Mavblog: Abby, you wrapped up your playing career at Minnesota State in 2010. Take us through when you have left Minnesota State and where you are now?
Abby Morris: Post graduation and following the completion of softball season (which ended too early), I packed everything up, said goodbye to a University and city that was beyond generous to me, and headed back home to Urbandale, Iowa. Thanks to my awesome parents, who seem to have a revolving front door, they let me live with them for a year while I “figured my life out.” Trust me that definitely does not happen overnight. Having a Psychology degree, a father and sister who are counselors, and a passion for people, I had an interest in Mental Health Counseling.
With that in mind, I pursued the field of counseling and was given the opportunity to work as a Remedial Counselor in a school-based counseling agency. Although I learned a lot and am thankful for the opportunity, I always felt like something was missing. That something, I discovered later, was athletics and being part of an athletic department.
This past January, I was back in Mankato visiting friends/coaches/etc. I vividly remember sitting in Coach Meyer’s office explaining to her that I loved the part of my job which involved working with individuals, but didn’t love other parts. I expressed how I missed softball and just being around athletics in general. Coach then introduced me to the field of Academic Affairs/Life Skills departments inside an Athletic Department. She read the job description and I instantly was drawn to it and almost immediately felt this was my calling. I thanked her and headed back home with this intense drive of somehow getting into this field. Every day from that point on, I checked NCAA for job postings.
A few weeks later, a Graduate Assistant position at the University of Missouri in the Total Person Program (TPP) opened up. I quickly filled out all the necessary application requirements, gathered my reference letters, and sent everything in. Leaving it out of my control and trusting it was not in my hands, I received a call saying I was given an interview. Guess I did alright on that and that is where I am now. I started the Grad Assistant position in the TPP and began my Master’s program. I am loving it all and soaking in every experience possible.
Mavblog: What is your job title at the University of Missouri and your duties?
AM: My job title at Mizzou is Graduate Assistant in the Total Person Program (a holistic approach involving academics, student athlete development, career planning, social responsibility, and community service). I work specifically in academics with the football, soccer, and gymnastic teams. My specific duties involve assisting the full-time coordinator for my sports with anything and everything she may need help with. Personally, I work study tables, mentor students, schedule classes, check classes, am part of our Honorary Coaches Program, plan Faculty-staff luncheons, and any other odds and ends that manage to keep me extremely busy! Oh, and then when I find time, I do my schoolwork.
|Morris was a member of four MSU teams which qualified for the NCAA|
Division II tournament playing both the outfield and second base.
Mavblog: How has working inside a college athletic department changed your opinion on how an athletic department functions?
AM:Participating as an athlete in an Athletic Department really doesn’t give you the most accurate or clear view of how the department functions. Now that I am physically working inside the Missouri Athletic Department, I have a pretty good idea of how things work (or so I like to think). Obviously I do not know everything that goes on, but being part of full-Faculty staff meetings and being in communication with people from different areas of the Athletic Department, I have learned a lot.
I have seen the importance of every single person, from the Graduate Assistants to the Athletic Director himself, everyone has a purpose and is a function of making Mizzou Athletics the best they can be. All individuals must have the same vision, goals, and means of reaching those goals; otherwise there will be inconsistency and lack of unity. Each person must support each other at the end of the day, whether they agree with certain decisions or not. Not one decision is made impulsively or without speaking with the team, coworkers, etc to make sure all parties are on board.
With all of the scandals that have gone down at Division I Universities within the last couple years, all Athletic Departments must protect their image and work their hardest to do things the right way. Because nobody is perfect, when things do not always go smoothly or right, it is important to accept consequences, stay positive, and move on. College athletics are constantly in the spotlight, especially in a city that has the #1 Journalism school in America (aka Columbia). There are students everywhere who are trying to get that big story, so it is our job to represent Mizzou well and stay consistent to the vision of the Athletic Department.
Mavblog: You have been at Missouri during an interesting time as it has announced it is leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, tell us how that progress all went about?
AM: How did I know this question would come up?! I suppose it is a rather big deal with Missouri leaving the Big 12 for the SEC. Working internally in the Athletic Department, it was interesting going through this process. I say that because each day there would be a new rumor or headline in the news about Mizzou’s decision, when really no decision was made for a few months. I wish I had some juicy details to share, but all I can say is that our Chancellor and Athletic Director worked their tails off for several days in a row trying to decide which conference would be the best fit for the University. They wanted to make sure the conference would be one in which we could excel in all facets (academically, athletically, socially, medical-research wise, etc). From the very beginning, the administrators had set out guidelines that must be fulfilled in order for them to make a decision.
Once they felt that all of those were covered, and of course once the SEC extended and invite to us, they decided that the Southeastern Conference is going to be the best fit for Mizzou, starting in Summer of 2012. I am looking forward to this transition. Although on a daily basis for myself, not much will change for me, there are some academic rules that will affect our program slightly, but ultimately at the end of the day, they are all still student-athletes who will have to go to school. I am excited to be part of two different conferences during my time here at Mizzou and am anxious to see how we compete!
Mavblog: Did you ever think when you signed up to be a graduate assistant that you could potentially be a part of something that is one of the major talking points in college athletics and will most likely be a key cog in the ever-changing landscape of Division I?
AM: The landscape of Division I athletics is most definitely evolving due to all of the conference realignments that have taken place over the last few years. When I was hired for this job, I really didn’t think about that aspect of it, but it for sure is changing several things about Division I athletics. I think that some of those long-standing traditions that Universities have had will fizzle out and new traditions will take place. I know at Mizzou for example, the Border Showdown between Mizzou and KU may no longer be played every season (due to us leaving for the SEC and KU not wanting to keep that tradition). Also, now that we are moving into the SEC, one of their “rules” is that fans cannot leave the stadium once they are in. Mizzou has always allowed tailgaters to leave at halftime and come back in so I believe this could really affect our crowd. With the SEC never having a team leave their conference in its history, I am pretty excited to be moving into that conference. It seems to be stable, well reputable, and all-around excelling.
Mavblog: One of the sports you oversee is football? How are those study tables?
AM: Study hall for football, as with most of the other sports at Mizzou, are a big part of the student-athlete’s week. All freshmen are put in 8-hours of mandatory study hall. Within those 8 hours, they are plugged in with a Mentor (big-picture person who helps them stay organized) as well as a class-specific tutor for each one of their courses. If they are not meeting with their mentor or tutor, they have “free” hours in which they can either study in the lab, individual study rooms, or quiet study. When they first enter our academic wing, they insert their hand into our hand scanner which clocks them in and out. We pull a report several times a day to make sure they are still present, and were on time. Each morning, we send a report up to the Football Staff saying who was tardy, left early, or was absent. From that point on, they decide how they want to deal with each athlete. Our study is objective-based, meaning that each Sunday when they meet with their mentor, they fill out a weekly to-do list. They must get all of these objectives crossed off by one of our staff members by the end of the week. We feel that this gives them more direction and purpose while they are in study hall.
Mavblog: Have you thought of your plans following the University of Missouri?
AM: To be honest, I haven’t really thought that far ahead yet. Being in my first semester down here at Mizzou and still having a year and a half remaining, I am just really living in the moment and soaking in everything. Every day I am learning new things and building relationships with people everywhere. With how much I am enjoying it however, I think it is safe to say I would love to continue working somewhere in Student-Athlete Affairs in the Athletic Department. Whether that be in Academics, Student Athlete Development, Life Skills, etc, I am really interested in all of them at this point. This job as a whole seems to be a great fit for my interests and personality, so continuing on this path is a goal of mine.
Mavblog: How did Minnesota State – academically, athletically and personally – prepare you for this new adventure in your life?
AM: Academically, MSU prepared me extremely well. Being in the Health Education and Promotion Master’s Program, we can basically take any electives that we want and essentially choose our “emphasis track.” Using my Psychology Bachelor’s degree, I am doing the Psychology/Sports Psychology track and have found so far this semester, that my undergrad classes prepared me better than I ever would have expected. Many of the things discussed in class, I have already been educated on and it feels great to come in with that knowledge and keep up just fine in class.
My classes at MSU most definitely pushed me academically and challenged me in ways that have made Graduate School very manageable. Athletically, although I am no longer using the skills I developed while playing ball, I mentally understand what the athletes are going through. Being a student-athlete at any level is a stressful, but enjoyable experience. Not only do you have to perform well on the playing field, but you also have to do well in school while staying out of trouble and essentially “doing the right thing” at all times. Athletes are set to a higher standard than the average student because they are constantly in the spotlight. This brings more pressure, more eyes, and more people to impress. I am able to empathize with the student-athletes I work with and completely understand (for the most part) what they are going through on a daily basis.
Personally, I grew in many ways during my time at MSU. Being on my own and exploring what it is like to be independent can really help a person come into their own. I embraced the independence, responsibility, and opportunities I was given and am forever grateful for. I credit the Athletic Department as a whole at MSU; for because of how much I enjoyed being part of it, it made me want to have a career in one. I have no regrets or things I wish were different during my time at Minnesota State.
Mavblog: What’s the one thing you miss most about your time at MSU?
AM: Definitely not the frigid cold weather! Seriously though, there are several things I miss about MSU. I miss playing ball competitively and having to workout everyday (it’s not as easy when nobody is forcing you to be there). I miss all of my teammates who became my family away from home. From the road trips to hanging out on the weekends in good old Kato, I have so many memories that will stay with me forever. I am very thankful for all of the people and opportunities I was given at MSU; it built on the foundation of who I am today.