In collaboration with UConn Athletics, espnW conducted a panel and workshops designed to better help female student-athletes navigate post-college life. With representation from all of UConn’s women’s sports, players were able to listen to and ask questions from those that had been in their shoes. Panelists and students alike admitted how hard it can be to prepare or think about the future while dealing with a rigorous college schedule but the biggest takeaway was that the athletes gathered there in McHugh Hall should feel empowered because of their collegiate experience, not underprepared.
“I think a lot of us have the same fears and the same apprehensions of what’s the next step,” said senior lacrosse attacker Caitlin Leary. “So to just come in here and just calm your nerves about the next step and how to use all of the things we’ve learned in college sports to help us.”
The panel, hosted by ESPN’s Jen Lada, consisted of four women who had successfully navigated the trials and tribulations of life as a collegiate athletes and found success in their respective fields. All four credited their athletic backgrounds with helping them once they entered the “real” world. Jackie Wattles, a 2014 UConn graduate, former Daily Campus news editor and former volleyball player, says that her athletic career added to her skills and helped her become the strong independent journalist at CNN she is today.
“When you go into an interview, just keep in your mind that you’ve had your heart broken, you’ve been yelled at, you’ve been criticized, you’ve been picked apart,” said Wattles. “You’ve wanted something really bad and you’ve gotten it and that’s what sports teaches you.”
Lacrosse defender Kiera Dalmass related to Wattle’s experience of juggling a sport, work and her academics.
“I have a job and right now and I’m trying to balance that with my practice schedule, class schedule and also committing time to the organizations that I help run,” Delmass said. “She said she didn’t give herself enough time to breathe at times and I find myself doing that a lot.”
In addition to a question and answer session, the group broke into smaller sections based on class standing to undergo workshops. Topics included entrepreneurship and social media presence. A running theme throughout the event was that athletes shouldn’t feel less prepared than their classmates despite perhaps not having the time to dedicate to internships or part-time jobs.
“There are things that you’ve accomplished and there are qualities that you have that you should be proud of,” said Lada. “Be proud of the things that you should be proud of. If you have a strong work ethic, those are things that employers want to hear.”
Leary said that the thought of falling behind her peers academically was an added stressor entering her senior year.
“We don’t have that much downtime. It’s just that stress of when am I going to get all this experience when all my competition around me is getting that,” said Leary. “The answers the panelists had calmed all that. The experiences we have everyday at practice are our experiences that other kids don’t get.”
Even those that plan on continuing their athletic careers after graduation like women’s basketball star Katie Lou Samuelson said that there was something to be taken away.
“You never know what’s going to happen with injuries or things in life,” said Samuelson. “If things don’t work out, I’ll figure it out. Lots of people are unsure and a lot of people don’t know but there’s always something that is going to go the right way or get better.”
Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.