“There were times I wasn’t sure if I could do it anymore. I wasn’t sleeping. It was taking a huge toll on me.”

While many college students have felt this way at one time, not many take on on what Blake Martin is in his time as a Fighting Illini. A Gymnast from Columbus, Ohio, Martin didn’t shy away from hard work when picking his major. On top of 20 plus hours of training for athletics, he is studying to be a civil engineer.

As difficult as his chosen path was, Martin wasn’t finished. He was building on his demanding athletic and academic schedule by looking for summer internships. But it proved difficult early in his collegiate days.

“I didn’t have any work experience.” It’s a tricky process says Martin. “This is a common challenge that a lot of athletes run into. They’re training the entire year for their sport so when they go to a company and try to seek out an internship, they’re competing against people who have had internships in high school, their summers during college.”

Being a competitor, Martin wasn’t content to accept his fate. He used his personal connections and asked for help from professors, friends, family what internships they might know of. Sure enough one of those connections came through, as he landed landed at Leopardo Construction, a firm in Chicago, IL. A friend from class put him in touch with their HR representatives.

At Leopardo, he learned the basic fundamentals of project management in the construction industry. Martin has always been interested in hands on work and building stuff so civil engineering and structural design were a natural fit for him. Upon graduation, he wants to land at a company that will allow him to learn  more of the fundamentals, understand the industry and how it works and go from there.

Student athletes like Martin have many skills that companies would benefit from. His teammates pointed out that even as a younger member of the team he fought to take on a leadership role which was much needed to the group. He was always ready to take on more when he had a lot going on. Even when sometimes it might’ve been too much for him he always wanted to do more for the team and found a way to get everything done.

Martin talked about the mentality needed to be a successful gymnast and how it has prepared him for the next steps in his life. His team does yoga once a week on top of head clearing exercises and visualizations four times a week. He stressed that if you can’t find time to relax, to be able to clear your head and clear your mind from everything going on at home and school then school work and training becomes impossible at that point. His work life balance allows him to perform at the highest levels on and off the mat.

“Being able to go through everything we have to juggle as athletes makes it feel like the next step is not going to be that much harder to handle.”


Game Change was founded in 2011 to serve and enhance the athlete development needs of major professional and elite sport organizations and athletes.  Game Change specializes in customized research and assessment services, the development of applied interventions and resources designed to provide long-term positive outcomes for organizations and individual athletes.  Game Change believes strongly in sport as a catalyst for societal change and adheres to the philosophy of ‘changing the world one athlete at a time’.