Four Utah State Student-Athletes Participate in NCAA Career in Sports Forum

Four Utah State student-athletes participated in last week's NCAA Career in Sports Forum, which helps prepare student-athletes who aspire to have a career in sports after college.

Women's tennis player Annaliese County, along with football players Andre GraysonBrandon Pada and Jared Reed, participated in the event, which took place May 27-29. The forum, originally slated to be held in Indianapolis, Ind., was held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"One of my main takeaways was one of the conversations we had on the first day," said County, an accounting major who just completed her sophomore season with the Aggies. "They talked about how we are more than just an athlete, that being an athlete is not the only thing that describes us. When we introduce ourselves, it's always like, 'I'm Annaliese County and I am on the women's tennis team at Utah State.' There are more identifiers than that and the sooner we realize that, the easier the transition out of sports after college will be for each of us."

Reed, a journalism major who redshirted his first season at cornerback for the Aggies, agreed with County.

"I learned how to associate different characteristics and values that I can use to identify myself with, rather than just being an athlete," he said.

Organized and directed by the NCAA leadership development department, the four Aggies joined close to 400 other student-athletes from across the nation to learn about, explore and chart their potential careers in sports, particularly collegiate athletics.

"The best thing about it for me was making connections with other athletes," said Grayson, an interdisciplinary studies major who just completed his junior season at cornerback for Utah State. "I was honestly surprised with how well it worked since we were all on Zoom. I thought it would be a little difficult to keep up and see everybody, but I was impressed with how smooth it ran. But definitely, making the connections with the other athletes was the best takeaway for me."

Notable speakers covered the following topics and more to prepare attendees for success in navigating their futures: self-awareness and its role in professional development; practical approaches to the sports job search; personal branding; developing a career plan; managing yourself as a professional in the sports industry.

"I took away a lot of key points from the forum," Reed said. "I have always wanted to work in the front office of a professional team, and that was one topic they talked about. It was presented by Erika Swilley, who is the senior director of community and social responsibility for the Detroit Pistons. She gave and shared lots of helpful information that will help me in the future."

Through online panels, engaging breakout sessions, keynote presentations and facilitated discussions, program participants completed their experience with a thorough understanding of athletics as a career path and where they fit into the industry's landscape.

"I am going to piggyback with what Andre echoed," said Pada, a political science major who just completed his junior season at long snapper for Utah State. "Meeting and connecting with all of the other athletes, going into it, I honestly didn't know how many athletes were going to be a part of the whole forum, and knowing it was close to 400, I thought it would be hard for us to communicate. But, I liked the way they handled it, breaking us down into small groups was a nice way for me to interact with the other athletes and hear what they had to say. It was a great experience overall."

The forum platform allowed attendees to network with peers and decision-makers at the campus, conference and national level of college athletics.

Participants who expressed an interest in pursuing a career in sports, and who were viewed as leaders on their campus, were invited to apply to attend the forum after a nomination by athletics administrators at their respective schools. The selection committee is comprised of administrators and coaches within the NCAA – many of whom are former forum participants themselves.

All four Aggies said they would recommend the NCAA Career in Sports Forum to other fellow student-athletes or friends.

"This is definitely something I would suggest to all student-athletes, especially if they want a career in sports," Reed said. "Some advice I would give them is to go in with an open mind and ready to learn."

Added Grayson: "Go in and take as many notes as you can, because there is a lot of information being poured out and you want to take it all in."

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