Iowa tennis player Jason Kerst discusses experience in online 2020 NCAA Career in Sports Forum

The online forum allows student-athletes to explore different careers in sports and learn from coaches, athletic directors, and industry leaders.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa's Jason Kerst hits a backhand during a men's tennis match between Iowa and Texas Tech at the HTRC on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020. The Red Raiders defeated the Hawkeyes, 4-3.

Will Fineman, Sports Reporter

In May, University of Iowa senior tennis player Jason Kerst was selected to participate in the 2020 NCAA Career in Sports Forum. The event, which typically takes place at the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, was held online via Zoom because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The forum gives students the opportunity to learn about and explore potential careers in sports and learn from current industry leaders. It also provides the opportunity to work on charting their career paths and learn about self-awareness and its role in professional development.

The Michigan native said that this was an opportunity he always wanted to take advantage of, but with summer tennis training it was not something could participate in until now.

“It was something that I had heard about through our student-athlete academic services department for the past few years,” Kerst said. “When the announcement was out there that applications were open and live, I really jumped at the opportunity.”

Kerst said there was different prework for the conference, including a StrengthsFinder inquiry, TED talks, and different surveys and questionnaires to fill out.

When the three-day program started, the forum had a different host speaker each day — typically a senior-level administrator, all from different universities throughout the country.

“They ran us through a number of different talks that ranged from personal development to leadership and growth and just tangible career development as well,” Kerst said. “Each subtopic had different speakers from a variety of different areas within the sports industry.”

The different speakers included head coaches of different sports from a diverse set of institutions across the country, athletic directors, and higher up employees from the different conferences.

The various speakers, Kerst said, allowed the forum to cover a wide range of topics.

While the forum was structured as one main session over Zoom, the student-athletes were also given the opportunity to go into breakout rooms.

The rooms, which Kerst said were made up of 15 to 20 student-athletes, allowed the participants to discuss what they took away from the event and how they could us it in their future careers, even if that career isn’t necessarily in sports.

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Kerst does hope to stay in sports, though. He has a goal to one day be an athletic director, and he said this forum provided him with a lot of tools.

“I was able to meet the ‘who’s who’ of college athletics and also go through and learn about different areas I probably would not have known in the past,” Kerst said. “Being a student-athlete the last four years, I was kind of amazed during the coaching discussion by how little I knew about the role of being a head coach, and to be an effective athletic administrator you are going to have to know what your coaches deal with on a regular bases.”

Those selected to take part in the forum were not able to make the trip to the NCAA headquarters this year, but Kerst said that the online platform was not a detriment to the program as a whole.

“It was way more impactful than I ever would have thought possible via Zoom because these talks were engaging, the breakout rooms were awesome discussions, and we had the opportunity to do question-and-answer forums at the end of each talk, so it was not like we got lectured at and then logged off,” Kerst said.

While the program did have an application process, there were no financial costs paired with it as it was completely done over Zoom, and Kerst said that anybody with an interest in a career in athletics should jump at the opportunity.

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