As the 2022 Academic Success Accelerator Program Career Development Award winners, Karissa Hoffman of Sacramento State and Yoro Sidibe of Norfolk State attended the Sports Career Forum held June 2-5 at the NCAA National Office in Indianapolis.
The forum brought together 200 student-athletes to explore potential careers in the sport while providing opportunities to network and learn from current athletics professionals.
Attendees heard from more than 90 speakers in panel discussions, breakout sessions and keynote presentations. Student-athletes left the experience with a deep understanding of athletics as a career path and their place in the industry landscape at the first in-person forum since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic .
“We are so grateful to all of the speakers, facilitators and industry professionals who contributed hours of wisdom and knowledge to this year’s cohort,” said Sable Lee, Associate Director of Leadership Development. “Our participants were ready and engaged from start to finish and were able to walk away with tangible, transformational skills that will serve as a catalyst for their life after sport.”
The Academic Success Acceleration Program helps Division I schools develop programs and systems designed to increase graduation rates and ensure academic success. The career development award covers travel expenses for two NCAA professional development events.
Nearly 200 student-athletes attended the 2022 Sports Career Forum to explore sports career opportunities and build relationships.
— NCAA (@NCAA) June 6, 2022
Hoffman, a Hornets gymnast, recently earned a degree in kinesiology with a major in clinical exercise and rehabilitation and a minor in history. She will begin a master’s program in business analytics in the fall and has one year of eligibility left.
Her career goal is to become an athletics administrator at a Division I institution or work for an NFL team. This was Hoffman’s second consecutive sports career forum.
“The experience and networking opportunities at these events are invaluable for student-athletes looking to pursue a career in sport,” she said. “Between last year’s event and this year’s event, it helped solidify the career path I’m heading towards and gave me confidence that I had the tools I needed to succeed in my future projects.
Sidibe, a junior guard/forward for the Spartans basketball team, is majoring in accounting in preparation for working in the business or finance department of an athletics department. The native of Kolda, Senegal, wants to use his upbringing to create programs that give back to African communities.
Attending the Sports Career Forum left Sidibe energized and ready to put what he learned into practice.
“The Sports Career Forum has really helped me understand how I can use my strengths and skills to succeed in the sports industry,” he said. “It was a life-changing experience. I never thought in my life that I would have this opportunity. I’m still processing the fact that I was at NCAA headquarters and I been able to meet so many great people who live to serve and empower others.I am very humble.
Sidibe left straight from the conference and flew to Senegal, where he was hosting the second Africa NextGen camp. Aiming to inspire young Africans and give back to their country, this year’s basketball camp aimed to accommodate 200 children, four times the number of the 2021 camp.
With a desire to use sport to help change lives, Sidibe is a living example of the impact athletics can have. Sidibe described the feeling of hosting these camps as the highlight of his life, while playing twice in the men’s Division I basketball tournament.
Growing up, Sidibe said it was difficult to get the basic resources needed for school or sports. He had sneakers so worn that his feet touched the ground. Sidibe vowed to make a difference if he was ever able to.
Returning home to visit family and renew his visa, Sidibe brought a large shoe collection made up of the multiple pairs he received each season and donations from friends and teammates. He gave them to children in his hometown. He is now hosting a camp he never would have had the chance to attend as a kid.
“That’s why I build my whole existence trying to make things better for my community. I’ve visited many places, experienced many cultures, and made many meaningful relationships with people around the world through sport,” he said. “Sport has given me a chance to live and has shaped my life. I want to use it as a tool to inspire and empower children who follow in my footsteps. I’m far from where I want to be, but as I and as I go and find my way, I want to bring others with me.”
During the Sports Career Forum, Sidibe frequently amplified the event on social media and shared how much he enjoyed the opportunities for networking and personal growth. He said he used the event to explore strategies to grow Africa NextGen and learn how he can do more to empower young people.
Hoffman, meanwhile, appreciated the opportunity to speak with Alexander Martin, player engagement coordinator for the Miami Dolphins, as she hopes to work in the NFL. She enjoyed connecting with a professional in her area of interest and appreciated the additional career development knowledge.
“I’ve gained countless new relationships, learned to network, been able to see successful people in my chosen career field and talk to them one-on-one,” Hoffman said. “However, the biggest lesson of the event was everyone’s willingness to help us take the next step to achieve our goals.”