The NCAA Career In Sports Forum: A Commitment To Core Values

June 21st, 2017 | by Dan Matheson
The NCAA Career In Sports Forum:  A Commitment To Core Values

Career In Sports

According to its website, the NCAA is “a member-led organization dedicated to the well-being and lifelong success of college athletes.”  One of many examples of the NCAA’s commitment to those principles is the Career in Sports Forum (CSF), an annual, four-day, all-expenses-paid educational and networking forum for 200 student-athletes from around the country.  Sarah Kurtz, a University of Iowa softball student-athlete majoring in Sport and Recreation Management and minoring in Educational Psychology, recently participated in the CSF and agreed to share her experiences to illustrate the impact of this exceptional student-athlete benefit provided by the NCAA.

The CSF helps student-athletes interested in sport industry careers chart their career paths, network, and learn from college athletics professionals.  Panelists this year included athletics directors, administrators, and graduate assistants from all levels of NCAA institutions, as well as NCAA national office administrators, including Oliver Luck, NCAA executive vice president of regulatory affairs and former director of athletics at West Virginia University.     

Sarah Kurtz’s path to the CSF started in 2016 when Liz Tovar, Iowa associate director of athletics for student-athlete academic services, told her about the program.  Sarah applied last year and was not accepted, but she learned from the process and strengthened her application by performing an internship and serving on Iowa’s student-athlete advisory committee before reapplying to the CSF in 2017.  Sarah described the CSF application process as “thorough and extensive” and said, “I knew that hundreds of qualified student-athletes would be applying, so when I received the [2017 acceptance] email, I was ecstatic.”

Sarah’s experience at the NCAA national office during the CSF included several highlights, but two presenters stood out for her:  Maya Ozery, University of Richmond director of student-athlete leadership and development, and Marlon Dechausay, University of Illinois associate director of athletics for academic services.  Sarah said that Ozery delivered an “amazing” presentation on emotional intelligence and her personal journey from playing soccer internationally to working in leadership and development of student-athletes.  Sarah also raved about Dechausay, who spoke about personal branding and got her “fired up” with his energy, his excitement for his work, and his passion about building connections with student-athletes to help prepare them for the next steps in their lives after graduation.

Career In SportsOne of the most educational CSF activities for Sarah was a program involving the DISC personality test.  According to Sarah, her DISC test results were “incredibly accurate,” and what she learned from the test will help her approach and interact with teammates and future coworkers more effectively.

The CSF taught student-athletes about professional networking and facilitated opportunities to put those skills to use.  Sarah stated, “The networking the event provided is truly the most valuable thing I gained; I believe the people I met will help me reach out to the right people to gain that next experience as either a graduate assistant or intern in leadership development or academic advising.”  Networking opportunities were not limited to the college athletics leaders that attendees met – the 200 student-athletes created their own LinkedIn group as a way to stay professionally connected with each other after the forum.

Since many student-athletes who participated in the CSF are influencers on their campuses, elements from the forum’s programs can potentially reach thousands of other student-athletes.  Sarah’s attendance at the CSF will benefit all Iowa student-athletes when she returns to campus in the fall, because she picked up several new ideas during the CSF for activities to develop and guest speakers to recruit in her role as the life skills chair on the Iowa student-athlete advisory committee.  

Sarah summed up her CSF experience by saying, “Everyone was so welcoming.  It felt like a summer camp for student-athletes, all with the same drive and passion led by the best in the industry.  The forum will impact my future in numerous ways.  I was able to visualize my next steps in this field through the numerous speakers and meet some incredible people who will truly help me get in the industry.”

To learn more about the NCAA Career in Sports Forum, visit  

Dan Matheson About Dan Matheson
Dan Matheson, J.D., is director of the University of Iowa Sport & Recreation Management program. Prior to joining the Iowa faculty, Matheson was an NCAA associate director of enforcement and the New York Yankees baseball operations director. He serves on Iowa’s Presidential Committee on Athletics and is a dynamic keynote speaker and panelist who has received multiple teaching honors.

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