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U.S. Sled Players Balance Paralympic Dreams with Growing Careers

By Greg Bates, 10/12/17, 12:30PM EDT


Hockey can be a full-time job on its own

When Josh Pauls (Green Brook, N.J.) was applying for jobs last Spring, he had one big condition: his workplace needed to be flexible about time off.

For Pauls, it wasn’t about being able to take vacations and travel. Rather, the two-time Paralympic gold medalist was looking to make the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team in July, which would hopefully turn into representing the United States at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, next March. With training camps, competitions and other team-related obligations, he knew he needed an employer who understood the time commitments that would come toward the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018.

Pauls got his wish on both fronts. Last April, FTL Finance in St. Charles, Missouri, hired him as an account executive in sales. Then, a few months later he was named to the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team for the eighth consecutive season.

It was a perfect scenario for the 24-year-old, whose role involves traveling to meet with HVAC, plumbing and electrical contractors who might need financing options.

“They’ve been extremely accommodating even going back to the initial hiring process,” said Pauls, who plays defense for Team USA. “I met a recruiter at a job fair at my college and was real upfront with them about my situation. They had two roles available and fortunately one of them allowed for some flexibility as far as time off and working remotely goes.”

Melissa Hyatt, FTL Finance’s vice president of sales and marketing, said Pauls’ time off requests didn’t deter them at all in the hiring process. When all was said and done, they knew he was the right person for the job.

Josh Pauls has been a mainstay on the U.S. blueline since 2008

“Really, we were excited about Josh’s ability to do the position,” Hyatt said. “It was a long-term decision versus a short-term decision. Besides, we like hockey here in St. Louis and we’re excited to be a part of his hockey career.”

Having the backing of his boss helped ease Pauls’ mind transitioning into the new gig as he aims to lead Team USA to a third consecutive Paralympic gold medal in sled hockey.

“I was really lucky to find an organization that really understands the commitment us elite athletes face and being able to work around that,” said Pauls.

“Josh gives so much to whatever he does, whether it’s hockey or with us,” Hyatt added. “I think it’s really given him a lot of motivation to exceed expectations in this role.”

Juggling a full-time job and fitting in time to train for the Paralympic Games can be seen as a difficult task, but it is all part of the process for Pauls and other members of the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team.

“We’re all balancing something, whether it’s a job or school or even families,” said Pauls, who spent the 2013-15 seasons balancing college work while helping Team USA earn gold medals at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games and 2015 IPC Sled Hockey World Championship.

Also part of the balancing act is goaltender Steve Cash (Overland, Mo.), who has been a member of the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team since 2005 and a personal banker at First Bank in St. Louis since August 2015.

Steve Cash backstopped Team USA to two Paralympic golds in 2010 & 2014

Both based in St. Louis, the two generally skate in the morning prior to heading to their respective jobs. Like FTL Finance, First Bank has also been encouraging when it comes to Cash’s training schedule.

“I couldn’t ask for a more understanding and supportive employer,” Cash said. “Basically, I give them my season schedule up front and we work together so that even if there are a couple of surprise obligations thrown in, everything works out one way or another.”

A three-time Paralympian (two gold medals (2010, 2014), one bronze medal (2006)), Cash typically works normal banker hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with a few Saturday morning shifts sprinkled in here and there.

For Cash, fitting in training with a career has become a regular routine that he considers an important aspect in his life.

“Hockey has always kind of been in my blood,” Cash said. “To be honest, I think being able to balance hockey, a career and obviously the family aspect of it, it’s really rewarding. I find it very redeeming that I can say I have been as successful as I have been even with being employed.”

That’s not to say the balancing act doesn’t contribute to the team’s on-ice success.

“I think having something to balance with hockey is actually an advantage for us. Whether it’s a job, school or even raising families, those things force us to take our minds off of hockey at times. And I think that’s a good thing in the sense that when we get back to the rink or to the gym, we can lock in on the team’s goal of bringing home another gold medal.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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