BABSON PARK, Mass.—Women's volleyball senior Catherine Hunter (Duxbury, Mass.) was one of two Babson College student-athletes selected to attend the NCAA Career in Sports Forum back in early June in Indianapolis. Held each year, the conference provides more than 200 college student-athletes with a broader scope of the career tracks available within the sports business, with the primary focus on college athletics.
Joined by classmate Olivia Martino (Berlin, Conn.) of women's lacrosse, who discussed her experiences last week, Hunter participated in four days of workshops set up set up to help student-athletes chart potential career paths while networking and learning from successful college administrators. The Babson athletics communications staff caught up with Hunter following the trip to find out more about what she gained from the experience.
Babson Athletics (BA): What were some of the factors that made you want to apply to attend the NCAA Career in Sports Forum?
Catherine Hunter (CH): "I have played sports all my life and want to find a way to continue a career in athletics because of the people that I have had the pleasure of working with throughout my life so far. I have found that the athletic administrators and coaches are passionate and positive people who are always seeking self-improvement and finding creative ways to help those around them."
(BA): What were some of your expectations about what you might learn going into the conference?
(CH): "I didn't really know what to expect, I knew that I would be hearing a lot of speakers, but I didn't know how in-depth the information we would receive would be. I was completely blown away by the level of dedication that the NCAA office had with the event though, it was incredible. From the speakers to the topics they spoke on, every moment of the forum felt meaningful and like there was a relevant takeaway from it."
(BA): I know there were many different speakers and topics presented at the forum—what were some of your favorites and why?
(CH): "#High5AndASmile. Penny Semaia speaking was hands down the greatest hour of my life (aside from making it to the Sweet 16 with Babson Volleyball, #rollbeav). He spoke about personal branding, and how we as members of the social media generation we can use our social medias to add value to our lives." (Note: Penny is a former football player at the University of Pittsburgh and now works in the Panthers' athletic department as an associate athletic director for student life.)
"It was the third day of the conference and we had been sitting for hours at a time, just listening. As the last speaker of the day he must have had some understanding that the 200 athletes he was talking to were burnt out because he started his hour long time with a game of competitive rock, paper, scissors. We started out one-on-one, and when you lost you had to start cheering for the person who beat you. Before long, there were 200 athletes shouting and cheering for their groups until finally a champion was crowned. As we made our way back to our seats smiling and chatting with each other finally loosened up after sitting stiffly in our business professional apparel, Penny was standing on stage beaming."
(BA): As you think about a potential career in college athletics, how helpful was the interaction with current NCAA administrators and what insights were you able to gain from them?
(CH): "Before I had the chance to talk to the NCAA administrators and other speakers, I thought that the only options for involvement in sports were to be playing or coaching. I had no idea just how many people and jobs it took to run a successful season in a single sport. From the individual schools' athletic administration office, to the conference offices, to the separate divisions of the NCAA itself, there are so many different ways to stay involved in collegiate athletics.
"Everyone that I talked to at the conference was passionate about their work and woke up excited for the challenges and changes that each new day might bring. I hadn't considered grad school to be the next step in my career, but after hearing all the amazing connections and experiences that people had I have started to branch out in my plans for the future."
(BA): With over 200 student-athletes taking part in the conference what did you enjoy most about talking with and learning from your peers?
(CH): "Coming from Babson, a small Division III college, and Emmanuel College before that, and even smaller D3 school, I had never been exposed to the life of Division I athletes. Talking with fellow volleyball players about their day-to-day experiences and the different struggles that they have was eye opening to me."
"There was one instance in particular, during a networking event that made me incredibly thankful for the opportunities that D3 athletics allow students like myself to take advantage of. During the event, we had to find things in common with someone else in the room. The 70 athletes in the room all stood up and one by one we would have to say an interesting fact about ourselves, to which someone else in the room would shout out "me too." I was one of the first few to go, and when I said that I had studied abroad in Europe, only one person said "me too," and it was Olivia Martino, the other Babson student-athlete a the conference. Now maybe this speaks to the success of Babson and the programs that the Glavin office creates, but afterward when I was having lunch with some of the Division I athletes I met, they said they they didn't know any athletes who had studied abroad. One girl went as far as to say that her team was asked to be on campus 11 months out of the year."
"I felt incredibly lucky to be able to get the whole college experience - clubs, internships, studying abroad, while still being able to play the sport that I love and be a part of the small group of students who get to suit up three times a week and represent Babson."
(BA): What were other important takeaways from the four-day conference as you think about your future?
(CH): "The most important thing I took away from the conference was the idea that there is no one path to success and self-fulfillment. Peoples careers bounced all over the corporate landscape; some knew what they wanted to do from the minute they started college, others didn't figure it out until five years into their post-graduate lives. But the common thread between everyone was the fact that they knew what brought them happiness and found a way to incorporate that into their everyday lives. I believe that as long as I keep my passions in my heart and surround myself with those who are willing to challenge me to grow, in 30 years I will look back with no regrets."
(BA): After attending the workshop and having some time to reflect on your experience, can you see a future for yourself in athletics?
(CH): "Definitely. After hearing all the different speakers life stories and all the different paths that they took to get to where they are today, it helped open my eyes to all the possibilities that exist in the athletic world, and that I don't have to limit myself to one passion in life."