Melissa Koop


Melissa Koop 2017-ESSSWhat year did you graduate from CSB/SJU? What was your major and minor?

I graduated in 2017 with a mathematics major and exercise science and sports studies (ESSS) minor.

Why did you decide to major/minor in these?

In choosing my major and minor, I wanted programs that would keep my career options open. I wanted to be a math major because I felt the logic, reasoning, and problem-solving skills I learned would be applicable to any career in the future. I wanted to be an exercise science and sports studies minor because sports is what I am most passionate about and I knew I wanted to always be involved with sports in some capacity in the future. I knew the ESSS minor would let me explore the many intersections and applications of sports with various disciplines such as business, psychology, gender, nutrition, medicine, and communication, which would leave me to have holistic background in sports.

How did a CSB/SJU education prepare you for life outside of college?

I am currently pursuing my Master’s in sports law and business at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, so my academic career is still ongoing. However, I can say with certainty that I have been sufficiently prepared for graduate school. I am currently taking classes pertaining to sports business strategies, sports law, and sports analytics, so I am exposed to the combination and junction of the math and ESSS classes I took in my undergraduate studies.

Tell us about your experience in the ESSS program.

I loved my experience in the ESSS program. Being an athlete, I always loved the power and influence that sports had on individual development and societal identity. As I mentioned, the ESSS program allowed me to explore the various disciplines that sports intersected with. There was not a single class that I took that I did not enjoy or feel engaged in. I truly feel the program provided me with a well-rounded knowledge around sports.

How did you decide to intern at the Tucker Center at the University of Minnesota?

I was exposed to the research the Tucker Center conducts through the Gender and Sport course I took for my ESSS minor. In the class, I was fascinated by the various studies that analyzed the motivating factors for girls to stay physically active, the beliefs and perception of elite female athletes in sports marketing and media, and the prevalence of women in intercollegiate sports. After each class, I would go back to my roommates, who were also athletes, and talk their ears off about what we talked about in class. I could tell I was passionate about the subject. Being a female athlete and wanting to pursue a career in athletics, I thought that by studying and researching sports with a gender lens, we may discover how sports can improve player development across multiple dimensions and encourage coaches to create an even better environment for the next generation of athletes. Due to this interest, I was curious if there was a job I could do in the summer that related to what we were talking about in the class. I recalled talking about the Tucker Center at the University of Minnesota, so I looked at their website and saw they had an internship and applied!

What were your main tasks at this internship?

My main project was the Tucker Center and Alliance of Women Coaches project that tracked the retention of female coaches who attended one of the NCAA Women Coaching Academies. I helped with the data collection, running tests, and some of the analysis. The results of this research project would demonstrate the effectiveness of educational intervention on coaching academies, continue support from the NCAA, and hopefully help find ways to keep females in the coaching profession. In addition to this project, I assisted my coworkers with other Tucker Center projects pertaining to coaching turnover and NCAA Athletic Director best practices of recruitment, hiring, and retention of women collegiate coaches.

How did you grow at this internship?

I learned so much working at the Tucker Center and under Dr. Nicole LaVoi’s mentorship. Not only was I exposed to the gender equity issues that the sports world faces, but I also improved my research and analytical skills. In addition, I grew a lot personally as I gained confidence and passion for a career in sports.

What is your advice for students looking for an internship?

While doing an internship is great for a resume and/or future job, look for an internship that not only is related to the work you want to go into, but is also related to something you are passionate about or interested in.  One of the reasons I got the internship with the Tucker Center was because I demonstrated my passion for improving the experience for girls and women in sports, rather than just being interested in finding any internship that would pay. A company or program is more likely to hire someone who is interested in what they are doing, rather than someone who wants an experience to just put on a resume or get paid.

In looking for an internship, think of what you want to do as a career and what you are most passionate about. Then, work on finding a company or organization that does work related to that. Look on their website or call the organization to see if they have any internship opportunities. If there is not one or you cannot find one on your own, take advantage of your resources; ask the ESSS professors or athletic department for ideas.

What are your plans for the future?

I am hoping my next step will allow me to coach volleyball and do some sports analytical work. However, long term I aspire to be a collegiate volleyball coach and potentially an athletic director.