- Brandon Miller
My transition into retirement.
Everywhere I go these days, or even sometimes when I'm at home, I get the same questions consistently. How are you enjoying retirement? What are you up to these days? I've gotten them so often that I figured it was time I started to give a little insight into my life since I decided to step away from playing soccer at the end of 2021. Check out what I've been up to below!
Sharpening my skills
I realized my love for learning later on in life than I would have liked; nevertheless I am doing my best to take advantage of it. At the end of my final season in the United Soccer League, I applied to receive a full scholarship from Bellevue University via their partnership with the league. I may not have shown it when I found out but I was ecstatic because I knew this would give me the opportunity to further my education, which is something I've always wanted to do.
I started graduate school in March and have enjoyed almost every second of it. I've always had an entrepreneurial mindset so it was only natural that I focused my MBA pursuit on Business Entrepreneurship. My goal is to learn what I don't know and enhance the knowledge that I already have. So far, the experience has lived up to my expectations. I am able to utilize the information, that I'm learning in my courses, for my every day work. I've thought about taking this journey for years but have been hesitant because I wasn't sure if an MBA would be worth the effort long-term. I feel confident that I've made the right decision and I am excited about the work ahead.
Outside of school work, I've started to explore other interests that will enhance my skill set. In early November of 2021, I did my first professional speaking engagement at the Ohio School Boards Association annual capital conference. I really enjoyed the opportunity to share my experiences, both on and off the field. Professional speaking is HARD. I've played in front of 20,000+ fans and absolutely relished it but standing in front of a room of 100 people and sharing my story was a totally different experience. That first engagement spurred me on to multiple others over the past several months and I look forward to continuing to hone my craft in that arena.
I also found the wonderful world of online courses and certifications. Over the past several months, I've taken a number of courses and received certifications that will be beneficial as I continue in my business career. I really enjoyed the Google Digital Garage course that helped me brush up on the fundamentals of digital marketing. I've also gotten the opportunity to dive deeper into Google Analytics and really craft my skills in Google Data Studio, check out my work HERE!
Broadening my network
When I first started my MBA journey, I had a number of conversations with people who have been through it before. I wanted to know how I can maximize my experience and turn it into something that will springboard me into the role that I desired. I kept getting the same response from everyone.
Take control of your experience. Connect with your classmates. Utilize every resource possible to get your money's worth.
This is advice that I've really taken to heart. I've reached out to professors to discuss potentially working together on case studies. I've spoken with various classmates about their current roles and what my areas of interests are. Over the past few months, I've connected with professionals in a wide variety of business sectors. Sports management, business consulting, data analytics, project management; just to name a few.
I've always had a pretty good understanding of the importance of your network. As a professional athlete, sometimes it's about who you know that can get you the opportunity you desire. The difference now is, instead of competing with a smaller pool of professional goalkeepers, now I am competing with what seems like the entire world! But I don't want to network with people just to find an opportunity. I genuinely enjoy building connections and having conversations with people that can help broaden my horizons. As much as I want to find the right role for me, I simply want to surround myself with good people that will help me grow as a human.
Continuing to make an impact
Speaking of good people, I work with some amazing humans in the nonprofit world. I feel the most energized and excited when I get off of calls with these groups discussing our plans to drive change. The nonprofit sector can be an extremely difficult area to navigate; constantly working to piece together funding for this project or that. But the reward of knowing your hard work is meaningful to someone often gets me through the frustrating times.
Most recently, I've been working with Vermont Green FC on their DEI strategy and implementation. Diversity, equity, and inclusion is something I am extremely passionate about. I want to continue to utilize the game of soccer as a vehicle for change. Working with organizations like Vermont Green, who are focused on community impact, has opened my eyes to the possibilities at our fingertips. We've been able to develop partnerships and raise funds that are directly impacting the Burlington, VT community.
Since starting a number of the nonprofit organizations, I've found that project management is one of the most important skills to have as a leader in this space. Often times, you have to connect a number of different pieces in order to get an initiative off the ground. Recently, the Black Players' Alliance organization put together an initiative to support HBCU soccer at Fisk University. The fundraising involved collaborating with Boot Bags and players around the league to design bags that would be sold to the public. The project required cross-functional communication between our organization, Boot Bags, various USL teams, and Fisk University. Planning the manufacturing and delivery took months. Aligning PR communications required plenty of meetings and emails. Coordinating the social media launch across all channels took precision. In the end, the juice was worth the squeeze.
Needless to say, I've been busy but I've also made sure to take advantage of the down time. As a professional athlete, your schedule is typically pretty hectic for 9-10 months out of the year. It is hard to take time to enjoy a weekend with your family because you're always prepping for the next game. Now that my schedule affords me a bit more free time, I've started to realize what really matters to me.
Don't get me wrong, I loved playing soccer and it is still a massive part of my life. I gave everything I could to the game and I'm thankful for the opportunities it afforded me. But it didn't come without sacrifices. I may have missed my best friend's engagement party but I will definitely be there for the wedding. I'm at the stage in my life where I value spending time with my friends and family more than anything. My weekends are spent enjoying down time with my partner instead of sitting in a hotel room waiting for kickoff. My focus has shifted and that is a part of my development as a human. I still maintain many of the traits that made me successful on the field but now I plan to utilize them to be successful off of it.
Check out the rest of my website to learn more about what I've done and what I am currently doing!