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Kellie Graf's trip to the NCAA Division III Conference

JWU Providence student-athlete Kellie Graf traveled to Tennessee as a delegate at the NCAA Division III Convention. She attended lectures & legislative meetings while gaining a fresh perspective on the work behind a university's athletic department.

In January 2017, I was lucky enough to travel to Nashville, Tennessee to attend the NCAA Division III Convention as an observing student-athlete. In the weeks leading up to my departure, I was very excited but not quite sure what to expect. I knew that I would be attending meetings and sitting in on a legislative meeting. What I didn’t realize was just what an amazing opportunity it would be.

Kellie Graf's credentials for NCAA Division III Convention.

The convention was held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, which was one of the craziest places I have ever visited. I knew that I would be getting lost a lot during the weekend as soon as I was handed a map in order to help me find my room!  I was lucky to find another student-athlete to room with during my stay, which really enhanced the experience. I was the only student attending from our division, the Great Northeast Athletic Conference, so I had been worried about meeting people. It was so nice having somebody there with me to discuss our opinions on the topics we had been learning about during each session.

The view from Kellie's room at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, TN.

During the first two days, I had the opportunity to attend lectures on topics such as mental toughness, the impact of social media on athletics, and many more. The session on mental toughness was particularly interesting because this is something that I believe everyone can benefit from learning about. Dr. Jason Selk led the presentation and it was fascinating to hear about his background. Selk was the director of mental training for the St. Louis Cardinals during their two World Series championship wins. He shared techniques that he teaches his clients. Every student who attended his session was gifted a copy of his book, Executive Toughness,  so we could continue learning about optimizing performance.

A picture captured during the legislative meeting.

Attending the voting session on the last day was one of the most memorable experiences I had at the convention. During this time, athletic directors voted on the 2017 legislative proposals. As a member of the JWU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), I'd already seen these proposals because a group of JWU student-athletes gets to share their opinions and vote on them. Jamie Marcoux, JWU's director of athletics, then gathers opinions from other members and uses them to vote on behalf of the university. When we voted on the legislation at SAAC it took about 15 minutes and there was minimum discussion on the topics. Yet, the voting sessionat the convention took close to three hours. There was ample discussion and it was interesting to hear the perspectives of athletic faculty compared to my thoughts as a student.

My three days in Nashville were something that I will never forget and I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to represent the students of Johnson & Wales University.  It was such a great time meeting other college athletes from across the United States. Overall, I left the convention with a new perspective on all of the work that goes into making college athletics the best that it can be for the student-athletes.

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Topics: Providence Athletics