Durham and during my time there made my transition to life in the UK easy and helped me reach my goals while participating in sport and studying at the Business School.

Business and sports are both highly competitive environments. Have you found there are advantages from having a foot in both worlds? And if so, how have these advantages shaped your time at business school? 

I find that both business and sport have a lot of similarities, such as being highly competitive in nature. But sports offered me many benefits and lessons that can be applied to business that have helped me through my journey.

Sports require high attention to detail, teamwork and great communication, a drive to keep training and improving, and perseverance to deal with adversity. Similarly, during my time at Durham University Business School, to be successful I needed to pay attention to detail in all my courses, work with colleagues from around the world to collaborate and work on projects, be a continuous learner, and understand that there are going to be failures that I would have to learn from and come back better.

Both worlds crossover, and I have had to push myself as a professional and an athlete.

Finally, what are your future plans? How do you see your time as a sportsperson shaping the rest of your career? And how will your studies also provide career opportunities in the short and the long-term? 

Finally, what are your future plans? How do you see your time as a sportsperson shaping the rest of your career? And how will your studies also provide career opportunities in the short and the long-term? 

Being a sportsperson greatly shaped my time after graduation. During the time between submitting my dissertation to graduating from Durham University Business School, I played as a member of Belfast Star Basketball Club in the Ireland Men’s Super League for the 2021 – 2022 season. After that I returned back home to California where the degrees I have earned from my studies opened up employment opportunities. I received a job offer as a Consultant with the global consulting firm Protiviti in their Internal Audit and Financial Advisory solution. I began working in their Los Angeles office in March of 2023. 

As for my future plans, I want to continue being a lifelong learner in my professional career as well as continuing to play basketball in any capacity that I can. In the next couple of years, I hope that my career can take me back overseas as I enjoyed my time so much while I was in Durham, Belfast, and traveling Europe that I can’t wait to get back!

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