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Follow the Leaders: Sean McCarthy, Villanova

An insider's perspective on the Emerging Leaders Seminar

By Sean McCarthy as told to Hannah Meister

Sean McCarthy is the compliance and student services intern at Villanova University.  A selection committee from the NCAA membership selected him to attend the 2016 Emerging Leaders Seminar, a gathering of more than 200 graduate assistants at member schools and conference offices and postgraduate interns at the NCAA national office. McCarthy graduated from Marquette University School of Law in the spring after obtaining a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

Sean McCarthy, Villanova University

I heard about the Emerging Leaders Seminar when my supervisors sent the information to me. They said I would be great for the program and knew I had been looking for leadership opportunities. I also had a friend from Marquette who is at the American Athletic Association, interning in compliance. He reached out to me and pushed for me to apply as well.

 The first step to being a good leader is knowing yourself. That’s why we took this opportunity to attend the seminar. Once you know yourself, you can learn how to interact with others. You have to be a leader in every sense of the word. It doesn’t necessarily mean being the one to start talking at the meeting, but you do your research, lead what you need to talk about, and be very proactive with it, follow through.

People skills are the key component to my current job at Villanova. Compliance is about building trust with your coaches and co-workers. People need to trust you. I know where all of my coaches went to school. It was my goal to know more about them. Moving forward, I want to network more with senior-level administrators and get to know them. You’re in front of all these professionals every day at work, so you have to learn from them. Be authentic, and you’ll get it.

At the seminar, I learned I am a very positive person, but scatterbrained. I’ll think of one thing, and then think of another, and I’m not good at going on a plan. Some of the speakers I heard at the seminar talked about organizing your thoughts. Right now, I take 10 minutes every night and write down what I learned every day. I think about the notes and then think about how I can apply them going forward.

Tom Mitchell, assistant athletics director of compliance at Purdue University, said something at the seminar that really hit home with me. ‘Do you have 10 years of experience, or do you have one year of experience doing the same thing 10 times?’ I think I’m doing an OK job of reaching out and taking every opportunity I can get. But now, I’m going to meet with senior administrators and say, ‘I want to learn every aspect of the business.’ I want to learn everything, and then I want to learn how compliance applies to that.

Check It Out

Previous participants of the Emerging Leaders Seminar talk about how the program developed their careers in college sports.