Ashley Hughes connected on 86.4% (38-for-44) of the free throws she took during her four-year career with the University of Tulsa women’s basketball team, the second-highest mark in school history. So far in her professional career, though, she’s gone a perfect 100% — one for one.
But Hughes isn’t playing pro basketball. Instead, she’s serving athletes for Teamworks as part of the Durham company’s Teamworks Academy program, which is designed to help former athletes transition to success in the entrepreneurial and business world. After traveling for a year following her 2017 graduation, Hughes was one of six members of the program’s first cohort that started last July, and the experience has so far been — mixed sports metaphor alert! — a total home run.
“It’s been a great learning experience,” says Hughes, who has cycled through various Teamworks departments as part of the salaried, six-to-12-month program. “I like that it’s not some huge company with thousands of workers. In a smaller company, you can really form relationships and make an impact.”
The concept behind Teamworks Academy is that just-graduated college athletes are uniquely suited to make that kind of impact. First, in the view of Teamworks CEO Zach Maurides — himself a former college football player at Duke — there’s the nature of collegiate athletics itself.
“Athletics uniquely prepares participants for success,” says Maurides, “as it drills in the characteristics that matter most — leadership, accountability, achievement and more.”
Then there’s the fact that at Teamworks, sports isn’t simply a pleasant diversion; it’s the company’s entire reason for being. Teamworks makes software that helps connect collegiate and professional sports teams to help them operate more efficiently. Therefore Teamworks benefits even more than most firms from having recently graduated athletes on staff because they deeply understand the needs of the company’s customers — in part because they may well have literally been Teamworks customers just a few months earlier. That’s what they call in sports (and everywhere else) a win-win.
“Teamworks was built by athletes, for athletes,” says Maurides. “Beyond paving the way for career success for athletes, the Academy ensures the voice of the athlete continues to be a part of everything we do.”
Maurides came up with the idea for the Academy at the end of May, which meant that program director April Meeks had to move with Usain Bolt-like speed to make it a reality.
“That gave us June to basically do everything,” says Meeks. “We had to establish the criteria, market and promote the program, screen applicants and do interviews, and make offers — all for a mid-July start.”
The company received about 100 applicants for the first cohort and expects to see many more for the second, for which Meeks and her team will start sifting through candidates in January. Hughes — who plans to stay at Teamworks in a permanent role when the program is over — would recommend those who receive offers jump on them. Really, for a just-graduated college athlete, that call seems like a total (final sports metaphor!) layup.