Life after professional basketball can be difficult. Some former players stay in basketball and some move on to other activities. Either way it can be important to prepare for what comes next before the end of one's playing career to make the most out of every opportunity. Olympiacos Piraeus forward Axel Toupane has started to think about what's next even though, at age 26, he could have a full decade of professional basketball as a player ahead of him.
Toupane decided to take summer classes at HEC Paris, an international business school located 30 kilometers outside of the French capital. HEC Paris has consistently been ranked as the best business school in France and among the top in the world. In 2017, The Economist chose HEC Alumni as the second most powerful business school alumni network in the world.
"I am already thinking about my career after basketball. At the same time, I thought it was a great way to optimize my free time and think about some stuff that could be useful right now," Toupane said. " These are the two reasons that led me to do it."
As a member of the French national team, Toupane was helped by the French federation to put everything together. It proved to be a win-win situation. Toupane was really interested in learning about branding and marketing at a top-class business school and HEC Paris welcomes athletes looking to transition into the business world in the future.
"As an athlete, your profile is always really attractive for any school. I didn't have to do any tests, it was all about presentation and motivation," Toupane said. "I was still in Kaunas when I found out I had been accepted. It must have been around May. It was a phone call; they called me and I talked to the school's director and he told me the news. It was before the Final Four."
He remembered vividly the beginning of classes. "We started with the history of luxury, which is big in France because you have a lot of luxury brands in our country," Toupane said. "We started with a little bit of everything and then touched on a lot of subjects - simple branding, how to set up a store, management, how to treat your personnel and a lot of other stuff. We talked about a lot of things in those two weeks."
Toupane did quite well and his group of students had their final project as one of three chosen to be presented to the entire course at the end. He enjoyed showing his fellow students that just because he was an athlete, it didn't mean he couldn't cut it in the classroom: "It was great because obviously when you are an athlete and you go back to class, at first everybody is looking at you. On one hand, they are excited to see you and after that, they try to see if you really are smart and really about this class and all that."
His experience in sports proved to be an asset in the classroom, too: "I had to use my team experience in this course in my group. We had a lot of young people and I am 26 now; I was the oldest in my group," he said. "I definitely and naturally took the leadership, putting everybody in place to be successful - and we did good,."
There was also a social aspect to the classes that Toupane enjoyed. "It was a great experience. I am still in touch with some teachers and people in my class, who came from all over the world - Italy, France, England, Greece, a couple of Americans. All over the world, really."
He so enjoyed the experience that Toupane said he plans to do something similar in the future so he can keep learning and studying to get better not just in basketball, but for life in general.
"Yes, for sure. I will keep doing it. As far as going to school, I will be back somewhere."