Street Knowledge: Sports Entrepreneur Offers Career Advice for Getting Ahead

Published: Feb 29, 2016

 Interviewing       Job Search       Workplace Issues       

In previous blogs, I mentioned leaving my last job without a backup plan and using social media to advance my personal brand and career.  During that time, I was looking to connect with people and, through Facebook’s ‘People You May Know’ interruption in my news feed, I came across Jasmine Ray.  She seemed well connected, knowing various elected leaders I had come across during my time as a journalist and through my work with City government.  But what stood out most about her profile was the fact that she was the Founder and CEO of the U.S. Wall Ball Association (USWA).  It took me a minute to realize wall ball was the street sport handball that I had come to love as a teenager. 

I decided to connect with Jasmine and we immediately began having some serious discussions about brand awareness, social media marketing and career intelligence. As I got to learn more about Jasmine, I realized she has transformed what was once regarded as a ‘street sport’ known as handball, to a game now being considered for the Olympic stage. She was inspired to create the organization after the tragic death of her teenage brother, Jonathan Ray. In addition to her entrepreneurship, Jasmine has been a volunteer martial arts Instructor for over 10 years, was a former Universal Records recording artist and an avid marathon runner. Jasmine is also a sought after public speaker and has received a number of accolades in addition to being recognized as one of Brooklyn’s Top Women in Business, El Diario’s Most Influential Latinas (Mujeres Destacadas) in New York City, NY1 news’ “New Yorker of the Week” and CNN’s “Woman of the Week.

Speaking with Jasmine opened up my eyes to a whole new way of entrepreneurship. I recently sat down with her for an interview where she offered up career advice to younger people, especially those who may not have the college pedigree we often discuss at Vault.

We included a post on Facebook based on previous discussions where you explained the best career advice you would share with someone. Can you share that here, too?

If you are not genuinely passionate about your work, quit.

We found that the advice resonated with a lot of our reader. You followed your own passion. Can you tell us why you created Wall Ball?

I wanted to honor my brother’s memory and create something around the sport we both loved. The USWA utilizes the sport of handball to develop champions in life and in sport, and provides a platform for the communities they serve to excel academically, professionally and socially. The program integrates the free and accessible sport with incentives to encourage underserved communities to stay in school, embrace healthy lifestyles and pursue alternatives to drug use and violent behavior.

How do the lessons on the handball court help someone as they prepare for their future?

There are many lessons to be learned when participating in sports but there are many factors that make Wall Ball a unique experience for any athlete. For example, hitting the ball with your hand as opposed to some tool or piece of equipment creates a very intimate connection between you and the ball. You learn how to manipulate and master your own body as opposed to learning how to use external factors. Because handball is often played one-on-one (although there is also a doubles version), our athletes learn how to take personal responsibility for your failures and/or victories. In general, when we are solely responsible for our actions, it increases the pressure to be better which translates into discipline, self-sufficiency and self-control. These lessons can be applied throughout all facets of life.

On March 26th, you are hosting Prep for Success, a tournament at Dyker Beach Park’s Anthony Mosomillo Courts.  But the event is more than about handball.  Can you explain?

Certainly.  The USWA is partnering with The City University of New York for this event.  We are using handball to get people to Dyker Beach, but once they are there, there will also be a 30-minute educational seminal on the importance of education and the resources available to apply for financial aid.  Beyond the lessons learned on the handball court, the lessons learned in the classroom will also prepare them for business. 

Let’s talk about other lessons that are not often taught in the classroom or, in your case, the handball courts.  In a few short weeks, we will launch a new social media series titled Wear to Work, which looks at how important clothing is in when going to work or preparing for a job interview.  Considering that you find yourself at the park one moment and in a business meeting the next, how do you choose what to wear?

It depends on the crowd and the location. I have tattoos, so if I know I’m walking into a professional environment I make an effort to cover up!

Why is it important to know the difference in dressing casually as you might for a handball tournament vs. dressing in business attire for a meeting or gala? 

Unfortunately, people can be very judgmental. I don’t exclude myself from that statement. So you always want to dress for the occasion to increase your chances of someone getting to know you and not just your outer appearance. 

Does the way a person dresses impact whether you might want to work with them in the future? 

Absolutely. It sort of ties into the previous answer. You want people to take you seriously and again, unfortunately to a certain extent, we all judge people by their outer appearance. I personally feel that, in most cases, if you take little pride in your appearance it can be a reflection of your work ethic.

Speaking about work ethic, is there an interview question you ask specifically to determine the qualifications of a potential employee?

What is the longest period of time you’ve held a position? This tells me their ability to commit, consistency in character and to a certain extent loyalty.

What do you look for in someone when developing a business relationship?

Positive energy, focus, talent, and drive.

We’d like to thank Jasmine for taking time to talk to us.  For more about the USWA, go to

Follow me on Twitter.
Follow Vault on Twitter and Instagram.