Three Averett student-athletes inspired by experience at NCAA’s Career in Sports Forum

Posted on June 5th, 2024 by Bill Dyer

By: Drew Wilson/Director of Athletics Communications

INDIANAPOLIS — Each with aspirations to coach at the college level, three Averett University student-athletes recently attended the NCAA’s Career in Sports Forum held May 30-June 2 to help them learn about and explore career paths in athletics.

Averett women’s basketball senior Jihnez Hutchinson, football senior Matthew Isom and women’s volleyball senior Emma Nash were among the 200 student-athletes selected to attend the annual educational programming at the NCAA’s headquarters in Indianapolis. The three-day event featured engaging speakers within the athletics industry, workshops and networking for all attendees. Since 2016, Averett has had 20 student-athletes participate in the annual Career in Sports Forum.

“I was particularly eager to learn about diverse careers in sports,” Isom said. “My expectations were not only met but exceeded. I gained insights and connections from professionals in both collegiate and professional athletics, and I had the pleasure of meeting student-athletes from various regions and divisions.”

The change to continue to develop professionally was a big draw for Hutchinson, who was also selected to attend the NCAA’s national convention in Phoenix this past January as part of the NCAA Division III Student Immersion Program.

“I was very excited about this opportunity and I instantly wrote down the deadline dates in my planner when I first heard about it at the Student Immersion Program,” Hutchinson said. “What I gained most is insight about myself, learning about my strengths and how I could utilize those in my future career in sports. Students who are thinking about working in sports take advantage of the Career in Sports Forum it not only can help you figure out the next steps for the future but it will provide you with additional knowledge like learning about all the different careers in sports besides coaching and athletic directors.”

Nash said the experience was instantly beneficial and rewarding.

“I was also able to learn and then immediately apply networking skills I learned while at the Forum,” Nash said. “We had the opportunity to speak with every speaker, athletic director, coach and many other individuals involved in the world of sports. … I will never forget the relationships I’ve built and all of the rich things I have learned over the past weekend. It was such an honor to have the opportunity to show everyone around me who I am and what Averett student-athletes are all about. I am so thankful to have been able to represent our amazing university beside my friends.”

All three Cougars were especially captivated by Ole Miss women’s basketball head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin, who was one of the speakers at the Career in Sports Forum.

“She had lines that stuck with many students like ‘Shoot Your Shot,’ meaning don’t ever think an opportunity is too great for you to conquer,” Hutchinson noted. “Always go out there and try your best you never know what other opportunities may present itself.”

Nash also took away from McPhee-McCuin’s speech the idea that it’s important to continue to invest in yourself and “sharpen your saw.”

“Another thing that stood out to me was listening to Will Baggett with Emergent Executives talk about how it’s not about the physical company (the business), it’s about the company (the people you surround yourself with),” Nash continued. “These key takeaways are going to help me be successful in the world of coaching.”

Isom said one thing that resonated with him came from NCAA President Charlie Baker.

“His speech emphasized the importance of not settling for what is comfortable and easy, and he encouraged us to trust that our path is already set,” Isom said.

All three Averett participants came away with tangible experiences that will help them moving forward with their career aspirations.

“The experience was outstanding, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity to attend,” Isom said. “For those uncertain about their career path, the sports industry offers a multitude of opportunities. I met individuals aspiring to be coaches, accountants, lawyers, athletic directors and more — all within the realm of sports. Additionally, it provided valuable time for self-reflection, allowing me to consider my passions and what truly motivates me.”


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