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Career in Sports Forum connects athletes to sports industry

NCAA athletes gathered in Indianapolis to jumpstart their careers

Two Canadian classmates who spent the past four years separated by more than 4,000 miles after their athletic dreams sent them to opposite American coasts reconnected, unexpectedly, in Indianapolis. Though their paths had diverged, shared aspirations drew them back together.

Jonel Boileau of Hofstra University, left, introduces NCAA President Mark Emmert at the 2015 Career in Sports Forum on June 5 at the NCAA national office in Indianapolis (Photos by Kyle C. Leach).

Once the only girls in a boys-only physical education class at Kelowna Secondary School in British Columbia, Jonel Boileau and Megan Osland went their separate ways in college. Boileau took her field hockey talent to Division I Hofstra University on New York’s Long Island, and finished her time there ranked third in school history in goals scored and fourth in total points.  Osland made her way to the opposite coast, where she led San Jose State University into the 2015 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Tournament. Along the way, she won two events and tied the Spartans school record with a round of 66.

The duo was reunited at the NCAA Career in Sports Forum on June 4-7. Along with more than 200 peers, they explored where life’s journey might take them next.

“I didn’t know that Jonel was looking at a career in sports at all – we haven’t talked about our majors, being away from each for so long,” Osland said. “Being from the same town, growing up in the same high school is pretty cool.”

“It’s kind of surreal to see someone from Kelowna here,” Boileau added.

The Career in Sports Forum is an educational and professional development program designed and conducted by the NCAA leadership development department. In its sixth iteration at the national level, the forum has brought more than 1,500 athletes and postgraduate scholars to the national office in Indianapolis to explore the varying personal learning and leadership styles, mingle with current athletics professionals and to build networks with peers.

Megan Osland from San Jose State, left, networks with fellow Career in Sports Forum attendee Alexis Marsh from Coppin State.

Boileau and Osland were two of nearly 1,000 college athletes who applied to the forum. The process starts on campus with nominations by athletics administrators. The candidates who complete the application are whittled down to 200 invitees by a selection committee comprised of former forum participants who work at NCAA member schools and conference offices.

“I was really excited to get selected,” Boileau said. “In my years at Hofstra, I always wanted to meet other athletes and just see what their experience is like, and talk to them about where they come from.”

Osland, a left-hander who chose golf over ice hockey after a rash of injuries took its toll, has professional aspirations – she will enter the first stage of LPGA Qualifying School in September.

A recreation management major, Osland is returning to San Jose State to complete her degree requirements with an internship in the facilities and events division of the athletics department. As an active member of the student-athlete advisory committee (like Boileau and many other participants of the forum) at San Jose State and a recent intern at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, her desire to work in sports grows each day. She hopes to build a career around planning and overseeing sporting events, so she relished her time at the Career in Sports Forum.

“There’s nowhere else in the world you can go that’s this type of opportunity with some of the top athletes, and the most career-minded athletes in the nation and different countries, too,” she said.

Boileau also hopes to begin a career in sports thanks to an in-season meeting with Hofstra head field hockey coach Kathy De Angelis, who steered her to potential opportunities that awaited after playing days ended.

“My last game of the season, I realized I did not want to leave field hockey and I wasn’t done with athletics,” Boileau said. “I wanted a couple of years to coach and give back to the sport.”

Boileau secured a graduate assistant coaching position with Division III field hockey power Amherst College this spring. She was also accepted into the sport management program only a mile away at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

“Business is my thing,” she said. “Sports are also my thing, so I’m going to tie these things together.”

Boileau, an international business major who minored in marketing at Hofstra, earned a unique honor at the forum because she achieved the highest score on the application: She introduced NCAA President Mark Emmert before he spoke to the forum participants.

On that Friday morning, Boileau had notes in hand and advice coming from all corners of the room. She wondered how her brief speech would play out while listening to a panel on college athletics that featured DePauw University Athletics Director Stevie Baker-Watson, Great Lakes Valley Conference Commissioner Jim Naumovich, and Damani Leech, NCAA managing director of championships and alliances. Boileau nervously scribbled notes while the trio walked the athletes through case studies in college athletics.

Finally, Boileau took the stage to introduce the NCAA’s president. Osland, once separated from her old friend by 4,000 miles, took it in from only 15 feet away and flashed a knowing smile.

“She did an awesome job,” Osland said, “and gave a little shout-out to Canada.”