The 2015 Athlete Leadership Connection

IMG_0265On October 19, the Women’s Sports Foundation, a NYC nonprofit that promotes women in sports, hosted its first Athlete Leadership Connection. Held in the Morgan Stanley Headquarters in Times Square, the event brought together collegiate and professional female athletes, including Olympians and Paralympians.

IMG_0267.jpgThe main purpose of the day was to help collegiate and professional athletes with their futures. Women who were already professionals, whether in athletics or business, participated and led panels throughout the day that were designed to aid athletes who wanted to change from being an athlete into something else. Some of the panels were “Identifying Your Brand,” “Careers in Sports Journalism and Broadcasting,” “Financial Literacy,” and “Career Opportunities in Athletic Leadership.” There were even mock interviews set up with various companies.

I volunteered during the second half of the day, so I wasn’t able to see many of the panels. However, I was able to see the last one of the day and the one I think was coolest. “Project Connection” was very similar to Shark Tank, the show where entrepreneurs present their products to wealthy and influential people who could fund them.

The participating athletes were divided into three teams, and each team was given a concept. The teams had a very small amount of time to put together an idea worthy of being presented to an Angel, someone who could fund their idea. Then, they presented their work, and it was very fun to watch and listen.

The first was a Title IX App that was geared toward education about Title IX, a law that prohibits sexual discrimination in any sports or federally funded activity. They intended to start promoting it with high school students, so they would be able to know their rights before college. After their presentation, the Angels were able to ask questions in order to get more information. One of them asked, “What will we get back in return?” and an athlete answered, “Awareness.”

The second was a Fans in the Stands App that would be designed to get more fans for women’s sports. They would start the app with college students and then expand it to high school and professional sports. There would be a number of rewards and promotions that would benefit those who had the app and went to female athletes’  competitions and games.

The third was an idea called Candid Conversations. Female professional athletes would speak to current female student athletes on college campuses about transitioning from a sports-focused life to a career-focused life. It would be a speaker series similar to TED Talks that would help collegiate athletes develop professional skills. To start, there would be nine speeches at nine different universities with 1800 students reached.

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The winners!

After the athletes presented their ideas, the Angels went out of the room to discuss each one, and when they returned, they announced that they would give Candid Conversations $31,000 for the first year with an extra $20,000 to train the athlete speakers in public speaking. The second year, they would give $50,000 if the first year’s results were good. It was very exciting that the Angels agreed to fund one of the ideas! I look forward to hearing about how Candid Conversations is doing in 2016 and if it is funded again in 2017!

Here is a video of the day from the Women’s Sports Foundation:

 

For more information about the Athlete Leadership Connection and any of the other work the Women’s Sports Foundation does, here is its website:  http://www.womenssportsfoundation.org

Interning at a Nonprofit

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In addition to being an Olympics blog, I also want to talk about interning at nonprofits. Currently, I intern at Special Olympics New York, and I love it. I know that it’s what I want to do when I graduate, so that makes everything worth it. Sure, I do feel burned out sometimes. It’s normal when one does a lot of work without being paid. However, someone once told me that unpaid internships pay in experience, and especially at Special Olympics New York, it’s true. I have learned so much that I wouldn’t be able to learn in a class while doing something I love and for my future career. I will be staying on at Special Olympics New York until December.

At first glance, interning at nonprofits seems to be a tough sell because they are almost always unpaid. Most nonprofits unfortunately do not budget to pay their interns. It makes sense that nonprofits want to keep as much of their funding for the people they help, but it is still a huge problem because not everyone can afford to work for free. I’m interning and doing another job, but I wish I could afford to intern all the time. Interning is one of the most important things for someone concerned about his or her career to do.

Recently, I figured out how many hours I spent interning at my previous internship and how many I would have by the end of the summer. It was startling. At my previous internship at YAI Network (which I had for a year), I interned approximately 26,500 hours. By the end of this summer at Special Olympics New York, I’ll have interned or volunteered 70 hours. That’s a lot of unpaid labor, so why did I do it?

Pluses of Interning at a Nonprofit (in no particular order)

1. You are integral for an organization to accomplish its mission. You should choose a nonprofit that has a mission which you are passionate about. While working there, you will feel like you are making a difference, and you will be. The organization couldn’t help the people it serves without you.

2. All interning experience counts as real world experience, so it will stay on your resume long after you have to take your college experience off. Eventually, employers won’t be looking for who was president of what club, but they will always be looking for someone who has experience working in the field.

3. You can’t learn everything from class. Even though I’m a Nonprofit Studies minor, I have learned so many things at Special Olympics New York that I would never be able to learn in class. I get to learn by actually doing something, whether it is writing a grant proposal or researching possible sponsors or interacting with the athletes.

4. You get to start working on your career while you’re still in school, and while you can afford to be unpaid. More and more, internships are becoming vital to anyone interested in entering the nonprofit field. Employers look for experience over anything else. Because of this, it’s important that you get that experience while you can, so you don’t have to do it after you graduate.

5. It’s fun to escape college sometimes. I love my college, and I love my college friends, but sometimes, you need a break. You just need to leave the building and do something outside of your school. Interning at a nonprofit could be that something. It will make a difference to you to intern where you are making a difference for someone else.

I have used some nonprofit websites to find internships or places to volunteer like idealist.org and The Foundation Center, but the best things to rely on during your search are word of mouth and Google. Use your contacts! I got my first internship at YAI Network because my sister’s friend was temping there. I got my internship at Special Olympics New York by Googling Special Olympics New York City, going to its website, and emailing the person in the department I wanted to work in. Before interning, the best thing to do is to try out the organization beforehand by volunteering. Then you can see how the organization is from the inside with very little pressure.

Good luck interning or volunteering!

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