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In His Own Words: Matt Goff, Former NCAA Postgraduate Intern

Former safety, punter at James Madison interned in leadership development

By Matt Goff as told to Kyle C. Leach

Matt Goff, assistant director of athletic development at Navy and former NCAA postgraduate intern, presented before more than 200 college athletes at the 2016 NCAA Career in Sports Forum in Indianapolis. (JUSTIN TAFOYA/NCAA PHOTOS)

In 2011-12, Matt Goff was a postgraduate intern at the NCAA and worked in student-athlete affairs, now known as leadership development. A native of Virginia, Goff attended James Madison University, where he played safety and punter on the football team, was a member of the Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and was selected to attend the NCAA Career in Sports Forum. He received a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and sport management and a master’s in sport and recreation leadership from James Madison. Goff is the assistant director of athletic development at the U.S. Naval Academy.

I didn't know that I wanted a career in college athletics until I started to get involved in the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. I was one of those kids who reached out to get more involved at school. They threw me on this committee, then they threw me on this committee, and then they threw me on this committee. I end up being a representative on national SAAC.

Being at the NCAA Convention and being at things that most student-athletes aren't exposed to showed me the business side and the opportunities that are available with a career in athletics.

The NCAA postgraduate internship is one of the most competitive ones in the country, as far as careers in college athletics go. I wanted to put myself in a position to be successful.

In the NCAA internship, I learned how being a student-athlete had transferable skills that set me up to be successful. The relationships that you build in the national office are some of the strongest ones because everyone has a similar path and a different path, at the same point in time. I learned how to take advantage of networking and build relationships. I learned that was probably one of my strengths and realized that my two passions were leadership development and educational programming, mainly because of what you give back to student-athletes.

Indianapolis is one of my favorite cities. It's such an easy city to get around; I didn't have a car when I interned. It's clean, it's beautiful. There's always something to do. It's a sports town. During my internship, it was the first year of the Big Ten Football Championship, and Big Ten basketball was also here. The Super Bowl was here. I didn’t go, but my apartment was on Georgia Street next to the Super Bowl village.

My advice to incoming interns is to make contacts at the national office. Take advantage of those informational meetings with NCAA staff. Your last question should always be: Who are five other people that I should meet in this office? Then just build one of the largest webs you'll ever have and start the foundation of your career.

At Navy, the biggest challenge is being a civilian. It's really hard to connect, so I'm constantly challenging myself. I listen to audiobooks. It's a one-hour drive to and from work, so I always challenge myself to get a sports book, a Navy book and a professional development book. I want to build my breadth of knowledge about the Naval Academy so that when it comes time to sit down with these donors, prospective donors, I can relate. It's always been something I've been good at, but when you throw yourself in a new environment that you really don't have any experiences in, education is key. I'm constantly doing research, especially on the donors and then on the Navy in general just so that I can have some sort of level playing field with these people. That way, I can build that credibility so that when I walk in the door, they're not just looking at me as some young civilian who's trying to ask for their money.

Being an intern in leadership development, back then it was called student-athlete affairs, I learned event planning. We put on between 16 and 20 programs while I was interning at the NCAA. Seeing the events from start to finish, implementation to feedback, that's something I hold onto. The models that we used at the NCAA, I take into my career. Specifically, at Navy, we just did a head coaches' dinner, which I had to oversee and plan and implement from start to finish, including a golf outing.

The shift in my career path from educational programming to actual development of fundraising was unbelievable. There's a point in time in everybody's career when you say, “I can turn an experience, whether it's in marketing or who knows what, into something that I can learn and grow from.” I was really fortunate to make that quick slide into development, and I don't plan on looking back.