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From off the court to the classroom: My MBA journey as a professional basketball player
Full-time MBA / 16 March, 2021
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Full-time MBA Class of 2021
Alissa is currently an MBA Class of 2021 candidate at Frankfurt School. Before coming to Frankfurt School, she was a professional basketball player for a decade and also spent two years doing consulting and in-house seminars on leadership and communication in Goettingen.

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I have played basketball basically all my life. After playing youth, club, high school, and then Division 1 basketball at Stanford University in California, including a trip to the National Championship my senior year, I wanted to play professionally overseas. I had never been to Europe and literally hopped on a plane the second I got an offer. The club, which my agent found for me near Frankfurt (Rhein-Main Baskets), assigned me a host family. It was a fantastic cultural exchange that has informed my love for travel and trying new things ever since. I played for 9 seasons in the Bundesliga, most seasons in Langen, Marburg, and Göttingen. Along the way, I was continuously exploring off the court: traveling in the offseason, getting my first Masters’s degree at Phillips University of Marburg, coaching youth teams, piano, and singing lessons, volunteer work, consulting, etc. While I take serious pride in being a lifelong athlete, it has always been crucial to me to be more than just that.

Shifting my focus from sports to studying

Despite my background, I am not as competitive as people might assume – at least not in the classic Jordan, Bryant sense, though I did come alive in crunch time play as my idols did. Basketball taught me the difference between assertiveness and leadership. While assertive people are willing to take charge, this does not necessarily mean they will have followership. In its best form, assertiveness fosters intensity and enthusiasm that is totally contagious. This “emotional intelligence” is, to me, what makes a great leader. Boldness, flexibility, and resilience took me just as far as skill and experience.

As I was finishing my basketball career, I found myself brooding on issues of leadership and interconnectedness. A year of Frankfurt School’s guidance in this regard seemed like a no-brainer to make me more competitive in a global marketplace of ideas and businesses. Frankfurt is an important international business hub, but Frankfurt is also just a great city where I had an incredible experience for 3 years. The one-year, Full-time MBA programme appealed to me and reading about the professors and staff iced the cake. When looking at FS’s curriculum, I sensed what I call an “antidote” to a familiar problem: a lot of young people feel that schooling has taken the “why” out of education – we know what we are learning, but not why. Despite a full schedule, business school does give you time for self-reflection. FS combines academic rigor and real-world relevance that guides students on what to expect out there and how to show up in the world. When you’re immersed in topics like leadership, accountability, innovation, and positive change, you can’t help but feel the immediate impact, both personally and professionally.

More than just being a strong leader, it is about teamwork!

It might be because basketball socialized me to value teamwork… but people being positive with one another, picking each other up, having each other’s backs, is really a beautiful thing to me. All we have to do is look around ourselves to see that some old ways are not feasible and have led to long-term troubles like environmental destruction, the meat crisis, gender inequality, and rising income inequality. My home United States is in the midst of political and social upheaval generations in the making. Some upheaval is good: it reminds us that complacency can seep into every corner of human life and should be combated. Business of late has been rising to that occasion – with exciting and pioneering companies reshaping the way people work and the way we treat the planet and each other.

We owe it to ourselves and to our communities to make the best of the time we have been given. Looking back at my lifetime of basketball, I don’t remember most individual wins or losses. Rather, I see a body of work. Like my athletic career, I hope to look back on my next career as a constant bout against my own and the world’s comfort zones.

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