By Madisen Carter
Many athletes grow up dedicating all their free time to playing the game they love. They have long careers full of practices, game days, road trips with their teammates, weekend tournaments, morning workouts, conditioning, and the list goes on. For some, their careers can go as far as playing professionally, while others can end after college or high school. There are many career choices for those basketball players who want to keep the game in their lives, and one good option can be working on the coaching side of the game, such as becoming a Player Development Coach, a Trainer, or a Player Personnel Specialist.
We talked to Player Personnel Specialist, Radvile Autukaite, about her transition from being a player to being on the coaching staff and asked her what advice she would give to younger athletes who strive to have a career on the coaching side of basketball. Autukaite is in the midst of her fifth season with Virginia Tech. She spent her first three seasons as a Graduate Assistant and was then promoted to her current role in April of 2021.
Autukaite was born and raised in Lithuania, and she played for the Lithuanian National Team at the U-16, U-18 and U-20 levels. She officially moved to the United States in 2013 to play basketball and attended Holderness Prep School in New Hampshire. She graduated from Reinhardt University and then went on to be a Graduate Assistant Coach at Webber International University. Autukaite said her time at Webber was a unique experience and allowed her to grow and develop as a coach.
After Webber, Autukaite went back to Europe for a few months. She wanted to return to the United States and continue to pursue basketball, and learned that she could do that by going back to school. A goal of hers was always to go to a Division I school, so when she saw the position open at Virginia Tech to be a Graduate Assistant, she knew she needed to apply. Fortunately, she was offered the position and has been at Virginia Tech ever since.
As a Player Personnel Specialist, Autukaite’s day is busy from morning to night. Her responsibilities include helping maintain the recruitment database, coordinating the male practice team, and assisting in administrative duties. Autukaite’s day starts off with phone calls early in the morning for international recruiting and then heads out to the office. At the office she watches film, does scouting reports, attends staff meetings, attends practices, and assists players who come into the gym who want to put up more shots. When she gets home she goes right back to watching film and takes the time to check in on her players on the team.
Being a Player Personnel Specialist was not always something Autukaite had in mind for her future, and she had to learn how to transition from being a basketball player her entire life to being an individual on the coaching staff.
“I had to grow up fast. [I] always had people that took care of me and suddenly I became the one that has to take care of them. So that was definitely a unique opportunity for me to really just grow up fast,” Autukaite said. “I think the most important thing was to find that quick separation. I was not one of them. The conversations had to change, you know, they were not my friends, even though I was only a couple of years from them, so that was definitely interesting. But I knew what I had to do, and I knew that first step was for me to earn their respect and for them to look at me as authority.”
The skills she took from playing basketball and how she transferred those skills to the role she is in now:
“It's just life lessons all the time on and off the court and I think [with] playing basketball [and] being part of the team, it doesn't matter if you are a player or if you are on the staff… Everybody has a role, everybody has something to do and everybody's important. Same thing on the team. So I think that definitely has helped to understand the role as I was growing through this journey,” Autukaite said. “You have to be able to manage a lot. Same thing as a player, you know, you have to go to class, go to study halls, you have games, you have maybe other activities, community service, things like that. So I think the time management [and] organization on both ends have translated. In general, playing basketball [and] just learning lessons, [having] adversity, success, whatever it was, it's the same here, it never stops. I think that definitely playing the sport has allowed me to be where I am right now.”
Advice to players who may not think they have enough experience on their resume:
“Any student athlete has done community service. They've done things they just don't think about that are valuable because it's not necessarily ‘work experience.’ I mean, I think the most important thing is finding an offseason to do extra things. Maybe it is [being] involved in community service [or] maybe it's doing an internship,” Autukaite said. “The most important thing [is] everybody that works hard will get an opportunity at some point. I think my suggestion is trusting the process and being okay [with] starting at the bottom. Pay your dues… Look for that opportunity and when you receive [it], work hard and be patient with it. Enjoy the process of growing and learning instead of just expecting instant success. In addition to that, I would suggest student-athletes always network with alumni and boosters of a University. People love hiring students who come from their loved universities. I believe that’s another opportunity that each student has right in front of them.”
Advice to anyone who wants to have a career in sports:
“I think my suggestion would be don't always chase the name or a status. I think if that is what you want to do, take an opportunity, whatever is presented in front of you. If it's a big school, small school, it doesn't matter. I think if you want to be in this [career] and if you want to live this lifestyle, it doesn't matter,” Autukaite said. “I think sometimes people may get caught up on that. I do believe that [if this is] what you really want to do, take any opportunity that is presented for you in front of you. If you work hard and you do all those things, the rest will take care of it.”
Biggest takeaway from basketball:“As I look back from playing in Lithuania, playing here, coaching, I think the relationships [are my biggest takeaway.] I think basketball has given me so many great friends and so many great mentors. I was able to develop a relationship with them, but also make memories that will last forever, last a lifetime,” Autukaite said. “To this day, I talk to my teammates. To this day, I talked to the coach that I played for pretty much every day. The guy that I worked for at Weber, that's somebody that I really value and somebody who has been really good. I would say in relationships [are] something that sports will give you, and that is very important. That's something that is important to me personally that I will be forever grateful for.”