Home People
SportsGrad – creating a runaway success via career setback

When the impact of COVID-19 took away Reuben Williams’ dream job in sport, he flipped the challenge into an opportunity.

While still at university, Reuben Williams began carving out his own career path in the global sport industry. 

In the final year of his Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science/Bachelor of Business (Sport Management), he launched a YouTube channel showcasing sport professionals and on the day of his final exams, he accepted a full-time role with Cricket Australia (CA). 

But fast-forward three and half years, and in the wake of a pandemic that has smashed sport industry jobs, Reuben has again drawn on his entrepreneurial flair – and resilience – to re-focus his skills into a growing business. 

The chance to re-build

While Reuben’s three-year role as a Digital Commercial Specialist with CA fell victim to the impact of COVID-19, it was only a matter of days before he transformed the challenge into an opportunity.

‘In late June 2020, I lost my job in sport and, ironically, the next week I launched a podcast about getting jobs in sport!’ he says.

Three days after its launch, the SportsGrad Podcast, rocketed to number one careers’ podcast in Australia and it has since attracted more than 23,000 downloads.  

Tapping into his Deakin learning, networks, and graduate career success, Reuben now produces and co-hosts two podcast episodes each week, offering SportsGrad members a range of webinars, industry connections, community engagement, and long-term strategy development.

Originating from the YouTube channel, SportsGrad began to grow after Reuben landed the role with CA and found students seeking his advice about securing work.

‘I did this pro bono for a year, then began 1:1 consults … to the point where I created my own process called “The SportsGrad Method” which I eventually put into a workshop,’ he explains.

Reuben credits his Deakin learning for not only the skills to lock in a graduate job, but the confidence and connections to bounce back after 2020.

‘I think university is a time of life where you learn “how to think”. You can pick up skills and knowledge from many different sources, however I believe it’s how you process it and think “what can I do with this?” that determines your career trajectory. I have no doubt that my time at Deakin enabled me to see the opportunity in everything, and the belief that it can be done. I also had great access to really intelligent and supportive faculty staff who continue to have a positive impact on my career,’ he says.

Making the most of every Deakin opportunity

At Deakin, Reuben utilised every opportunity to build his sport industry skills, experience and networks. 

He joined a study tour to the USA – which he says helped him clarify his career vision – and also completed a work placement at UniSport Australia where he attended the International University Sport conference in France as well as the World University Games in Taipei. 

‘The conference had a profound impact on my career because it exposed me to elite students from around the world. It motivated me to aim higher which led to many doors being opened,’ he says.

Working with the UniSport Australia staff in Taipei also gave him the opportunity to network with former Olympians who’d transitioned into sport management. 

‘With their help I was able to get fantastic feedback for a Deakin University Student Initiatives grant proposal I was working on. This ended up being successful and was the first catalyst I received to help SportsGrad come to life.’

Confidence and skills point to a positive future

Reuben’s three years with CA provided many highlights, including implementing a campaign to support the Women’s T20 World Cup.

‘I also had the opportunity to complete a secondment with the Women’s T20 World Cup as a Team Liaison Officer for the New Zealand Cricket Team,’ he says.

While the loss of his role due to COVID-19 was a huge disappointment, Reuben says it would’ve been worse if he’d ignored the chance to develop his business.

‘It gave me the opportunity to go “all in” with SportsGrad. More than anything, 2020 has given me confidence to chase whatever it is I want from life, with evidence that suggests I can do it.’

With the business growing, Reuben hopes to expand it further via short courses, international events, and a recruitment arm.

‘Every week we receive messages about how our podcast has helped in decisions about career direction, or how our membership helped win a job application – it’s incredibly rewarding. I also love being able to jump on the podcast with my mate Ryan and talk to people working in awesome jobs including the NFL, Olympics, Chicago Bulls. Recently, I also presented at my first international conference which included speakers from the LA Lakers and Le Tour de France … to see the SportsGrad logo alongside them was a great milestone.’

Reuben's story has attracted plenty of media attention, including this story in the Geelong Advertiser

Despite the challenges of 2020, Reuben’s advice for budding sport professionals is positive.

‘It's an incredibly fulfilling industry and the opportunities are priceless. It's also great to see those who endured 2020 are now being rewarded with the reappearance of jobs. My best advice is to remember that “application capability” is almost as important as your study and experience. At the end of the day, you have to be number one candidate. If you're prepared to network and sell yourself, you'll go far.’

Find out more about Deakin’s sport and sport management courses.