The CALS16 interns, including College AD’s own Erick Taylor (third from right). [Image courtesy of @CALS_2016]
College athletics is a business of relationships, but the Collegiate Athletics Leadership Symposium (CALS) is not just in the business of relationships, but rather establishing genuine relationships. Never was this more on display than during my internship with the CALS16. 250 attendees from every level of collegiate athletics converged in Kansas City to grow together during one of the busiest times of the year for most departments with football in midseason and basketball around the corner. The reason why is simple; conference founder Will Reece describes it as “being an inclusively invite only conference”. CALS has grown all through classical word of mouth. A friend nominates a friend to attend, and the next thing you know the conference is in its fifth year, the fifth location, and over five times larger than when it began.
Reece’s idea began humbly by having a few athletic administrators meet and connect at the University of Tulsa to engage on becoming better administrators. This year’s edition, CALS16, provided the unique opportunity of a nationwide internship opportunity. Mr. Reece had three goals that he hoped everyone would leave the conference accomplishing, being learning something new that you can do right now, start & deepen relationships, and most importantly have a good time.
This message was further instilled by opening speaker Bill Self. I walked away with the message that careers are long and winding, but that success is about more than going from win to win. He discussed his early coaching struggles and how that makes the sustained success at Kansas, not only meaningful but fun as well. It is very easy to think about the journey of college athletics as going from goal to goal, but Bill Self reminded us all that it’s not about catching lightning in a bottle to make one great outcome. Our success should come about by creating cultures and experiences that last and that are ultimately fun.
The internship component of CALS16 completed the circle for the equation. From instructors to attendees, to interns we all were equipped to connect and lead upon leaving. The conference being mid-year could be seen as a disadvantage, but I really saw it as an opportunity to take a step back. CALS17 will be in Norman, Oklahoma next year, and I would recommend the conference, and especially the internship opportunity to young professionals. As a graduate student also working in athletics, it is easy to fumble into being task oriented and trying to tackle everything like a science. That said, it is easy to get caught up in honing skills, getting degrees, getting prepared, but in the preparation, we can never forget the people component of what we do.
Erick Taylor is an aspiring college sports professional and MPSA candidate attending Texas A&M University. Originally from the Greater Atlanta area, Erick received his bachelor’s degree from Georgia State University, where he also served as a development intern for the Panther athletic department. A young, relatively inexperienced prospect in this industry, Erick is in search of the tools and skills required for success. By sharing his journey, he hopes to help others achieve their professional goals as well.