New York, N.Y. -
The second annual BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Transition Game program concluded on Sunday in Midtown Manhattan. More than 30 student-athletes from across the conference’s 10 member schools enjoyed an interactive educational and professional development weekend, which included Q&A sessions with such industry leaders as Doris Burke, the New York Liberty’s Sugar Rodgers, the New York Knicks’ Kristin Bernert, human resources specialist Cheryl Gelzer Alexis, JD, and BIG EAST Commissioner Val Ackerman.
“I hope this weekend inspired our student-athletes to start taking ownership and being engaged in their future,” said Tracy Ellis-Ward, BIG EAST Associate Commissioner for Women’s Basketball. “Sometimes when you’re a student-athlete you become so engrossed with the day-to-day of going to class, taking exams, going to practice and traveling to games that you don’t really start thinking about life after basketball. This was a weekend for them to pause and reflect on what life might be like when their collegiate careers are over.”
On Saturday, in addition to Ackerman, Bernert, former Providence standout Burke and Georgetown star Rodgers, student-athletes heard from former Chief of Basketball Operations & Player Relations for the WNBA Renee Brown, former DePaul standout and current Brooklyn Nets analyst for the YES Network Sarah Kustok, New York Liberty Associate Head Coach Katie Smith and recent Villanova graduate Emily Leer. Following a self-assessment exercise to identify each individual’s personal strengths, the group traveled downtown to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum before enjoying dinner at an iconic New York City restaurant.
Sunday’s sessions focused on elevator speeches, resume building and mock interviews, facilitated by Gelzer Alexis and Michael Sainte, BIG EAST Director of Compliance and Membership Services. Student-athletes took turns interviewing in front of the group, which then provided feedback on the mock session.
Guest Speaker Experiences, Quotes
Doris Burke, Providence College Alum, ESPN/ABC Analyst
“As a kid I would have loved the opportunity to meet professional women who had some sort of experience in the sports landscape, so hopefully looking out at those faces and remembering what I felt like as a 20-, 21-year old trying to think about what’s next in my life, hopefully some of the information we shared will help them somewhere down the road.
“You know what’s interesting to me about Val Ackerman is, for so many of us who know her, how powerful an influence she’s been on our individual lives but more importantly our professional lives. Val has held positions that are significant roles in terms of leadership and being out in the forefront of athletic issues, so whether she was the President of the WNBA or now the Commissioner of a major conference, I think what she shows to younger women is anything’s possible and women deserve a seat at the table and Val has been the person sitting there waiting for the rest of us to catch up to her.”
Sarah Kustok, DePaul Alum, YES Network
“For me, this is a can’t-miss event. I think about the time when I was a student-athlete and what it was like towards the end of my playing career, when I was trying to figure what is the next step. This is such an incredible resource for so many of these BIG EAST student-athletes to hear from a variety of different professionals in all different fields and what they do, hear about how that job works, what were their steps to getting where they are at, why they love what they do, and also just advice for life, for life after basketball. I think it’s so important to give back – I think about all the people who helped me throughout my career and to me, this is one of the most important things that you can do.
“We heard Sugar Rodgers talk about the things she needed to do and the one word she brought up was networking. I think that’s something you don’t always think about when you’re playing with your team, and you’re used to being around your team. Whether it’s other student-athletes from other schools, did you get to talk to and get to know more, whether it’s from those around the BIG EAST, other professionals who can help you in your later years. It’s just so important to start to understand the importance of networking because that’s what we like to think we are, the BIG EAST is a family and as a family we're all here to help one another. When you start to have and build relationships with people who may be able to give you a hand down the line, that’s what’s awesome to me about the BIG EAST and the opportunity to do this for a weekend.”
Katie Smith, New York Liberty
“The BIG EAST does a nice job with the Transition Game because it exposes the student-athletes to careers. You’re not going to play basketball forever, even if you do play professionally, it won’t be that long, so all the occupations if you love basketball, you can be a part of it on the business side, sales side, trainers, there are so many ways to continue your love for the game in some basketball-related field. And also just giving them some of the tools, advice, the things that we’ve gone through in our careers, how to find those niches, to build that network is always why we’re here.”
Student-Athlete Experiences, Quotes
Adrianna Hahn, Villanova
“I liked meeting these girls off the basketball court; we don’t really get to talk about our strengths and individual skills and ambitions away from basketball. We were all brought here together because of basketball and this is a really cool opportunity to step away from basketball and also talk different career paths other than playing.
“All the speakers really struck me but the one that really stood out the most for me was Doris Burke. One thing that she talked about was how if you set goals for yourself, don’t ever think that they are limited by what people say or some people don’t accept them. You can always branch out with your goals, so don’t ever limit yourself. If you have goals and you want to get somewhere, do that in whatever way you want to, and however you want to accomplish those goals, don’t let anything stop you.
“I feel honored to be here and grateful that basketball brought me here, Villanova brought me here. I like to represent my school in the best way I can, and I think every student-athlete is doing that here, not just me and Jannah Tucker from Villanova, but everyone from all the schools. I love this conference, it’s crazy competitive on and off the court and I think that’s great, and it’s not just basketball that they care about. They care about how we develop away from college and after college and they really care about our well-being.”
Amarah Coleman, DePaul
“The biggest thing I’ve taken away from Transition Game was to really put yourself out there after basketball, there is a life after basketball. Be able to step out of your comfort zone, talk to people, network. It's been a great experience, being with the other players; you don’t see us talk on the court, so this is a great experience for us to just interact with each other off the court and just get to know each other a little more.”
Tori Schickel, Butler
“I think it really speaks a lot to how Commissioner Val Ackerman and our coaches really have invested in each of us every day to have put something like this together and to learn from all of these great mentors, it’s a great experience for all of us. I really like the messages they’re sending of reaching out to other people, for them being here for us is sending that same message, leading by example, all the great leadership skills that they’re invoking and passing down to us which is a great message, not only on the court but also off the court, that we can use in our future.”
Natisha Hiedeman, Marquette
“Just being able to have this opportunity to come out here with the team and be surrounded by other athletes and hear from such great influences from around the world and hearing about the things they have done gives us a lot of encouragement for our future.
“Everyone touched on ‘don’t be afraid of failure.’ Today a lot of people stress about failing and the speakers said even their failures brought light to them because it brought them to a different direction and look how successful they are now.
“This sort of event just shows everything the BIG EAST is trying to do for us, bringing in so many great female speakers and have the opportunity in the world to do something much bigger than just themselves.”
Donnaizha Fountain, Seton Hall
“It means a lot to come here, considering I’m entering my last year of college as a student-athlete. I didn’t know this day would be so beneficial and impactful to the rest of my days; hearing these women talk that I see on television and people I read about, and actually be able to see them in person and ask them questions and get to know them and learn to know what it takes to potentially be where they are someday.
"One thing that Katie Smith said was ‘Bloom where you’re planted.’ Sometimes the wind may blow you in the opposite direction where you planned on going, but it’s about making the best of your situation – it may not be the perfect school, it may not be the perfect situation, but you make that situation a perfect situation for you and your future.”