How College Athletics Prepares You for Teaching

As a former Division-1 athlete, I appreciate team sports as a training ground for the essential skills needed to actually succeed in the real world: collaboration, resilience, and a relentless drive to succeed. 

It’s no surprise that we have several former athletes as teachers at DPA.  

Teachers such as Olivia Martino.  

Olivia Martino had an accomplished career as a competitive basketball player at Lafayette College. She still holds the Lafayette College record for the fastest player to score 50 3-pointers in school history. In her freshman year of high school, she made varsity and her team won the national championship. She was invited to play for Team USA.  

But to 6th graders at Digital Pioneers Academy, she is Ms. Martino.  

Olivia honed skills during her collegiate career that are serving her well as a 6th-grade STEM teacher.  

* HARD WORK. One of her many mantras is “productivity above procrastination.” She grew up believing that if you procrastinate, someone will take your spot. You have to outwork everyone to get access to a competitive scholarship or that limited roster spot.  

* DETERMINATION. At one point in her basketball career, Olivia suffered a serious head injury. Her recovery from the concussion required a year of intensive physical therapy. Through grit and perseverance, she regained the ability to play basketball. Just as we tell DPA students to push through difficult challenges, Olivia grew from the experience.  

These are just two examples of why she’s off to a great “rookie” year here at DPA.  

If you look at her biography, it feels like Olivia was destined to work at an innovation-focused school like DPA. She’s the proud product of school choice, having attended public and private schools, including time at a STEM-based charter school in Maryland. She participated in a STEM program at McKinley Tech in DC, where she learned to code and create video games. After college, she got her MBA in innovation management. 

Olivia learned about the opportunity to put her degree to work for young people through her relationship with another elite college athlete.   

After graduating from business school, Olivia ran basketball camps for school-age students. During one of the camps, E'lexus Davis, a former college basketball player who worked at DPA, encouraged her to apply to join the DPA team. Olivia knew she loved math and coaching kids but wasn’t sure about teaching in a school setting. 

Ultimately, what made her take the leap was observing our culture firsthand. I’ll let her describe it in her own words: 

“I chose DPA because of the support. I love how lively and high energy the culture is here. Everyone always wants to do better. The sky’s the limit.” 

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