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By David Pickle
Two Division II conferences recently did their parts to advance the dreams of young women interested in careers in college athletics.
The Peach Belt Conference conducted its fourth PBC Women in Athletics Seminar, which involved more than 100 female student-athletes from 18 schools and three conferences (Peach Belt, South Atlantic and Conference Carolinas).
At the same time, the Sunshine State Conference hosted its first Professional Women in College Sports Symposium. Fifty-four female student-athletes representing all nine SSC member institutions attended.
Both events were designed to give female student-athletes with an interest in athletics careers the opportunity to interact with women from the field of athletics.
Delise O'Meally delivers the keynote address at the PBC Women in Athletics Seminar.
The keynote address at the Peach Belt seminar was given by Delise O’Meally, NCAA director of governance and international affairs.
“I think that to have the opportunity for girls, who are still in the collegiate experience, to get this networking, to talk to people in this industry, starts them off right,” said O’Meally. “I wish that as a student-athlete I had had this opportunity. If I can give back and share my experiences, I am more than happy to do it.”
The Peach Belt seminar featured a professional panel including coaches, athletics directors, game officials, conference administrators and others affiliated with college sports.
“It’s all about that initial first step and how to start,” said Amanda Osburne, South Atlantic Conference director of internal operations.
Armstrong Atlantic State women’s soccer player Kyndal Schaaf said she was excited by the program. “I got a lot of information from the panel and what I’m taking away is that you have to keep following your dreams, you can’t let anything stop you,” she said.
In Florida, the Sunshine State Conference forum began with a five-person panel of coaches and athletics administrators fielding questions.
“You can look right in your athletic department for a mentor,” Jen Seidel, assistant athletics director at Florida Tech, told the group.
Kristin Migliano, director of athletics at Lynn, told the student-athletes that mentors didn’t necessarily have to be women in college athletics. They may be males or others outside the field. “Look for mentors who resonate with you on some level, regardless of gender or background,” she said.
Interaction between the panel and participants also focused on the panelists’ paths to working in college athletics, which often began with experiences outside the field.
PBC Women in Athletics Seminar participants discuss career paths in athletics.
Migliano counseled those who are still uncertain of their career path to stay active and continue working on their education while they explore different options. When finding a career you love, “the process is sometimes elimination,” she said.
The chance for candid discussion during the symposium was a winner for many attendees.
“I was able to ask questions face-to-face and get an immediate answer,” said Elise Clyburn, a basketball player from Saint Leo. “The answers that I received were very blunt, bold, and what I needed to hear. There wasn’t anything that was fabricated. I was given the honest truth about every question I asked.”
Commissioner Jay Jones said he hoped symposium might lead to talented conference student-athletes returning to the fold as coaches, administrators or officials some day. “We don’t want to miss the next Kristen (Migliano) or Maryanne (Simkulak),” he said, referring to two individuals who ended up working with the school or conference where they played their collegiate sports.
Contributions from Ken Gerlinger of the Peach Belt Conference and Kelly Harrison of the Sunshine State Conference.