Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Stetson's DiGirolamo Leaves a Legacy of Leadership

When graduating senior Katie DiGirolamo walked across the stage last weekend at Stetson University’s 2014 commencement ceremony, she left quite a trail of accomplishments in her wake.

Most recently, DiGirolamo completed two years of service as the A-Sun SAAC representative to the NCAA, during which time she became a tremendous champion nationally for the voice of the student-athlete. 

Along with chairing the Student-Athlete Voice Committee, she helped create and distribute a monthly newsletter that concerned itself with keeping student-athletes informed about matters affecting them at the NCAA level, along with highlighting aspects of the lives of student-athletes. The monthly update reached national SAAC members, conference SAAC groups, and institutional administration.

“Participating in the national SAAC is one of the best things I have ever done,” said DiGirolamo. “I have really enjoyed meeting student-athletes from across the country and it was an honor for me to represent Stetson, the A-Sun and sand volleyball.”

DiGirolamo’s leadership was fruitful on several fronts. Along with publishing the regular newsletter, she helped grow the SAAC’s social media presence and was integral in SAAC members receiving opportunities to share their thoughts and concerns in several articles regarding NCAA administration and restructuring.

Historically we have had excellent leadership from the A-Sun student-athletes chosen to serve as the A-Sun representative to the NCAA SAAC and Katie was certainly no exception,” said A-Sun Senior Associate Commissioner Sherri Booker.

“She did an excellent job in her most important duty, which was sharing important information from the NCAA SAAC meetings with our A-Sun SAAC and in return representing the A-Sun voice during the NCAA meetings. Katie knows the importance of the student-athlete voice both at the A-Sun and NCAA level and made that one of her signature achievements during her tenure.”  

Bringing with her a history of campus involvement and leadership from high school, DiGirolamo became involved in many campus organizations from the time she arrived in Deland.

“I always had a passion for athletics and business, and I served as a leader and was very involved in a variety of organizations on campus in high school.”

An internship the last three summers with the Pittsburgh Pirates also helped provide her insight into the pairing of business and sports. Now graduating with a degree in business management, she is eager to begin her career with IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., this summer.

However, that passion also propelled her to a successful career as a Hatter student-athlete. During her first two seasons in campus (2010, 2011), DiGirolamo was a member of the Hatters’ indoor volleyball team, playing in 45 matches and earning A-Sun All-Academic Team honors in 2010 as a freshman.

In 2012, she and the Hatters became a part of history as they participated in the A-Sun’s inaugural season of sand volleyball. In that historic season she recorded a 16-14 mark overall to tie for second in wins among Hatters and was one of three players to record winning individual record. In the sport’s first ever conference championship, she paired with Stephanie Marin to earn a spot on the inaugural A-Sun All-Tournament Team by going 4-0 in dual match play. She has since also become an A-Sun Scholar-Athlete of the Year (2012).

In 2013 she again posted a winning mark of 14-10, highlighted by five A-Sun wins, advancing to the Gold Division semifinal against top-ranked competition at the Fiesta at Siesta and claiming a pair of wins at the A-Sun Championship. Again she earned membership to the Academic All-Conference Team and was named Stetson’s Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

For the past two seasons DiGirolamo has played sand volleyball only, concentrating on the myriad of responsibilities her SAAC duties present as well as striking the proper balance of student and athlete.

“For the last two years I concentrated on sand volleyball, as it was hard to play two sports and fulfill the national SAAC responsibilities,” she said. “Plus, it was needed for a change of pace.”

This year the senior and her team reaped the benefit of all the hard work and sacrifice, enjoying a successful season (18-4, 6-2 A-Sun) and knocking off two-time A-Sun champ North Florida in the A-Sun Championship. The Hatters battled Florida State and Southern California before falling to both in the AVCA National Championship team competition.

“Playing at nationals was an amazing experience, as was winning the conference championship,” said DiGirolamo. “All of the hard work and sacrifice in the transition with a new coach paid off. It was great to be there, participating and watching great sand volleyball. I am excited to see how the level of play in the A-Sun has risen and what good things are in store for the future both at Stetson and in the conference.”

Good things are also in store for student-athlete representation at the national level and the A-Sun SAAC thanks to DiGirolamo. What began as regular involvement grew into much more, thanks to the simple encouragement of a fellow student-athlete. That is something DiGirolamo wishes to convey to all student-athletes when it comes to SAAC involvement.

That is because as she became involved in Stetson’s campus SAAC organization, she knew little about the workings of the group on a national level until another Hatter, Carolyn Boyd, began sharing with her the experience of service as a national representative. 

“I didn’t know much about the national SAAC until Carolyn Boyd – who was at Stetson and served as the A-Sun’s national rep – began talking to me about considering it,” said DiGirolamo. “She became a great mentor and it was an amazing and empowering experience. One of the most important things that I learned is that they actually listen to us and take the student-athlete voice into consideration at the NCAA.”

“Katie proudly represented the A-Sun for two years and while doing so also assumed additional leadership roles with the NCAA SAAC,” said Booker. “We are so proud of the role she played both within the A-Sun SAAC and during her tenure on the NCAA SAAC. We feel positive that this experience with our A-Sun SAAC has contributed in Building a Winner for Life in Katie! The sky is the limit for her and we wish her all the best.”

For DiGirolamo, her experience provided many great memories and opportunities that she says benefited her and her fellow student-athlete. She encourages all of her peers to get and remain involved in further empowering the voice of the student-athlete.

“I think the opportunity with SAAC opened up opportunities with our administration at Stetson, with leaders such as our President, Dr. Wendy Libby, and Athletic Director Jeff Altier. I value those relationships from my time here.

“It is an exciting time to be a part of the NCAA. Student-athletes, and in particular SAAC, have a lot more impact than they get credit for. SAAC highlights the good that goes on with student-athletes, in particular in the change that they effect. I would tell any student-athlete to absolutely take any opportunities you have, including involvement in SAAC on the campus and national level.”

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