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Career In Sports
May 30, 2017
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ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) - Women's soccer's Morgan Ferrara joined rowing's Rachael Klunder, Zana Krakic and Viktorija Senkute as four of the 13 American Athletic Conference student-athletes selected to participate in the NCAA's Career in Sports Forum in Indianapolis June 1-4.
For the eighth year, the Career in Sports Forum provided college athletes with a broader scope of the career tracks available within the sports business, with the primary focus on college athletics. The forum provided student-athletes interactive experiences with successful individuals in the sports business and a peek into their day-to-day duties and responsibilities.

The four Knights share their experiences in Indianapolis below.

June 1
Viktorija Senkute (Rowing):
"Today was introductions and registration day. The emcee announced that 700 student-athletes from the whole country and all three divisions applied to attend this forum, and only 240 were selected. We discussed three topics presented by guest speakers - heath and safety, integrity and value of interpersonal communication in college athletics and why we should focus on it more.

I tried to meet as many people as possible. I learned about the variety of schools from all three divisions. I got a brief understanding about the way they run things there and what the key differences are among the schools. It was interesting to hear how other student-athletes live, where they practice and how they run their development offices. It was an honor to share about the amazing facilities and resources we have at UCF - especially our Student-Athlete Leadership building.

Tomorrow the timeline runs from 8 a.m. - 9 p.m., so I'm excited to learn even more!"

Morgan Ferrara (Women's Soccer):
"After an early 5 a.m. wake up call and a two hour flight to Indianapolis, we arrived bright-eyed and nervous for what was in store at the NCAA Career in Sports Forum.

We were greeted by men holding NCAA-labeled signs who were assigned to drive us and about 40 other student-athletes to the hotels. Just a mere 5 minute walk from the hotel to the NCAA headquarters, the girls and I decided to explore downtown Indianapolis before registration and check-in at 1.

With a nice view and great admiration for the facility, we stepped in to the building and were amazed at the intriguing design. I even found the "UCF" emblem on a wall of 1,281 school logos of all NCAA sponsored schools. In our first meeting, we were greeted by Mr. Clyde Doughty Jr., the Athletic Director at DII Bowie State University. I found him very intriguing as he is knowledgeable, entertaining, and very experienced in the field of college athletics.

In the second meeting, he was accompanied by Mrs. Stevie Baker Watson, Athletic Director of DePauw University, Craig McPhail, Athletic Director of Lees-McRae College, and Derrick Crawford who works in the NCAA Investigations Unit. Each brought up "Hot Topics" in collegiate athletics, for us to discuss at our table with our peers. Our discussion was based off of, "The importance of maintaining your integrity in the work you do and not letting others compromise your values or beliefs."

My peers, from University of Iowa, University of Memphis, Saint Benedict University, and University of Denver came up with: "Create a strong enough character that when you're not in the room it speaks for you." This value, along with many others I learned, will be essential in finding myself the remainder of the weekend, and throughout whatever career path I choose.

Mr. Doughty Jr. returned to the stage to discuss with us "The Moment," and how to make the most of each opportunity in our life. He taught us valuable lessons such as: time stands still for nobody and no one. As I approach graduation, this hit me pretty hard. As each day passes, I have to make the most of each opportunity I've been given, but know that the future is soon and it is not waiting for me or any body else to prepare for it.

Mr. Doughty also said, "When you think you have arrived, it is time to leave and start your journey all over." I loved this because I am always one to say, "Never get comfortable," and seeing his successful career, it is real and it is true. We should always be looking to grow, and always keep the best people around us.

Day 1 at the Career in Sports Forum has been a huge success, and I look forward to growing as a person and a student-athlete the next three days."

Rachael Klunder (Rowing):
"Arriving in Indianapolis today ready for a great weekend of learning, and opportunity. I meet a lot of great people today from all over the country, different divisions and different schools. The biggest takeaway from today was learning "Our Moment" from the emcee and speaker, Mr. Clyde Doughty, Jr., the Athletic Director at Bowie State University. He spoke about how life is a moment, and an opportunity. The time is now to do what it is you need to do to make a better you, and a better tomorrow. This hit me a young professional trying to do so much all the time that I sometimes miss the moment to enjoy what it is I am already doing. There were a few key things that really stuck with me and they are:
  • Time stands still for nobody.
  • The time is now
  • Success is not being better than someone, it is being the best you can be.
Day one at the forum has already brought so much light to myself, and the direction I want to take myself in this profession. I know college athletics is where I belong as serving other student-athletes is where my heart is. It is about giving back and serving others as they have served me. Also being diligent in where I am going because, as the speaker said "if you don't know how you got there, you don't know where you are going." Be diligent in everything you do and make sure it is with a purpose. Today has only been a half day of learning and I can't wait to see what the rest of the weekend brings.

I'm very thankful to have been chosen for this opportunity."

June 2
Zana Krakic (Rowing):
"Day two started fairly early with breakfast going on from 6:30 a.m. until 8 a.m. Opening session started at 8:15 a.m., which was followed by the first speaker of the day, Oliver Luck. He currently oversees three NCAA units eligibility, reinforcement and academic membership. He also lived and worked in Germany where he was overseeing their national football league. He made us aware that as student-athletes in America, we are in a unique position that does not exists anywhere else in the world. It was great moment where we all in the room realized how lucky we are to be in the position we are.

Following him, Division Perspective Panel consisted of Jackie Campbell (DI), Maritza Jones (DIII) and Jay Jones (DII) and addressed differences between divisions. As a DI student-athlete, I was not aware of the issues and different perspectives student-athletes and athletic directors have when working in DII or DIII. This panel was very interactive, and student athletes had the most questions for this group of professionals.

After the lunch we were divided in to the three smaller groups. As a group, we got a better understanding of the structure of the national offices, conference offices and campuses. Continuing the day, a panel of intern and graduate students described their recent beginnings in the sport industry and how they got their foot in to the door. The last speaker of the day was Becky Hall, Director of Athletics at Oglethorpe University. She shared her life story and how opportunity often comes out of nowhere and we just need to have courage to accept it.

Day two was challenging in many ways. We covered many different topics and heard from a lot of different speakers in a short time. Sometimes the amount of information can be overwhelming, however student-athletes are eager to learn and embrace challenges. Day two was amazing and I'm excited to see what the NCAA has planned for us tomorrow."

Morgan Ferrara:
"Day two approached with another early alarm. As I put on my professional business attire, I couldn't help but still feel a little nervous. When we walked in to the assembly room, everyone was quiet and shy. When the first session started, the host, Clyde, made us all get up and move to other seats to meet new athletes.

Being an introvert myself, it is nice to meet people that are completely relatable on all levels. Every person I have met so far has been so friendly and approachable. I have met over 100 athletes ranging from all sports and all universities from Division I to Division III. How cool is that? I am still in awe of the opportunity to meet these tip of the top student-athletes from all over the country.

The day was full of speakers from all over the country. We met NCAA government structure employees, NCAA employees, athletic directors, graduate assistants, coaches, and more. I have learned so much about the structure of the NCAA, departments of the national office and now I understand the differences between all three divisions. I actually learned that Division III has the most student-athletes, which came as a major surprise to me. I also learned that Division I has 32 conferences! It sounded like a lot, until I heard Division III has 43!

My biggest takeaway from today was at the end of the night. After dinner, we had the opportunity to network with different professionals from each department in collegiate athletics. I am an exercise science major, so I quickly went to the sports medicine table. I was able to connect with Ned Shannon, who is the head athletic trainer at University of Indianapolis. All day at the conference we discussed interesting things like budgeting, legislation, and eligibility. Although those topics are very important, it was nice to finally meet a guy who spoke my language! We immediately hit it off as I spoke to him about my current undergraduate research. He took me through the ins and outs of athletic training at the collegiate level, as well as spoke on balancing a family, and how he got in to the position he is in now.

Day two was a huge success! I learned more about the NCAA that I could have ever thought, and I can't wait to see what is in store for day three!"

Rachael Klunder:
"Acknowledge the mistakes you make and move on from them. I know I can sometimes dwell on mistakes and over analyze but simply recognizing them and learning from them will help me in the long run rather than dwelling on this situation. As Oliver Luck stated in our morning session, "You must challenge yourself." In some ways I feel I do and in others I know I can push harder on myself, which is something I am working on. When listening to the divisional perspectives in a panel it was so eye-opening to see the differences between Division I, II, and III. I was disappointed in myself that I was so closed minded to the other divisions but after this weekend I have a totally new perspective to college athletics. Even though all divisions are structured and geared differently we are all working to one common goal.

During the intern and graduate assistant panel I was able to learn great things about being young and going straight into the field. This August I will be working with the UCF academic department directly with student-athletes. As many of my concerns were addressed, I am excited to get to work and set a good example for transiting from a student-athlete to GA assistant in the department. I know there will be struggles at times, and I am thankful I have such a great staff to lean on and ask questions when making the transition only three months after my college rowing career ended. Today, we as a group were questioned to find out "why" and on Sunday we will be asked again to define and really establish our "why". When you think about it, it's easy. There are many reasons why it is we do what we do, but to really narrow it down and focus in on why we truly do what it is we do has been inspiring to hear others why's. I think I have my why but I am excited to work on it and really define it over the next two days."

June 3
Morgan Ferrara:
"I have never been a morning person, but when you're involved in such an awesome program, it is easy to wake up before the sun! I put on my business clothes (I'm really starting to enjoy this professionalism) and was off to the NCAA National Office to start the day.

The first session we broke in to what was by far my most favorite part of the forum thus far. Before we arrived to Indianapolis, they sent us a test called a DiSC assessment. For those who don't know, DiSC is a personality test that assesses your specific tendencies in a work place. We did a workshop with about 40 other student-athletes, where we discussed how each personality benefits and is misunderstood in a team/work setting. My personality test revealed that I was a "CD" which meant I "take an efficient, no-nonsense approach to my work. I am likely to have high expectations for yourself and others. Since I value expertise, people who consistently demonstrate competence are most likely to gain my respect. And because I want to reach superior results efficiently, I work to balance speed and quality. I may be drawn to positions that give me the freedom to ensure that things are done correctly." Well, it was a little bit creepy how accurate the results were.

I learned so much about myself and the people around me, and how each personality can work together more effectively. I can't wait to bring this information back to UCF and share it with my peers and teammates. I think it can really improve team chemistry. We then broke in to different groups and went to three different workshops. These included networking, finding balance, and emotional intelligence.

I really enjoyed this day because it was a lot of learning about myself. I found out things about my personality that I have never even thought about. The skills and learning strategies I have learned these past few days will be things I remember for the rest of my life.

Our last meeting of the day was about creating your personal and professional brand with Mr. Marlon Deschausay of the University of Illinois. He was very funny and entertaining, but really taught me a lot about the power of first impression and tips to help me get a job.

After today, I think I have met just about every student-athlete at the conference. How cool is that? I still can't even put in to words how awesome this experience has been. I loved meeting all of these new people, along with networking with every speaker that has presented. This experience has been a once in a lifetime opportunity and I can't wait to see what the last day will bring!"

Rachael Klunder:
"What a day! The DiSC assessments were by far the best part of the day. It was truly looking into personality and the characteristics we as individuals carry. I was not surprised when getting my results that I was a "Strong I," meaning I carry the traits of outgoing, enthusiastic, optimistic, high-spirited, and lively.

When the room split into the four different letters, it was great to see the immediate connections between all the I's and especially the room atmosphere. The I's were very loud and talking the most as the other tables tended to be quieter. While reading through my assessment, there were some direct lines that I totally related to such as "thrives on relating to other people; when speaking you're likely to promote your opinions with passion and wholeheartedness. Your enthusiasm is contagious, bringing people together, and having a strong ability to initiate action." These were lines throughout my assessment that totally described me.

This assessment was so spot on which makes me want to bring it back to my coaches and possible have the entire team do it. As the package also gives you ways on how to handle/communication with the other letters in the assessment. I think it would be very beneficial to have teammates aware of the traits and communication tactics of their other teammates.

As many speakers said all weekend: "Get out of your comfort zone" There is no way to grow if you are always comfortable. I had already meeting so many great people today. It was just about the end of the day as I passed a smile to a gentleman sitting at a table. I took another step and said to myself "Get out of your comfort zone and introduce yourself." I did just that, and I am so happy I did as I met Mr. Steve Orsini, who served as the athletic director for UCF from 2002-06. I made a connection that we were both Knights, and if I would have kept walking as I passed that smile, I would have never had the opportunity to introduce myself as a proud UCF student-athlete representing our school at this forum."

June 4
Morgan Ferrara:
"As I sit on this airplane back to Orlando, I can't help but have the biggest smile on my face as I reflect on my weekend in Indianapolis. Wow. Speechless. I've struggled to find the right words to put together to really describe how truly incredible this experience was, but I've figured out that unless someone can experience for themselves, it really doesn't do it justice to call it simply spectacular.

We started the day off with a discussion with Coach Burton, head women's basketball coach at Texas A&M Commerce. What. A. Guy. I see now why they saved him for the last day, as he was by far one of my favorite speakers I've ever seen. His topic of discussion was about "Finding Your Why." Why do we do what we do as humans, student-athletes, sisters, daughters, friends, soon-to-be business professionals, coaches, and even mothers? What is our purpose in life? Well, if that doesn't get your brain bubbling at 8 a.m. I don't know what would.

I thought long and hard about my true passions in life - faith, soccer, school, family, influencing others. I began to think, what could I do that would give me the most opportunity to impact the lives of others? And then, like a big yellow school bus, it hit me. I need to coach. I need to pour life in to the lives of college athletes, I need to give back to the game that has given me so much. Its the perfect opportunity to mix all of my passions in to one, and get to do it proudly on an every day basis. As this revelation hit me, I realized that this is why I was at this forum.

For the past seven months I have struggled so much with my identity. Who did I want to be? I'm approaching my senior season, and although hopefully professional soccer is in my future, it will eventually come to an end. Then what? This forum helped me discover my passion, my duty in life.

With a standing ovation, Coach Burton exited the stage and we welcomed the Vice President of NCAA eligibility, Felicia Martin, to discuss our "What's Next?" She came on to the stage enthusiastic and proud, being a former Mississippi State Bulldog. After attending there my freshman year, it was good to have a commonality with her. She immediately had my attention. She stressed the importance of setting long term goals, transitioning from athletic life to professional life, stepping out of the comfort zone and how to pursue a career at the NCAA national office. It was awesome to hear her story and sponge the information she was providing.

Clyde came back on the stage to close the show, bringing an emotional standing ovation and a sad farewell as we said goodbye to 200 of our newest friends. I'm not usually good at talking to strangers, but being in a room full of people that all have similar goals and backgrounds at you made it easy for me to connect with hundreds of people, who I now consider friends. I was completely out of my comfort zone, and I like to think I thrived immensely.

I cannot wait to bring all of the information I learned back to my SAAC members and my teammates. I think every student-athlete would thrive in these workshops, and really discover who they need to be in life. Wherever I travel across the NCAA this fall, I believe I will know someone everywhere I go! How cool is that?

I cannot stress enough how grateful I am for Ms. Brandi (Stuart) , Mr. Steve (Seay), Ben (Rodriguez), Davonte (Anderson) and Lizzy (Whitbeck) for this nomination, and all of the folks at the NCAA for making this forum an embedded memory and a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Rachael Klunder:
"Today was a day to identify your why and what you as an individual truly do to make an impact.

My Why:
To have an impact on changing negative atmospheres and cultures to positive ones so everyone can grow and develop in a life changing environment. To impact the lives of those that surround me with passion and energy. To motivate those that may not be able to motivate themselves, and to give back to those that gave to me. I want to leave every place I go better than I found it, leaving a legacy to inspire others to believe in themselves. Most importantly I will do what I do for God & my family. This is my WHY!

As the weekend comes to a close, I reflect on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have gathered with 240 other student-athletes at the National Office to learn, exchange experiences, and develop as young professionals. This has been an opportunity that I embraced to represent my school, my team, and develop myself to be the best version of myself that I can be.

I will forever be grateful to Ms. Brandi (Stuart), Mr. Ben (Rodriguez), Mr. Steve (Seay), Davonte (Anderson), and Lizzy (Whitbeck) for the endless amount of work they do to make things like this possible for student-athletes like me. I am grateful for the process and the challenges they gave me to be nominated for this opportunity. They hold a high standard for the student-athletes at UCF and for that I am grateful, because pushing on me helps me grown and develop in ways I might not see right away. I am proud to be a Knight, and I am thankful for the opportunity to represent UCF at the National Office in Indianapolis."

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