Catawba College Sport Management Alumni Amid Pandemic

October 6, 2020

Category: Academics, Alumni, Sports and Health Sciences

by Emma White ’21

Uncertainty; that’s the word everyone seems to be using to describe this year. Whether you’ve transitioned to remote learning, started working from home, or whatever your situation, chances are you’ve been impacted by the uncertainty COVID-19 has placed in our lives. lives. Catawba College Sport Management alumni have continued to excel in their role in sport. Each of these former students has their own story of how the pandemic has changed their lives.

“It was hard to imagine life without sports until 2020. But now that sports are slowly coming back, we see our sports management students not only excelling in their current roles, but being asked to do more with less, to think creatively and be ready to change direction at a moment’s notice. The Sport Management department couldn’t be prouder of the leadership and flexibility it’s showing through these crises. People need support. sport in their lives and our alumni offer it to them!” – Troy Carlton, professor of sports management at Catawba College

Here are some stories about some Catawba College Sports Management alumni and how they persevered during the pandemic:

Tanner Whitt ’18, graphic design coordinator at Duquesne University
Tanner is currently working on his role as a graphic designer at Duquesne University from home. Like most others, Tanner was sent to work remotely in mid-March. However, that wasn’t a problem for Tanner since everything he does is online anyway. When Tanner was asked about his feelings towards his job and the pandemic, he said this: “When I was at Duquesne I would just be in an office all day in front of a computer, doing my job and so when I’m at home, I’m pretty much in front of a computer all day. It’s honestly very similar. Consequently, Tanner’s work didn’t really change much. After things calmed down after being away, Tanner focused primarily on the graphics package for Duquesne’s 2020-21 academic year. Tanner continues to develop graphics for Duquesne and promote fan cutouts on social media. Additionally, Tanner is working on Duquesne’s fan design from the home box, which you’ll be able to see on Duquesne’s athletics Twitter page in the coming weeks.

emilygoddard.jpgEmily Goddard ’19, Sales and Retail Coordinator at Kannapolis Cannon Ballers
Many sports were canceled last year. Among the sports that have been canceled, Minor League Baseball has also been affected. The minor league season was canceled in July, after most Kannapolis Cannon Ballers employees had already started working from home. While Emily Goddard has been impacted by the pandemic, she says her work for the Cannon Ballers has continued. The team organization has realized through the pandemic that there is more to a minor league baseball team than baseball. The restaurants and the team store in the ballpark remained open. As a result, Emily’s position as Retail Coordinator continued to flourish. Emily had this to say about her baseball-free summer experience: “It’s been busy without baseball.” Even though baseball did not take place, Kannapolis took the opportunity to invite the community to eat, socialize and learn more about the Cannon Ballers. The Cannon Ballers hope to start the minor league baseball season as usual in April 2021. Come to Atrium Health Ballpark in Kannapolis and see what the team and Emily Goddard have been up to during the pandemic.

mckenzie-garrison.jpgGarrison McKenzie ’17, Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications at the NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association)
McKenzie Garrison continues to navigate this difficult time by inspiring student-athletes in her work for the NJCAA. McKenzie shared her whirlwind of a story about how her career and organization have been impacted. McKenzie says she was heading to the DIII Women’s Basketball Championship in Illinois when everything changed. She said she left Charlotte as usual and when she landed she learned the game could be played, but without fans. However, hours later, every league game was called off. The organization then called on employees to start working remotely. McKenzie and the NJCAA continued to keep people engaged through the social media campaign, #NJCAAforward. The organization continued its promotion not only on social media, but also on the NJCAA network. During quarantine, McKenzie worked with the NJCAA to show videos of what their student-athletes were doing at home to keep people engaged as well. Currently, McKenzie says the only sport practiced is cross country. However, spring sports should start for practice and competition. Consequently, McKenzie said, “We will go from 52 championships spread over about 3 months to 46 championships in the space of about 2 months.” In times like these, it’s hard to imagine normalcy again. So just the fact that student-athletes can play and be promoted is very exciting for McKenzie and the NJCAA.

alixguynn.jpgAlix Guynn ’11, Associate Athletic Director – Student Athlete Support Services at Radford University Athletics
Student-athlete success is something that lasts 365 days a year, COVID-19 or not. At least that’s how it is for Alix Guynn. For Alix, the pandemic has impacted her and the students she supports on a daily basis. However, that hasn’t stopped her from impacting the lives of these student-athletes. Alix said when the pandemic started in March, Radford was to host the men’s and women’s basketball tournament for the Deep South. During that week everything got out of control, Radford already had 6 Deep South teams in town ready to play in the tournament. However, news got out that everything had to be stopped amid pre-match warm-ups. Alix said: “Working with athletics you have to be ready to act on the fly, but that was something completely different.” There is no sports management manual that prepares you for this sort of thing. Radford finally switched to online classes in March, which placed a heavy burden on Alix. She was to continue helping students navigate remotely for the rest of the semester via Facetime, phone calls, zoom, etc. to have cut short their season. Radford has postponed fall sports, hoping to play all fall and spring sports in spring 2021. Alix says, “COVID-19 has thrown a lot of wrenches into things.” However, she continues to persevere to ensure that these Radford student-athletes continue to thrive and grow through these difficult times to emerge stronger than before.

brandonfloyd.jpgBrandon Floyd ’17, NCAA Leadership Development Graduate
Brandon Floyd not only survived the middle of a pandemic, but he also started working with the NCAA during it. Brandon took the job before the pandemic and was extremely blessed that the NCAA didn’t cut the program like several other organizations did. Brandon says his days consist of many meetings with various people from the NCAA, student-athletes, coaches, administrators, etc. Brandon went on to say that the work is somewhat hybrid right now. In this, if they wish to go to the office, they register the previous week and are authorized to go there on that specific day. Brandon’s primary focus has been working on grant direction for ethnic minorities and Division III women. This is Brandon’s first program he’s put together since he’s been in the NCAA and he was also able to create a graphic for it and have it on DIII social media. Brandon said, “It was about finding creative ways to interact with people on a screen.”

joshstewart.jpgJosh Stewart ’18, Ambassador at FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Assistant College Track Coach at BCA (Burlington Christian Academy)
During the pandemic, things may have slowed down for some people. However, the encouragement that student-athletes need from people like Josh Stewart has not slowed down. In fact, it is more necessary than ever. Josh was able to continue his sporting leadership roles during the pandemic in his two roles at FCA and BCA. At FCA, he worked on ways to keep athletes engaged during this time. Josh says the organization has started doing what they call “caucuses,” which allows ambassadors, such as Josh, to meet with athletes on weekends to keep them motivated during this difficult time. When the pandemic first hit, Josh’s coaching job at BCA was affected because the team was preparing to compete at the state level, and then of course the season was called off. The athletics team started using a website called “” to host virtual athletic meets, which helped them do all they could virtually. The BCA track and field team is currently able to compete. Josh had this to say about the pandemic: “COVID-19 has been a major, major challenge that I’ve seen at the college, middle, and high school levels, trying to adapt, adjust, and get through it. ” When Josh was asked what his workload was during the pandemic, he replied, “You spend more time planning during a pandemic.” Even though Josh’s workload has been about the same during the pandemic, it’s been tough because he’s had to plan more, re-plan, and think creatively.

Tom Appenzeller, a retired professor of sports management at Catawba College, had this to say about the alumni mentioned: “As you read through the profiles of sports management graduates, some common denominators emerged. Graduates used terms such as creativity, versatility, perseverance, navigation and preparation to describe their work.

In 2011, the late Steve Jobs said, “Technology alone is not enough – it’s technology married to the liberal arts, married to the humanities, that gives us the results that make our hearts sing”. I believe it was the sports management program along with Catawba College’s focus on the liberal arts that enabled these young graduates to succeed in their most difficult times.

To paraphrase Mr. Jobs, it is the sports management program married to the liberal arts that allows our majors to succeed in all circumstances.

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