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Student of the game: Kyle Adnam prioritised education on and off the court

From Adelaide to Illawarra, Melbourne to Sydney and back again, and now in Romania, Kyle Adnam has had one hell of a career.

The point guard began as a development player for the 36ers, and across his career he became a consistent starter, an NBL champion, and the captain of the South East Melbourne Phoenix from 2020 to 2023.

But throughout the highs and lows of life as an NBL player, Adnam has always kept one eye on the future, which led him to him receiving his Graduate Certificate of Business (Sport Management) from Deakin University.

For Adnam, a university degree was always part of the long-term plan – and he thinks more athletes should be preparing for life after sport.

‘I started my sports management course straight after school, I knew that I always wanted to do a degree. For me, having things off the court was really important. I think that’s one thing I knew from a young age was sport is not forever,’ Adnam told The Sporting News.

‘For every single athlete, it comes to a time in their life where whether it be their body, their mind, whatever it is, they’re ready for the next phase of life. I think being prepared for that is really important because that transition is extremely difficult no matter how prepared you are.’

‘But I think the preparation is very key. I understood that from a young age. I love learning, I love studying, same as I do on the court. I’ve always been a student of the game and off the court as well, trying to do the same.

I started early and then that was put on hold when I started really travelling. I thought that I’d put all my eggs into the basket of basketball and really give it a really good go. It worked out well for me. I think four years ago now, I really got back into the studies and obviously have just finished off the grad cert and will be starting my Masters in February, which will be amazing.’

How Adnam balances basketball with study

Adnam, now 30, is now looking to begin his Master of Business (Sport Management) as he balances his study with being a full-time athlete.

This balance was made even more precarious in July of 2023 when Adnam signed with CSU Sibiu, a team in the Romanian Liga Națională which he played for until December. A nine-hour time difference separates Sibiu and Melbourne, but Adnam said that Deakin’s Elite Athlete Program made it easy for him to maintain his studies even while playing abroad.

‘Being an elite athlete, there’s obviously the pathway there for elite athletes at Deakin to have support and flexibility around their studies a little bit just to help you with things,’ Adnam said.

‘Say, I had an exam date that clashed with a grand final or something like that, and there’s a certain game on and things may cross over. They tend to be pretty accommodating with how that looks and being able to shift things for you and work around your schedule at times, which is absolutely amazing because I think a lot of athletes out there think that it’s a very regimented programme, university.’

‘By all means it is, of course, and you need to put in the hours and the effort. But if things do not align, they understand that you are an elite sportsperson and you need to be able to do your job as well, I think that that’s huge.’

‘Being a very hands-on learner, obviously the online process was difficult to start. But they really made it seamless… once I found my feet and a little bit of rhythm, it was all easy from then.’

This stability was a blessing for Adnam, who ventured overseas to play following four seasons with the South East Melbourne Phoenix, the last three as team captain.

Many were shocked when he didn’t re-sign with the Phoenix for the 2023/24 season, but Adnam saw the opportunity to play in Europe as a blessing, and something he had been eager to experience throughout his career.

‘[Playing in Romania] was a pretty crazy experience, one that I had on the wish list for many years, going to Europe and playing,’ he said.

‘Fortunately, the team I was on in Romania, we also participated in Europe Cup as well. We got to travel around Europe and play against a few teams, some Spanish teams, Polish teams, a team from Ireland.’

‘It was a really cool experience to be able to travel and play basketball against some teams that, as a kid, you dream of playing against. It was pretty amazing.’

‘The passion [of European basketball fans] is just crazy. There was plenty of times, obviously, being a point guard, having to call plays and direct the offence and defence to have the crowd yelling and not being able to call those plays out or understand what’s going on.’

‘It was just another level at times with the crowd and how loud it was, lighting flares in the crowd. It was just insane, but super cool experience to be a part of.’

As for what comes next for Adnam, he predictably has long-term plans both on and off the court – building on his current professional career, preparing for his next endeavour, and helping fellow athletes get ready as well.

‘I’d love to play out the next probably five or so years. Hopefully, if the body and mind hold up well and I’m still really motivated by sport, that’ll be the hopefully get another five or so years out of it,’ Adnam said.

‘In the meantime, obviously, hoping to get my Masters done by the end of next year. Then that’ll just give me that foundation to go into some of the jobs that I’m interested in or some of the fields I’m interested in and actually having that baseline of education in that field, I think, is really important.’

‘Combined with obviously my sporting career, I think it rounds out my resume a lot better. I think, as I said, a lot of athletes finish their career and say, well, I was a great basketballer or footy player or whatever it was, and getting work should be easy, but there’s a lot of really smart people out there who have been potentially working in that field for the same amount of time you’ve been playing sports. It’s important to also have the education foundation moving forward.’

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