Sam Mushman is a former collegiate basketball player who found success in comedy during his transition to life after sports. Sam and I go way back. We played travel baseball together as youngsters and bonded in a Spanish class during our middle school school days before he went to Pope John high school in pursuit of his hoop dreams. After high school Sam continued his basketball career at Wingate University in Charlotte, North Carolina. This is where his streak of playing for 5 different head coaches in 4 years began. Sam and I reconnected last year when he invited me to come on his Backcourt Violation radio show/podcast based in New York City. Sam and his co-host, Vince Chang, are both former division two basketball players turned comedians. They discuss the world of college basketball on and off the court and interview special guests. Obviously, Sam and Vince have you laughing the entire show while keeping updated on the latest college basketball stories. You can tune in to their show every other Saturday 9-10am BBOXRADIO.com.
In Episode 59 Sam and I discuss the struggles of playing for different head coaches with different philosophies and different ideas of what role he was expected to play on the team. Not to mention having to prove himself year in and year out. This is a perfect example for one of the themes of the podcast, which is that you can't control what happens to you, but you can always control your response. In addition we talk about the decision process of choosing a school to play at and the ego's role in that choice. Sam also discusses what it's like to be a big fish in a small pond and the importance of being a realist in those situations. He credits his parents for both encouraging him, but also helping him stay grounded. Sam ultimately chose to play division 2 basketball, which allowed for more playing time, a more rewarding career in his opinion.
Sam gives another piece of advice to athletes in that he encourages them to not be afraid to go against the grain because fear takes away from instinct. Society tells you to stick with the status quo and do what others think you should do. Both Sam and I agree that is BS. I promise I wasn't the one to bring this up in our conversation, but Tim Tebow also faced criticism for going away from what people thought he should do when he decided to pursue a baseball career. I encourage you to watch the video below for inspiration. Speaking of baseball, Sam and I also talk about what could have been when he decided to drop baseball and focus on basketball full time. Sam stated that one of his biggest regrets was the way he stepped away from baseball.
Sam ended up transferring to Holy Family University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania after his freshman season at Wingate University. This time Sam's choice came down to what team wanted him the most, and he recommends that all athletes making this decision take that approach. Although Sam's career at Holy Family was far from comfortable with the constant coaching changes, he did find a passion for standup comedy during this time. Sam talks about some of his first few shows where he bombed, but he continued to persevere and improve each and every time he went back out on stage. Sam has been doing standup for about six years now and says he has come a long way since his first few shows. This is largely due to his persistence in being a "student of the game" just like he was as an athlete and his willingness to put himself in uncomfortable situations. If you're comfortable, you're not growing. Sam's transformation reminds me of a book I have recently been reading called The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. This book talks about how the decisions you make everyday are either putting you on a path toward success or failure. It's easy to make the choice to engage in the positive actions and just as easy not to. At first these small actions don't seem like much, but over time they compound, just like Sam has seen in his comedy career.
Sam found a passion outside of the sport he was playing, and it helped in his transition to life after sports. Sam is more than just a basketball player and just like he is more than just a comic. Don't let society tell you what you should and shouldn't do. Just because their afraid doesn't mean you have to be. I hope this episode inspires you to step out of your comfort zone and as Dr. Jarrod Spencer, Sports Psychologist put's it "Follow the Energy"(Aka, do what makes you excited to live!)! Since recording this interview I hired Sam as my speaking coach to help me get out of my comfort zone and the progress has been amazing!
Take a look at one of Sam's shows below (WARNING, EXPLICIT CONTENT).