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Sept. 15, 2014


by Madison McCartney
Media Relations Student Assistant

Most Gamecock fans are familiar with student-athletes’ performance on the field. But what about off the field? With 10 extra-base hits on six doubles, two triples and two home runs in 38 starts this past season, senior softball student-athlete Kristen Struett lives up to the “athlete” side of her title. As for the “student” side, she’s pretty accomplished there too.

Struett is a three-time SEC Academic Honor Roll member. If earning those spots wasn’t enough, Struett was also chosen to attend the NCAA Career in Sports Forum held in Indianapolis June 5-8. Struett was one of only 13 student-athletes from the SEC and 200 student-athletes from across all divisions of the NCAA who received the prestigious honor to participate in this four-day event.

The forum provides student-athletes the chance to explore the opportunities available in the sports business, with a primary focus on intercollegiate athletics. Participants listened to keynote speakers and panelists–including former University of Tennessee women’s athletic director emeritus Joan Cronan–to get a sneak peak into the day-to-day duties and responsibilities of accomplished individuals to see what it takes to be successful in the industry.

Being nominated and selected to participate in this forum is an honor in and of itself. “When I got the email I about fell over. I called my parents and it was like I got into college all over again,” Struett remarked.

While participants heard from industry leaders, including NCAA President, Dr. Mark Emmert, they also had the opportunity to break down into smaller groups of about 25-30 student-athletes for more interactive discussions. “That was where we would have two facilitators per team and we would sort of break down not only the speakers and panelists, but also smaller questions that we had and smaller topics that we covered that week.”

After building lasting friendships with the other student-athletes in attendance, Struett continues to keep in contact with them.

“We really support each other and every time anyone gets a new job or an interview, it’s always like hey guys, wish me luck! It’s really cool how many friends you have countrywide now.”

Participants even had opportunities to network with the speakers, panelists and even the NCAA personnel in attendance.

“We really got to sit down to lunch with a lot of people in marketing departments, in championship alliance departments. It was really enjoyable to talk to them and just trade business cards. That was huge for all [the student-athletes] especially coming right out of college.”

What was Struett’s biggest takeaway from such a unique experience? “One thing I didn’t expect to learn was just how people connect through sports.”

During the forum, Dr. Bernard Franklin, NCAA executive vice president of membership and student-athlete affairs, stressed that sports break down barriers. “Whether it’s racial barriers or same-sex marriage barriers, it’s a good platform for a lot of things. That was one thing that hit everyone hard was that we are starting a culture and a future that we are still changing the world every single day. And it’s just by playing sports.”