Senior tennis player Kelsey Mills attended the NCAA Career in Sports Forum over the summer and reflects on the experience below.
The NCAA Career in Sports Forum held in Indianapolis was one of the most amazing experiences and greatest opportunities I have ever been able to be a part of. It was such an eye opener to see all of the inner workings of collegiate athletics and how much actually goes into making our teams be what they are out on our respective playing fields. During the forum, there were two different tracks that you chose to be a part of, either administration or coaching. I chose to be a part of the coaching track where I learned and met with Head Men’s and Women’s Tennis coach, Michael Perez, from Lynn University. He gave us a step by step of what being a head coach at the collegiate level entails and all of his daily responsibilities. The majority of this forum wasn’t focused on our career track but provided us with almost all of the tools and resources necessary to help us transition from being a collegiate athlete into our future career of choice.
Right off the bat, something very interesting to me to see was the variety of different athletes present at the forum which included athletes of various sports and most importantly, how all three NCAA divisions were represented. There was a vast array of schools represented including Division I athletes from big schools such as the University of North Carolina, Oregon State, Texas Tech and other big conference schools. I never had imagined myself being categorized with these athletes coming from such a small, Division III School. I was honored to be the only one representing Washington College and the Centennial Conference at the forum alongside 300 other athletes.
The majority of our time during the forum was spent within our color teams. There were a total of eight different teams with around 35 to 40 students in each. The groups were led by volunteer facilitators from all over the nation to represent their respective athletic offices and NCAA positions.
I was a part of the red color team, which was led by Melody Cope, Associate Vice-President of Athletics at Dowling College and Courtney Lovely, Assistant Director of Student-Athlete Affairs at the NCAA. In our color teams, we assessed our DiSC® styles to use in the workplace, our positive and negative attribute and we participated in many other activities relevant to assist in reaching our future careers. These facilitators helped make the week be what it was and I really respect our facilitators simply because of everything they taught us in such a short period of time. Without them, the week wouldn’t have been a success and I am thankful for all the useful information they provided us at the forum.
When we weren’t in our color teams, we spent our time together as one large group in the conference room where we met with different business representatives and athletic administrators. A lot of different topics were covered including professional conduct, networking and social media. We learned information ranging from what to wear to an interview to our etiquette to just simple ways to improve our personal conduct. Another important topic of discussion was the networking piece as it is all around us and something as a simple as a brief, causal conversation could possibly lead to your next job. It is always important to always be prepared because you just never know who you are talking to or where it might take you.
Another important aspect that was covered was social media, which can be important to any career field that one might go into. Due to the increasing social media use in our generation, it is important to monitor what you say, do and post on your social media accounts. This issue became very clear when the director brought to our attention Facebook statuses from student-athletes who were present at the conference who had posted things with very vulgar language and offensive statements. It became very apparent that anyone could find out what you post on your Facebook, even under privacy settings so it is important to treat your account in a professional matter.
The most influential part of the conference was from our closing keynote speaker on Sunday, Clint Bruce. Bruce stated that “life isn’t different after college, so don’t choose normal, strive. It has gotten you here today so what’s your why”? The “what’s your why” really stuck in my mind to re-evaluate why I chose to do what I am doing in my life and to make sure you have a definite reason to accomplish your goals and dreams. He gave us advice to follow the following 4 P’s: purposeful, passionate, protector and provisional and to make sure they apply to your lifestyle and career. Bruce really helped me make the connection in why sports are so important and see that sports basically mold everything that you do in life. In athletics, there comes teamwork, failure, success, hard work, commitment and passion- all of which apply to nearly every aspect of your life. College athletics is a wonderful thing to be a part of and it opens you up to situations that a non-athlete doesn’t experience, which will ultimately help you with your future endeavors.
Overall, this conference was a great opportunity for me where I met a lot of different student athletes on a very wide spectrum. The forum is very informative for anyone who is even somewhat interested in pursuing a career in collegiate coaching or administration or jobs relevant to athletics. I highly encourage other Shoremen and Shorewomen to apply for this in the spring as the forum exposes you to so many resources that you can use for your future. Personally, I have learned that I don’t want to go into collegiate athletics but it still helped me see that I am on the right track to become a Physician Assistant one day. This experience also gave me the chance to learn some advice for coaching on the non-collegiate level, which is something that I would like to be a part of whether it will be at a youth or high school level. I just wanted to say thank you to Washington College and to the NCAA for providing me with such a great experience.
Photo from left: Courtney Lovely (NCAA), Mills and Melody Copy (Dowling College).