MARSHFIELD, Mass.- The 2019 NCAA Convention was nearly a month ago, and for many attendees it is a yearly trip, a chance to meet and socialize with colleagues, while learning about the most up-to-date happenings in the NCAA. However, for the student-athlete attendees who may only get one chance to attend over the course of their career, it is so much more. The New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) once again sent four student-athletes to the convention, Lauren Clements from Eastern Nazarene College, Roland Thivierge of Mitchell College, Noelle Sass of Newbury College, and Lee Dennis from Southern Vermont College.
The student-athletes had a packed schedule of programming, starting with an opportunity to learn their leadership styles through a seminar co-sponsored by the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) and USA South. For Clements, a softball stand-out, who was the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) Player of the Year in 2018, this was a highlight. “Learning about different leadership styles has really helped me connect better with other people,” said Clements. “At the NCAA Convention I met many people who gave great advice and helped me start to build my network.”
The convention certainly offered a valuable networking opportunity for the student-athletes. They were able to meet and mingle with members of the Division III National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and participate in community service programming with the Special Olympics. Thivierge, a pitcher for the Mariners’ baseball team, most enjoyed the chance to learn from his peers. “This experience allowed me to meet Division III athletes from around the country, as well as get an inside look at how NCAA legislature is voted on and formed. I’m grateful to Mitchell College, as well as the NECC for allowing me to have this amazing opportunity, and hope many other athletes get the same opportunity, because it is life changing.”
The student-athletes not only sat in on the NECC conference meeting, but also got to sit in on the NCAA Division III issues forum, the NCAA Plenary session, and the NCAA Business session, where Division III conferences and institutions voted on the 2019 legislation. For Dennis, a soccer athlete, seeing the inner-workings of the NCAA was eye-opening. “This was a great experience that allowed me an opportunity to see how the NCAA works together as a whole, and how smaller conferences make decisions.”
Administrators in the conference have also taken note of the effect this experience has had on their student-athletes. Newbury's Director of Athletics, Jonathan Harper, has seen first-hand how influential the trip to the convention has been for student-athletes.
“Over the past four years, three Newbury College student-athletes have had the opportunity to attend the NCAA Convention due to the grants provided by the NECC. This experience proved to be invaluable to their future careers by introducing our student-athletes to NCAA programming and voting procedures," said Harper. “The responses that I received from our student-athletes immediately following the conclusion of each NCAA Convention was validation of the importance of this grant. They did not truly realize the importance of the student-athlete voice until they had this experience.”
Sass, the 2018 NECC Softball Player of the Year, was one of the lucky Newbury athletes. She feels the experience will be helpful as she enters the athletics field post-graduation. “The NCAA convention was a truly incredible experience.,” said Sass. “Being someone who wishes to pursue a career in collegiate athletics, it gave me a first-hand experience into understanding such intricate parts of the NCAA.”
NECC Commissioner, Katie Boldvich, finds sending student-athletes to the convention each year is integral to the student-athlete experience.
“The NECC’s commitment to sending student-athletes to the NCAA Convention annually speaks to the collaboration of the league and the importance of the initiative to engage these individuals. One of my favorite highlights of the Convention was having the opportunity to learn more about out student-athletes and see them integrate into our conference business and meeting with ease. I look forward to continuing this initiative for years to come for future NECC student athletes.”