Today, we would like to tell you a story about Jelena Stanivuk Jerkovic (33) – a champion of Bosnia & Herzegovina (BiH) in all categories (except U18), champion of Croatia indoor U16, senior finalist, member of the national team of Bosnia & Herzegovina, third in Europe under 16 years.
“I started playing tennis at the age of nine,” Jelena told us. One summer when she was playing in Makarska, the coach saw her and invited her to move to his club.
At the age of 13, she started playing tennis professionally, and at 18 she got an offer to go to Baylor University in Texas. Because of that, she had to stop playing tennis professionally – studying there lasted from 2008 to 2012.
In those four years, Baylor was amongst the top-ranked NCAA tennis programs and they’ve also won The Big 12 conference eight consecutive times. While coaching, she went to Durham University in 2012 to get her master’s degree.
After that, she received an offer for a coaching position at a club in Chicago that had over a thousand members, so she accepted it and moved there.
Working after sport
As of 2013, she was the manager of the BiH national team and lead as a captain. A few years later she returned to Croatia where she began working in a hotel as an operations project manager and assistant to the president of the board.
“Whenever you stop playing, and that is the only thing you’ve ever known, you lose a part of your identity, your self-confidence drops and you feel like a failure,” she remembered.
By 2020 she was head of the human resources department.
“The most important reason you are disappointed is that you prioritized sports above everything else. Eventually, you’ll realize that you need to rediscover yourself in something else, but you have no experience in the field, no mentor, no idea where to start and you don’t know how to talk to an employer at a job interview,” says Jelena.
In her experience, a lot of people are in the wrong fields/positions and that is why they are frustrated.
Jelena “Stanivuk” Jerkovic
Stanivuk (08-11) was a member of both BU NCAA Final Four teams (08, 11) & finished her career w/? singles wins!
— Baylor Women’s Tennis (@BaylorWTennis) June 19, 2019
Sport & Business
During our conversation, we asked Jelena what sets athletes apart from other job candidates. In response to our question, she said athletes have:
- a competitive spirit
- desire to succeed
- discipline, team spirit
- know how to work with different characters of people
- also how to read people, mainly opponents, learn what are their strengths and weaknesses
- punctuality is a habit
- have a good work ethic
- abide by the rules of “the game.
With that in mind, it’s clear that their skills can very quickly make them valuable to companies.
There is obviously a perception that those who give up their professional sports careers to pursue college/university education are failures and that perception needs to change.
“Since no one is supporting you as you go along, tennis is a difficult path to take. For example, you can experience success as early as your late 20’s, but you have to be in the top 100 to make a living from tennis, and equipment and practice expenses are enormous” she added.
No time to waste
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