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Johnson Prepares for Future through NCAA Career in Sports Forum
K-State's Taylor Johnson spikes the ball against Siena at Ahearn Field House in Manhattan, Kansas on September 7, 2013. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)
June 27, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
Come December, K-State volleyball senior Taylor Johnson's competitive sports career will come to an end.
It's a reality many senior student-athletes are forced to face as their final season lingers just around the corner, but for Johnson, while December will mark the end of one journey in sports, she has high hopes it will be the beginning of another.
Earlier this month, the Grand Island, Nebraska, native attended the NCAA Career in Sports Forum in Indianapolis where she had the opportunity to see a different side of collegiate sports. Chosen out of more than 1,000 applicants, Johnson was one of just 200 NCAA student-athletes selected to attend the Career in Sports Forum.
"I was very fortunate that (Life Skills Director) Cori Pinkett and (Senior Associate Athletics Director) Jill Shields nominated me to apply," said Johnson upon returning from Indianapolis. "Sports have been such a vital thing in my life, and I want to continue with it after my collegiate career. I didn't realize that I was one of just 200 selected. I didn't notice that until I got there. They made a point and told us, 'You're special to be here,' because they wanted you to utilize the event and know you were chosen for it. It was a neat experience."
The NCAA Career in Sports Forum offered the student-athletes from NCAA institutions nation-wide the opportunity to explore potential career options, network and learn from keynote speakers and panelists from career fields within the world of sports.
"Before I went to the career forum, I didn't even know there were so many options out there," said Johnson, who is studying marketing and management/human resources at K-State. "There are so many different avenues in sports."
While Johnson said she has a passion for leadership and development, she also said she thinks she would enjoy working in fan experience and marketing or in life skills at a university's athletics department. She has a wide range of interests, and the forum allowed her to realize that, because while she is a student-athlete, she also has specific skill sets that are exclusive to her.
"I think as athletes we need to elaborate on the transferrable skills we learn through our sport," said Johnson. "We did resume building, and all I had on mine was 'scholarship of volleyball at K-State.' They told me I need to elaborate on that; they said it's something that's so unique to student-athletes."
In her many pages of notes from the forum, Johnson wrote down the transferrable skills of student-athletes: self-discipline, time management, sacrifice, leadership, overcoming adversity and communication. She said that while student-athletes may not realize it, they have a lot to offer employers regardless of what career field they decide to go into after college.
Also written in Johnson's notes were quotes, lessons, and inspiration from the forum's speakers.
From NCAA President Mark Emmert to WISH-TV Indianapolis sports anchor Anthony Calhoun to Johnson's favorite speaker of the event, former University of Tennessee women's athletics director emeritus Joan Cronan, various areas of careers in sports were represented at the forum.
"Joan Cronan was unbelievable," began Johnson as she looked through her notes filled with lessons and inspiration from Cronan. "I wish my whole team had the opportunity to hear her speak."
"It's not who you know, it's who knows you." Johnson had written down under Cronan's name in her notes. "Remember who you are and what you represent; you don't get a second chance to make a first impression."
Perhaps one of the perfect students to represent K-State at the NCAA Career in Sports Forum, along with playing a key role on the court as a middle blocker for the Wildcats, last season Johnson was the team's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) representative and was named both First Team Academic All-Big 12 and to the Fall 2013 Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll.
"We consider Taylor's role to be our organizer," explained K-State volleyball head coach Suzie Fritz. "She's a planner. She loves structure, and she thrives in that kind of environment. She's somebody who really has a great desire to learn. She's somebody who loves to better herself, but she's very team orientated."
Johnson's opportunity to attend the NCAA Career in Sports Forum was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Of the NCAA's 450,000 student-athletes in its 23 sports programs, only 200 students have the opportunity to attend each year, and that's not something she takes lightly.
Serious about her sport and serious about her future in sports, Johnson is now equipped like never before to take on her future beyond Ahearn Field House.
"I've played sports my entire life, but come December, my competitive sport will be over," said Johnson, "but like Joan Kronan said, 'Don't stop playing, you get old if you stop playing.' So I'm going to take that into my career in sports and give back to the people who gave me so much over the years."