When the COVD-19 pandemic abruptly canceled the 2020 sports season, it forced athletes away from their sports and gave them an opportunity to reflect. Not just on what was happening in the world around them, but to focus on their aspirations beyond athletics.
At Long Beach State, a pair of track & field athletes are pursuing those goals outside the world of sports, pursuing careers in the legal field to make a positive impact in the community. Seniors Faris Babineaux and Erin McGuire both completed the LSAT last month, the required examination needed for admittance to law school.
“It’s one thing to pass a class, and for some that might be ok, but these are individuals who are looking to score perfection and to earn perfection,” says Long Beach State women’s track & field coach LaTanya Sheffield. “You see that in their academic prowess. It’s really great to have athletes with such high-end goals, and goals that are more service-oriented. I think that’s absolutely commendable.”
Sheffield has worked with some of the best athletes in the world, serving multiple stints as a coach with Team USA. She has stressed community involvement within the program at Long Beach State, and while she says that Babineaux and McGuire are not unlike other student-athletes in the program, she commended them for taking strides early in their lives to establish a career away from the track.
“They’ve already placed themselves in a position to succeed before their undergrad is complete,” Sheffield said. “The silver lining of COVID is that it allowed them to focus on what their career goals are. They are more than an athlete, they are more than a student, these are folks that are going to be in our communities making a difference with their service.”
For McGuire, the journey into the legal field is a personal one. And one that began early on in her life.
“Growing up I was impacted by the criminal justice system,” she said. “I had a parent who was incarcerated for a majority of my lifetime. That’s where I became interested in the criminal justice system and eventually criminal law. Throughout the years I kept with the momentum and continued to pursue my interests and here I am.”
The criminal justice major spent six months studying for the LSAT, before ultimately taking the exam in October. McGuire said that the events of this past year, from the pandemic to the wave of racial unrest across the country, provided added motivation to pursue her dream and give Black women like her more representation in the criminal justice system.
“First and foremost, I want to be a role model for other African-Americans aspiring to be lawyers,” McGuire said. “We make up (less than five) percent of lawyers, so that was kind of my driving factor. But I also want to be a voice for the voiceless and serve as a gatekeeper of justice. I feel like for a lot of people, especially minorities, the government infringes on their rights because they don’t know what rights they have and the power they possess. Being a criminal defense attorney would give me the power to help people.”
Babineaux says his interest in the legal field is centered around trademark law. He has aspirations of starting his own firm one day, but his dreams of becoming an attorney were actually left up to chance.
“In high school I really loved math and science, and my mom really wanted to go to pharmacy school,” Babineaux explained. “But I took an American Government class my senior year and loved it. I just loved reading about the law and all the court cases, I thought it was really interesting. I thought about being a pharmacist but also wanted to go into law and become a lawyer, so I flipped a coin. I’m glad it landed on law.”
Babineaux took his LSAT on the same day as McGuire back in early October. They were both happy with their scores, but plan on re-taking the exam in January. Babineaux said that without the routine of track practice and attending class in person, his world has been “turned upside down”, but he says it has given him more time for studying. He also believes his experiences as a student-athlete have prepared him for an eventual career as an attorney.
“The biggest thing that track is going to help me with is mental discipline,” Babineaux said. “Track is an individual sport for the most part, so the work that you put in is going to show. It’s not just about what you do on the track, it’s what you do in weights, how you eat, how you sleep, and on top of that you have to get your schoolwork done. You have to be mentally tough to do that.”
When Coach Sheffield got word that Babineaux would be taking the LSAT, she asked him to stand in front of the team and speak about his journey. When he addressed his teammates, his words centered around commitment and dedication.
“When you devote yourself to a cause, it’s something that you think about every day,” Babineaux said. “Even something as simple as brushing your teeth, think about how that’s going to help you for the future. I’m going to have late nights studying for law school and studying for the bar exam. Will I have the stamina to keep up? Of course I will, because I’ve done 6 a.m. weights, I’ve been at track meets that go until 10 p.m. I’ve done all that, so I know I’m going to be able to continue. All of this is going to help what I’m truly committed to, and that’s my career.”
Photos courtesy Long Beach State Athletics.