Graduating student-athletes look ahead to life after sports

Jaclyn Clark

One thing every graduating senior can probably agree on is how quickly their college journey passed. Some student-athletes have primarily focused on their sport and academics during their time at SF State, so there hasn’t been time for them to gain real-world experience. At least that’s the case for Jaclyn Clark, former outside hitter for the Gators.

After receiving First Team All-California Collegiate Athletics Association honors and posting a career best in kills (365) in 2015, as well as moving up in the record books. Clark became only the third player in school history to post 1,000 career kills and digs. Clark will move on from volleyball into sales. It’s time to focus on the real world and leave sports behind, even though she said she’s going to miss it.

“I’ve only known sports and felt that was my job for a long time, so I wasn’t forced to get experience out in the real world,” Clark said. “It’s nerve-wracking and stressful just because I’ve been so used to one thing all the time.”

What she’s learned over her four years as a student-athlete has mentally prepared her for future learning curves. Clark said that being in different scenarios and adjusting to new coaches and teammates was challenging but has helped her learn about overcoming obstacles.

“You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Clark said. It’s a piece of advice that resonates with Clark now that she’ll be away from her comfort zone—volleyball.

With her final season in the books, Clark reflected on the performance of the team.

Clark said the team would be deemed as underdogs but once they stepped onto the court, the team wanted to come out with an aggressive mentality, and put the other team on notice.

“We proved a lot of people wrong,” Clark said.

Clark is currently interviewing for sales jobs. If the opportunity were to present itself, Clark is interested in coaching.

“I’m going to miss being part of a team,” Clark said.

SF State Gators outside hitter Jaclyn Clark prepares to dig the ball during a game against Dominican University of California at The Swamp on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Gerome Wright)

SF State Gators outside hitter Jaclyn Clark prepares to dig the ball during a game against Dominican University of California at The Swamp on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Gerome Wright)

Jennifer Lewis

The odds of turning pro are minuscule but to get a tryout for a professional organization is just as impressive as reaching the big leagues. Sometimes a tryout is enough to put your foot in the door of opportunity.

First team All-CCAA senior shortstop Jennifer Lewis will have the opportunity to pursue her dream of playing softball professionally. Lewis has a tryout for a National Pro Fastpitch team on May 29.

“I’ve always wanted to continue playing softball even if it’s only college (softball). I’m hoping to continue playing after college,” Lewis said. “I love the sport so much.”

Lewis’ memorable moments of SF State softball include diving catches in right field that occurred during her freshman season and her final season. Lewis was responsible for turning eight double plays and recording 137 assists, second most in the conference this season. Lewis cherishes double plays because she said she feels the energy and teamwork.

“Every pitch and inning was exciting,” Lewis said. “This whole year has been memorable and exciting.”

Other than the competition, Lewis said she’ll miss the team camaraderie.

“The love and support I felt from my team and coaches and fans is something I’ll miss,” Lewis said. “I get excited knowing that you love this sport and the person next to you loves it just as much.”

Time flies and Lewis knows it. Her years have been instrumental in shaping her experience as a student-athlete and enabled her to grow as a person.

“With graduation coming up, it’s surreal that these four years have gone by so fast,” Lewis said. “This school and this program has developed me into the player and person I am on and off the field and I wouldn’t change my decision to come here.”

SF State Gators infielder Jennifer Lewis (7) takes the field against the Cal State San Bernardino Coyotes Saturday, Feb. 20. (Perng-Chih Huang / Express)

SF State Gators infielder Jennifer Lewis (7) takes the field against the Cal State San Bernardino Coyotes Saturday,
Feb. 20. (Perng-Chih Huang / Express)

Ryan Burke

Senior first baseman Ryan Burke is a few weeks away from graduating, yet he feels like he began his college journey just a few months ago. His second and final season at SF State recently came to an end but he leaves prepared for what’s beyond baseball.

Burke dreamed about the pros when he was young and as he’s grown older he’s understood that the odds of going pro aren’t in his favor. With his professional dreams looking slim, he’s planned out what he wants to do after graduating: graduate school for sports management.

“In my two years here I realized I needed to get myself ready for a career and put myself in that situation in case baseball didn’t work out,” Burke said. “I’d love to work in the sports world, whether as a coach for a professional organization or working here (SF State) as a sports information director.”

If Burke is unable to enter the sports world, then he plans to purse teaching. He also has graduate school for education as an option. Burke, a liberal studies major, said he’s always had an interest in becoming a teacher.

“Liberal studies allows me to do a lot of different things,” Burke said. “I’m set up for where I want to go next in life, wherever that takes me.”

Nine-hour bus rides to Southern California with teammates led to strong bonds, which was Burke’s favorite part of his time with the Gators. Burke will never forget the exhibition game the Gators played against the Stockton Ports, a Class-A minor-league affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, this year.

SF State Gators first baseman Ryan Burke slides safely back to first base during the second game of a doubleheader at Maloney Field at SF State on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (George Morin / Xpress)

SF State Gators first baseman Ryan Burke slides safely back to first base during the second game of a doubleheader at Maloney Field at SF State on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (George Morin / Xpress)

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