BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- Moravian College junior Janae Matos, captain and starting catcher for the softball team and president of Moravian's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, attended the 2017 NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tennessee from January 18-21.
"Going into the convention, I didn't know what to expect," stated Matos. "The convention turned out being so much more than I could have imagined. There were so many important people that I was able to meet and hear speak in such a powerful way. It was a great opportunity being able to attend."
Matos is the second Moravian student-athlete to attend the NCAA Convention in the last three years as Brian Boland, a men's soccer student-athlete and also President of Moravian's SAAC while a student, attended the 2015 Convention in Washington, D.C. Moravian Director of Athletics George L. Bright was also in Nashville for the NCAA Convention, his second since joining the Greyhounds in September of 2015.
"I believe the experience was terrific for Janae. She had first-hand experience to see exactly how student-athletes really do have a voice in the NCAA through advisory committees at the campus, conference, and the national level," commented Bright. "Janae also had a chance to sit in with the Landmark Conference AD's meeting in Nashville. On our campus, Janae leads a committee comprised of student-athletes brought together to provide insight on the student-athlete experience and offer input on process, operations, and policies that affect student-athletes' lives on campus. I am proud of Janae's dynamic leadership of our SAAC committee."
The convention was held at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, a Marriott property with over 2,800 rooms and 700,000 square feet of meeting space. The hotel is like its own little city with 15 restaurants, nine acres of indoor gardens with waterfalls and a waterway that included a boat under two glass atriums.
"The thing that surprised me most was the size of the convention," Matos said. "Knowing that all three divisions were a part of this convention, I figured there would be a lot of people. But there were many more than I anticipated. Attending the Opening Business Session was the one time where a large majority of the convention population was in one room altogether, the room was packed."
The Opening Business Session was held in the Delta Ballroom and included NCAA President Mark Emmert giving his State of the Association address, the presentation of the inaugural Pat Summit Award and a question-and-answer session with the chair of each of the President's Management Councils from NCAA Division I, Division II and Division III and a member of each division's national SAAC.
"My favorite part was helping with Special Olympics," commented Matos. "This was something that the Division III athletes that attended were able to be a part of and it was an incredible experience."
NCAA Division III began a partnership with Special Olympics on August 1, 2011. There has been a session at each of the NCAA Conventions since then, and the NCAA tries to have Special Olympics interactions at all of its national championship sites. Schools are encouraged to have their own Special Olympics events and Matos is currently helping Moravian's SAAC plan its 5th Annual Special Olympics Basketball Tournament later this semester.
Matos also had the chance to choose between 22 educational sessions and panels while in Nashville.
"The sessions that I chose to attend were mostly about the student-athlete experience and how to make the most of the time at hand," Matos explained. "The one that stood out the most to me was the mental health forum. Here there were four different projects talked about that had to do with mental health, sleep, body issues, and stress. Hearing about these programs that people created with the help of the NCAA was a good experience and allows me to take things that I learned there and implement them into my everyday life."
The NCAA has nearly 500,000 student-athletes from nearly 1,100 members competing in 89 championship sports as well as several emerging sports but less than 500 were able to attend the NCAA Convention.
"Attending the NCAA Convention was an amazing experience. I was able to network and learn a lot of the ins and outs of the NCAA at all divisions but especially the Division III level. Learning these things gives me a greater respect for the opportunity I have at hand of playing a collegiate sport," finished Matos.
Click here to view a photo gallery from the NCAA Convention.