If Noah Webster was working furiously in 2011 to define the words to be compiled into his first Am American Dictionary of the English Language, after hearing this story, he’d likely rethink his definition of “ambitious.”
Most people in this world aspire to have one career. Some never even get that far. Thus, it’s aspirational for one to desire to have two careers, let alone to be successful at both.
In 2011, Bill Strickland defines “ambitious.”
Strickland is an attorney.
Strickland is also a professional athlete.
Amidst juggling two time-consuming careers, Strickland finds time to give back to his community by helping Karma Rescue, which saves dogs from kill shelters in Los Angeles.
If someone who is an attorney, professional athlete, dog rescuer and the most eligible bachelor in the most populous state in the United States doesn’t define ambition, what does?
Strickland attended Stanford University where he was a member of the Men’s Volleyball team. While at Stanford, Strickland pursued and ultimately graduated with a degree in Political Science.
After graduating from Stanford, Strickland decided to further his education by pursuing a law degree. “I studied political science, so law school felt natural and I wanted to continue with my education,” said Strickland.
Law school provided Strickland with an opportunity to not only further his education, but to further his volleyball playing skills. “I specifically chose a law school in Los Angeles to attend, so I could keep my toe in the ‘volleyball water’ so to speak,” said Strickland.
Entering law school in 2004, Strickland found time outside of studying for torts and constitutional law exams to develop his skills to a level which would allow him to become a professional volleyball player. “I didn’t really think I could play professionally. I started playing during the summers, because I was in L.A. With school, you had a flexible schedule so you were able to get down to train,” said Strickland.
In 2007, what Strickland didn’t think was possible became a reality: Strickland went pro in volleyball. That same year, he graduated from law school. “After graduating, I waited to take the bar examination. I tried explaining to some of my teachers I was going to play volleyball and they thought I was crazy,” said Strickland.
Ultimately, Strickland sat for and passed the February 2007 California Bar Examination. Thereafter, he worked for a law firm in El Segundo, CA. Many lawyers have a difficult enough time balancing their first year of practice. Can you imagine balancing your first year working as attorney while also developing your career as a professional athlete? Strickland described his good career fortune by noting:
I was very fortunate. The law firm I was at was in the South Bay [a location in California known for volleyball] so they understood and appreciated beach volleyball. My boss was willing to work with me and be flexible. I’ve been fortunate to find jobs with people who appreciate the athlete lifestyle and what I was trying to do.
While he was appreciative of the law firm which gave him his first post-graduate position and understood his training schedule, Strickland’s legal career path ultimately led to a natural destination: general counsel for the Association of Volleyball Professionals. If any employer understood Strickland’s need to balance his legal career with his career as a professional athlete, it would be the organizing body of the sport he played.
However, Strickland’s perfect marriage of careers ended in 201, when the AVP filed for bankruptcy. In the aftermath of the AVP’s folding, Strickland found himself in a position familiar to many in the legal profession: unemployed. “It caught everyone off guard when the AVP folded up their business,” noted Strickland.
However, Strickland made the most of the cards handed to him. Strickland explained:
I went back to the law firm I had previously worked at and I was working for them on a contract basis. I did a little bit of traveling, too. I think like everyone else, it was such a shock [the AVP filing for bankruptcy] which didn’t let anyone prepare for finding a new position after [working for] the AVP. I took advantage of it by traveling. I went to Peru and then over to Brazil. I got to play a little volleyball in Brazil. They had one of their big tournaments while I was there, so that was fun to see. I’ve always heard the Brazilian players’ names, but I had never gotten to see them play, so getting to check that out was awesome.
Strickland thereafter found full-time employment as general counsel for Enagic USA, Inc.
Outside of working full-time, Strickland has a heavy training schedule:
I go twice a week on the sand, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The other days, I’m in the gym either in the morning, afternoons or evenings. Monday, if I’m in the sand practicing, then Tuesday I’ll run steps or do a track workout. On Wednesday we’re back in the sand in the evening. Then Thursday, I’ll be in the gym lifting weights. If there’s a tournament, I’ll rest a little on Friday, and do a light jog to clear out any cobwebs.
Strickland enjoys balancing two highly time-consuming careers. He explains:
I think there is something nice of having the balance about it. During the 2008 season, I wasn’t working. Everything was just volleyball. With volleyball there’s these necessary ups and downs. And when you’re just focused on volleyball, those downs can seem like a black hole.
In his down time (if any truly exists), Strickland plays guitar and enjoys what he calls “regular stuff”–watching movies, hiking and playing the occasional video game. He’s also become involved with Karma Rescue. And since he was Cosmo’s California Bachelor in 2009, there’s likely the occasional groupie to fend off. However, Strickland is fairly modest when it comes to groupies, reasoning, ” My partner has all of the groupies. He’s the better looking one. Unfortunately [for the groupies], he has a wife.”
A flock of groupies following him or not, one thing is certain: Strickland’s full-fledged pursuit of two careers is nothing short of ambitious.
This is the first story in RulingSports.com’s “Professional” series, discussing attorneys working in the world of sports.