NEW YORK - Five members of Loyola University Maryland athletics teams were invited guests of the Women's Sports Foundation's Athlete Leadership Connection earlier this month at Morgan Stanley's corporate headquarters.
The conference included women's athletics luminaries such as Billie Jean King, Val Ackerman, Michelle Kwan, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Hannah Kearney and many others. More than 80 professional athletes joined the Greyhounds and 30 other collegiate student-athletes at the event.
Loyola Student-Athlete Advisory Committee Co-President Cara Egan, a member of the swimming and diving team, women's lacrosse's Maddy Blakeman, and cross country and track and field's Erica Canas, Kayla Parlavecchio and Rebekah Rogerson attended for Loyola.
Each attended various breakout sessions with professional athletes, as well as college and professional sports professionals that included owners of WNBA teams and conference commissioners.
Loyola's participants came away with impressive outlooks on the event and the world of women's athletics. Here are some of their takeaways:
"Personally, I took away a few key things about identifying your own brand and coming up with your `wow, how and now' statements that will help you standout when you were interviewed or applying for a future position.
"Following this event, I have come to the realization that the athletics `world' is an even tighter-knit community than I used to think. Everyone that has been a member of a sports team or a part of the sports world, in general, wants to do anything they can to help you succeed following your athletic career. I think that sometimes when you are transitioning from being an athlete to entering the real world, you feel like you are all alone and don't truly understand the advantages you have from being an athlete. You don't realize you can reach out to those who have been in your shoes in the past. The Women's Sports Foundation members helped us as young athletes realize this relationship."
Erica Canas --
"This was an incredible event to take part in, and I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to be involved. Each part of the conference was tailored to help female athletes gain a better perspective of what it's like outside the world of competing. Hearing what professional athletes and successful women had to say was inspiring.
"There is so much more to women's leadership and athletics than just competing in your sport. There is a whole world of opportunities and direction you can go that combine your passion for athletics and leadership, and students my age should not stress as much when it comes to post-college life.
"Hearing first-hand what all these successful and accomplished women have done to get to where they are, and learning all about the different opportunities available to female athletes in the workforce after competition, helped me gain a better perspective.
Cara Egan --
"My favorite part of the event was the project connection portion at the end of the conference. Each group was assigned a proposal to make their own and present to a group of "sharks" in order to get their specified program funded. There were three "sharks" who sat on a panel to judge the presentation. My team, "Candid Conversations," won the competition and will be funded and started during the 2015-2016 year.
"I did not realize how many impressive women exist in the sports world. The media often only portrays men having successful careers in athletics, but this conference showed me it is possible to pursues a career in athletics whether that be on, or off, the field. I did feel like everything was more attainable after this event."
"There were several breakout sessions and panels throughout the day that were there to provide us with information on the interviewing process, different fields of work and our education. The sessions and panels taught us also how to use the skills we have learned as athletes in our future jobs: teamwork, time management and dedication.
"It made me reaize that I am not alone in the crazy transition from athlete to real-world working person. The women I met played lacrosse, softball, field hockey and basketball. While I am a cross country/track and field athlete, it was nice to see that even though we played different sports, we were still able to find so many other similarities with one another.
"I know it will be hard to no longer refer to myself as a current student-athlete, but from this conference, I now know how to use the skills I learned in track off the track. I do view the athletics "world" differently because I now know that athletics are the only thing professional athletes and Olympic athletes worry about. They too have to make some form of transition into the workforce after their careers have ended.
"I also discovered how powerful women can be when we all work together. I haven't realized how far the athletic world has come because of the work of all these amazing women. Billie Jean King, for one, truly showed me how to fight for something you want if you want it bad enough."
"It was an incredible opportunity to meet and listen to such phenomenal athletes. As a collegiate athlete beginning the transition from college to my next step in life, it was interesting to hear how athletes of such high regard had gone through similar steps and listen to their advice for that transition. Several of those women encouraged the individuals who were invited to the conference to transfer lessons taught in the athletic world to our lives after athletics.
"I would say that my eyes were opened to how large of a network the athletic world truly is. Female athletes have worked hard to make a name for themselves both in their sport(s) and in the business world. This conference allowed us the opportunity to understand more clearly just how much work was put in for these women to be successful.
"The conference allowed me to see how I could use my athletic experiences to help me in the business world. There are traits that athletes develop that are critical to be successful in a career such as determination and work ethic."