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Eighteen student-athletes from schools in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference broadened their experiences by participating at the 2012 NCAA Convention in Indianapolis last week.
Made possible through the NCAA Division III Strategic Initiative Grant, the student-athletes participated in a range of activities – from education sessions to business sessions to the NCAA Honors Celebration.
“What an incredible week we had in Indianapolis,” said SCAC Commissioner Dwayne Hanberry. “Our student-athletes took full advantage of all that the NCAA Convention had to offer and were engaging on all fronts – administratively and socially. I can’t tell you how many people – fellow commissioners, presidents and athletics directors – came up to me and commented on how impressed they were with our kids. Without a doubt, this initiative has proven to be the best use of grant funds during my tenure with the conference.”
Hanberry said the grant from the NCAA provides the conference an annual vehicle to focus on different areas of social responsibility and integration. For the 2011-12 academic year, the focus was diversity and gender equity.
“One way that the conference office can help enhance or grow a more diverse populace of future administrators is to engage students while they are still on our campuses and provide them an opportunity to experience the various professional development seminars and the social activities available as part of the NCAA Convention,” said Hanberry. “Hopefully, some of these young men and women will become interested in pursuing an athletics administrative position upon graduation and see this as a viable career path – be it at a SCAC institution or at another institution of higher learning.
Student-athletes from nine of the SCAC’s 12 member institutions attended:
NCAA Division III Vice President Dan Dutcher said the SCAC delegation at the 2012 Convention helped reinforce the student-athlete experience, which is at the heart of the Division III philosophy.
“The SCAC student-athletes were active and engaged, and added greatly to several sessions,” he said. “Their attendance and participation were well received by our Division III delegates.”
Dutcher said the Division III governance structure leadership will work with the Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and conference commissioners to build on the success of this model at future Conventions.
Raven Scott, a junior volleyball student-athlete from Millsaps, posted a daily blog during the Convention that summarizes the activities that she and her fellow student-athletes experienced.
“I really enjoyed my time at the Convention,” said Scott. “It definitely gives me a greater appreciation, not only for Division III student-athletes and all the sports and championships we have, but also for our administration and our coaches who spend so much time at the Convention learning what the NCAA and the rules are about. It makes the experience better for all of us – for now and for the future.”
Southwestern University, with five representatives, had the largest contingent of SCAC student-athletes in attendance. Glada Munt, the school’s associate vice president and director of athletics, had the opportunity to spend time with the group.
“Watching the SCAC student-athletes interact and experience the NCAA Convention last week was the highlight of my trip to Indianapolis,” she said. “As an AD, I was amazed, intrigued, amused, impressed and proud of all of our student-athletes. The goals and expectations that lay behind the decision of the NCAA Division III Initiatives Grant to bring student-athletes to the Convention were certainly exceeded by our student-athletes. I have to believe that their experiences last week will be some of their best memories when they cross the stage for each of their respective graduations.”
For some, the highlight of the Convention was the glamorous Honors Celebration on Jan 13. Daniel Ayala of Southwestern met and posed for pictures with his long-time hero, David Robinson, who played basketball at Navy and with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. Oglethorpe’s Lexi Vassell persuaded Robinson to let her try on his NBA championship ring and posed for a picture while wearing it.
That same evening, while in a discussion with Doris Burke, the former basketball star at Providence College and current ESPN broadcaster, Southwestern’s Taylor Wright, when mentioning that she also would like to explore a career in broadcasting, was offered Burke’s personal email address for future correspondence.
“The best thing about the Honors Celebration was that we celebrated people who were well-rounded student-athletes,” said Abigail O’Connor of Southwestern. “The major thing people not associated with college sports tend to forget is that we are students first. Seeing people celebrated for their achievements in both academics and athletics was refreshing and inspiring.”
For others, the simpler things discovered over a week of fraternizing with fellow SCAC student-athletes at the NCAA Convention will be the bigger takeaway.
“What I enjoyed the most about getting to know other students and student-athletes in our conference is the dedication that everyone has to their sport,” said Heather Capozzella of Dallas. “Everyone is so friendly. When you’re in a competition, you’re nervous and you don’t want to talk to anyone because everyone seems so intimidating. But when you really get to know them, they’re a lot of fun. They all have great and different personalities. I just really enjoyed getting to know everyone here.”
A common theme throughout the week was the sense of pride the SCAC student-athletes displayed in representing their institutions and the SCAC while serving as ambassadors for all Division III student-athletes.
“Walking around the NCAA Convention, I definitely felt a great sense of pride being one of the student-athletes here,” said Brittiny Casteen of Hendrix. “It helped to represent what the NCAA is about – it’s about the students and it’s about the athletes. Just being able to have our voices heard and to actually have people come up to us and tell us that our voices and our opinions and our concerns actually mean something to them and they’ve actually listened to us – that gives you a great sense of pride.”
“I took great pride in representing the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference and Trinity University,” said Sal Perdomo. “We really made an impression on the athletics directors, presidents and faculty athletics representatives at the Convention, and they really enjoyed having us here.”
Story courtesy of Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference.