The New Normal How COVID-19 is impacting life on and off campus for NCAA members

I was supposed to be in Indianapolis. Shaking hands. Swapping smiles. Soaking in information from professionals working in sports.

Instead, I was in front of my computer in Philadelphia, taking part in some of the most impactful Zoom calls I’ve ever experienced.

The NCAA held its 10th annual Career in Sports Forum on May 27-29. Originally, the event was scheduled to be held at its headquarters in downtown Indianapolis, but COVID-19 changed that completely.

While we could not physically be there, somehow the NCAA managed to get more than 300 student-athletes on a functioning Zoom call. The setup was very similar to what it would’ve been in person and included many breakout sessions to allow people to feel more connected and moved to speak openly. The forum covered an array of topics, from working in a professional sports team front office to how the NCAA works. Many participants hope to be collegiate coaches within their sport, while others, like myself, aspire for a different role in sports. Specifically, I want to work in marketing for professional teams.

I feel much more prepared to do so after the Career in Sports Forum.

The first day of the forum — themed “Know Your Personal” — was probably the most important day for us as student-athletes. It revolved around identifying yourself as more than athletes. A lot of times, we base our identities around our sports. Many athletes struggle when their collegiate careers come to an end and they are forced into the real world.

We were challenged to name our strengths on day one. Even before the forum took place, we were instructed to take a strengths finder assessment. Through this, we used these strengths to see what careers aligned with them. I really enjoyed this day because I am guilty of solely basing my main identity around being an athlete. It challenged me to actually think of who I am and, most importantly, who I want to be.

An athlete is a great place to start, but that is the surface level. I have so much more to offer. This forum affirmed that.

Despite being happy the event continued, student-athletes felt that if we were in person, the event would’ve been more engaging. Even though Zoom has allowed for people to stay connected during this time, the disconnect was still felt.

The biggest part student-athletes missed from this event was the networking experience. We were undeterred by this obstacle, however. We took it upon ourselves to connect with one another. Within the first day, we created a group chat that every student-athlete from the forum joined. This was a way for us to make the forum fun and not feel like another classroom session. Through this GroupMe, I have been able to connect with like-minded people who are also interested in the same career path as me.

I also didn’t realize how diverse the NCAA was until the forum. Many international students attended it; some woke up at 2 a.m., while others stayed up till the same time to “attend.” This amazed me. I think it highlights just how important this forum is to student-athletes looking to get involved with sports after college.

I know I feel more motivated than ever to go after all my career goals!

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