BY KAITLYN YOUNG | Ball State Sports Link
All throughout childhood parents and motivational speakers told us to take chances and reach for the stars. We’ve all heard those cliché sayings to inspire us to chase our dreams. I always found these sayings to be helpful and motivate me, but the feeling only lasted for a couple of weeks.
In September, a friend in Sports Link and my parents told me again to take a chance, but this time it was different.
I was deciding whether I should apply for an externship with the NCAA’s digital and social media team. This was only the third year the externship has been in existence and I am only a junior, so I didn’t think I had a chance to get it.
After talks with friends and my parents who all told me there was nothing to lose, I applied for the position the day before the application was due … can you say last minute? I went through the interview process with ease, not expecting to get the position.
Three weeks later I received an email offering me the job. I was ecstatic and ready to help with everything!
My first day going to the NCAA office seemed unreal. I recieved an ID badge with my picture on it (I may have had them retake the picture a few times) and was put to work right away. It was exciting to be in an office setting doing a job that I aspire to get after I graduate … plus they have 25-cent Cokes there!
Don’t get me wrong, I made mistakes.
My very first project I was given, I underestimated how much time it took to complete it and showed up with it half done the day it was due. Trust me, there’s nothing more embarrassing than not having your first project not finished on the due date.
I didn’t want to show up empty-handed again, so from that day on I made it a point to get each task done as best as I could and on time. It’s a humbling feeling seeing graphics and videos you’ve made on NCAA’s social media accounts.
As time flew by and I continued growing my skills through the externship, it was time to start March Madness. I didn’t think I would have a huge job, but was ready to contribute in any way I could.
Early in March, my directors at the NCAA came to Ball State to hold a meeting with us in Sports Link and go over what roles we all had. It was then I learned I would be the “producer” of the women’s basketball tournament social media.
This meant I would be the main connection between the person in charge of the @ncaawbb and the students creating content for the account at Ball State.
On day one of the tournament, I didn’t know what to expect.
I walked into the NCAA offices to a conference room setup with a four-screen display, multiple desks of people working vigorously behind their laptops and, most importantly, a fully-stocked drink and snack cart.
It sounds cheesy, but the madness really did begin that day. Four sets of four games all at the same time, and I was responsible for making sure the students working back in Sports Link were clipping GIFs of plays we wanted to tweet out.
I got the hang of it quickly, and we were pumping out content as fast as possible.
I took on this role throughout the entire tournament and got to see some incredible events. Maryland’s full-court buzzer beater at the half by Destiny Slocum, Washington’s Kelsey Plum breaking the single-season scoring record and, of course, the end of UConn’s 111-game win streak in overtime of the semifinals by Mississippi State.
The thing is, not only did I get to watch these events happen, but I got to work those events. As soon as a big play happened or a record was broken, I had to put aside being a fan and direct my team in Sports Link on what to clip and send to my director at NCAA.
Big moments get viewed and shared like crazy on social media, and we were on top of our social game, getting out content of every big moment that happened.
With everything we put out on social media we improved the NCAA Women’s Basketball accounts views and interactions by quadruple digits – something that has never happened before with any NCAA social media account.
My experience at NCAA has been incredible and has prepared me for the real world. Most importantly, it showed me taking chances does pay off and you’re never too old to reach for the stars.