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Student-athletes find guidance from influential panel

On Feb. 19, the athletic department, led by athletic director Pat Lyons, held the sixth annual leadership forum for student athletes, where Seton Hall players had the opportunity to pick the minds of successful professionals with connection to the university. Val Ackerman, Len DeLuca and Nancy Holecek were on the panel to give their stories and advice to the student-athletes, as well as answer their questions. The event started out with presenting each panelist’s theme for the evening. Val Ackerman, commissioner of the Big East and one of the founders of the WNBA, chose relationships. Ackerman emphasized the importance of relationships by referencing how the relationships she kept from her days of playing basketball at the University of Virginia helped her reach the heights she has in management. [caption id="attachment_21790" align="aligncenter" width="838"] Sean Barry/Staff Photographer[/caption] “If you want to be successful in your job, you have to have a good base of people that you can rely on,” Ackerman said following the event. Although Ackerman finds herself working in sports, her career post-playing days initially started with law. She told athletes to network because what one ends up doing may be different than initial intentions in college. “Sometimes what you think you want to do coming out of college may not be where you land,” Ackerman said. Meanwhile, Seton Hall graduate and current senior vice president for RWJ Barnabas Health System, Holecek, talked about communication. Holecek had initially wanted to make it through college quickly, but would end up taking the route of nursing school at Seton Hall, which led her to finding success. She noted back to several career crossroads, as the panelists and herself shared the good and bad stories on their paths to their current positions. DeLuca, a senior consultant at IMG, found that challenging himself and taking risks is what helped him after going through a series of positions, some of which he never thought he would find himself in. After going through law school, he found himself working at CBS Sports and found a path in the entertainment world due to the risks he was willing to take. “Take risks because you’re at a great school, you have a radical liberal education that you can now take advantage of,” DeLuca said. All speakers recognized the athletes face a difficult landscape when they get out of college in terms of finding a career, but tried to use their mistakes as a lesson to find a path to success. Volleyball player Caitlin Koska talked about how she felt relieved after the event, as the speakers made her realize it is alright to not know what the future holds yet. “I think sometimes we can get wrapped up in our sport and going to class and just our daily lives, but we need to realize that four years does end, and we need jobs and to move on and be adults eventually,” Koska said. Koska and Seton Hall pitcher Shane McCarthy both reiterated how much events like this have practicality and value for student-athletes looking to transition from college to a full-time career. “It’s nice that they bridge that gap between the two,” Koska said. “I think it’s huge that Seton Hall Athletics has events like this for the student athletes,” McCarthy said. McCarthy had his question on leadership answered in the presentation, as DeLuca exuded a mentality that the senior pitcher said he could bring to the diamond. “Don’t tell someone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself,” DeLuca said in his presentation. “It’s no surprise that you find great leaders coming from the athletic fields. Because you have a common goal and you have a certain finite time, and you have the ability to go out there and win or lose.” As many of the athletes prepare for their individual and team goals this spring, it was their lifetime goals that were at the top of their minds, and they found some direction with the help of Ackermann, DeLuca and Holecek. Keith Egan can be reached at or on Twitter @Keith_egan10.


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