Written by Kaley Brown '23
- ECGulls.com Contributor
BEVERLY, Mass. – When you think of the major sport management, what careers come to mind?
Putnam knew her entire life that she wanted, in some way, to pursue a career in sports. It was just a matter of specifying what career in sports she wanted to pursue.
"Growing up I played many sports and really loved the atmosphere and environment that is brought about through sport," Putnam said. "I wanted to continue to be involved in sports for as long as I could and decided that I was going to continue doing what I love and make a career out of it. So, going into college I knew that I wanted to be involved in sports in some capacity."
"Even if I wasn't the one that was participating, being able to help someone have a positive experience through sport is something that I really enjoyed being able to be a part of."
THE NEXT STEP
Even once she got accepted into Endicott College, Putnam remained unsure of the exact path she wanted to take in the vast field that is sport. The career opportunities appeared endless for the senior just four years ago.
"I definitely didn't know what I wanted to do for a career at the start of my freshman year, and it actually wasn't until this year that I figured out I wanted to work in college athletics, said Putnam. "Wanting to work in collegiate athletics narrows down many of the job opportunities that I will be searching for."
Putnam has completed all three of her required internships at Endicott: a 120-hour freshman year internship, a 120-hour sophomore year internship, and a semester-long senior year internship. Each internship uniquely helped her begin to carve out her career path in her four years at Endicott.
For her first internship, Putnam worked for the Connecticut Sport Management Group located in New Britain, Conn. She described the group as, "putting on a series of mini Olympic-style games and tournaments in various different sports." During her time there, she was put in charge of supervising each event she was assigned to.
"My first internship was a very basic learning experience for me. A lot of what I did was small intern tasks like sorting and handing out medals, being a scorekeeper, and doing set-ups and break-downs for the tournaments."
For Putnam, this internship gave her the taste of what working in sports would be like, which is something she could see herself doing.
"Overall, it was a good experience for me because I was able to be involved with and learn about multiple sports rather than just basketball. This internship really solidified that I wanted to work in sports."
For her second internship, Putnam worked for the East Lyme Parks & Recreation Department located in East Lyme, Conn. Here, Putnam was a special events intern in which she "planned functions, supervised major events, and oversaw classes that the department put on throughout the summer."
East Lyme Parks & Recreation was a different side of the sports industry, which Putnam enjoyed because she was able to give others opportunities.
"This internship was a little different than what I was expecting just because it focused more on the recreation side of sports rather than the competitive side," said Putnam. "I loved working for the parks & recreation department because I was able to provide residents with opportunities in sports. I also loved the fact that I was not only working for a smaller department, but also for a smaller town. Working for this small town department truly demonstrated how the residents and the department work together to make a strong community bond."
"This sense of community made it more enjoyable to work for people who truly care about each other. Everyone was very supportive and enjoyed being with each other, making it easy and fun to work for the town. I think that one of the biggest takeaways from this organization was that I learned the planning and effort it takes to organize events. From the prep work to the break down of the event, everything has to be kept in order so that the event will run smoothly."
WORTH THE WAIT
Having completed these two internships within her first two years as an Endicott student, her next internship would not come for nearly another two years. Those two years allowed her to reflect on her experiences and start to determine exactly what she wanted her semester-long internship to entail as well as what path she might plan on taking after her upcoming graduation.
Putnam decided to complete her senior internship this past fall with the America East Conference (AE) located in Boston, Mass. as an administrative intern. She described the AE as "an athletic conference for nine small mid-major Division I institutions."
This particular internship, at last, solidified her aspirations of working in the niche field of collegiate athletics.
"Working for the America East Conference was by far my favorite internship since I have been at Endicott," said Putnam. "Everyone that I worked with at AE was so welcoming and so helpful that they truly made my work very enjoyable. Through AE, I was able to learn how a conference functions, help them expand on some conference initiatives, as well as learn how to use new technological platforms."
Putnam noted that she became fascinated with how a modern collegiate conference functions in her time at AE.
"As the administrative intern, I was able to learn a wide variety of tasks by working across many different departments within the organization. The biggest thing that I learned throughout the internship was how a conference itself functions."
Not only did Putnam gain valuable lessons about life in a conference office, but she also gained confidence knowing that this is what she wanted to do post-graduation.
"I think this internship gave me confidence going into the work field after completing my semester. My other two internships were not as beneficial in terms of working in collegiate athletics. I came into the internship never working in college athletics and was curious and a little naive about what I was going to be doing. I quickly learned that I had understood more than I thought I would," said Putnam. "Some of my classes at Endicott had prepared me for this internship. My past internships also helped me prepare for this semester-long internship."
THE ENDICOTT ADVANTAGE
While her internships played a role in helping Putnam decide her eventual career path, she also gave thanks to Endicott's Sport Management program, the school's uniquely tight-knit community, as well as her professors and coaches along the way.
"I think Endicott does a very good job of preparing students to work in the field and get hands-on experience in the workforce," said Putnam. "I think that as I am graduating I am a step ahead of other graduating seniors at other schools because I have had almost triple the experience than most."
"The smaller class environment really helped me be accountable for not only doing my work but also being present in class. My professors knew my name and knew what I was capable of and held me to that standard in every class. I don't think you would get that kind of commitment to student success at many other schools."
Meanwhile, Endicott women's basketball head coach Brittany Hutchinson has guided and nurtured Putnam through all four years as a Gull and could not have had more glowing remarks for the star student-athlete on the court as well as off the court.
"Kaleigh has developed into one of the best guards in the conference," said Hutchinson. "In fact, there's no other point guard in the league that I'd rather have on this team."
In Putnam's 101 career games played for the Gulls, Putnam has started in 60 of them, averaged 25.4 minutes per game and possesses a 39.1% field goal percentage, as well as a 25.3% three-point percentage, and a stellar 78.2% free throw percentage. Her ball-handling skills are some of the meanest in the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) as she has averaged 2.3 assists per game, a 1.1 assist-to-turnover ratio, 3.3 rebounds, 1.0 steals, and 0.9 blocks.
"On top of her gameday performances, in which she is averaging 13 points per game and leading the team in assists, she is one of our best practice players," said Hutchinson of Putnam as a senior.
"She is a leader day in and day out and shows it even when no one is watching. She sets a great example and is always playing hard, giving great effort, and executing for the benefit of her development and for the benefit of her teammates."
Coach Hutchinson knew from the very beginning that Putnam was a different type of athlete. She was determined to get the most out of Putnam starting in her freshman year.
"I clearly remember Kaleigh's freshman and sophomore years and how she and I spent countless meetings discussing her potential. She was getting minutes and she was being productive, but I was always trying to get more out of her. I felt she could be a more impactful communicator as a point guard and I felt she could be more of a presence on the ball defensively," said Hutchinson. "Since those early conversations, Kaleigh's junior and senior years have seen her surpass my every expectation and emerge as the backbone of our team on both sides of the ball. Kaleigh's ball-handling, three-point shooting, attacking the rim, and pull up jumper have all improved drastically over the course of four years."
"More often than not, she is required to guard the opponent's best player as well as run the team from the point guard position, handle the ball, facilitate, call out our offense, lead the huddles, and score points," said Hutchinson. "She is always locked in eye-to-eye with me in the locker room and on the bench in timeouts. I feel her focus every day and I know her teammates do too."
Putnam is, however, much more than just a top college athlete. She's a star student and has more than proved that over the past four years by juggling a rigorous course schedule and playing college basketball, all at the same time.
"Kaleigh is also one of our best students with a cumulative GPA of 3.81 and she is also a tutor on campus," said Hutchinson. "She had a great experience with her internship this past fall with the America East Conference in Boston and juggled an incredibly busy schedule throughout the preseason."
One of Putnam's professors, Dr. Richard Nastasi, can even more so attest to her outstanding classroom performance.
While Putnam didn't become the poster child for successful student-athletes overnight, Professor Nastasi noted the hard work she put into becoming just that over the last four years while she also developed into a student her fellow peers could look up to.
"Kaleigh was always a good student but as she grew into the academic environment at Endicott she became confident in her ability to influence other students' success," said Nastasi. "She is a very good communicator and is able to transfer difficult ideas to peers. I am grateful that she has been a tutor for two years in my Philosophy and Sport class."
"I really enjoyed Kaleigh's input in the honors class she took with me. She was an advocate for mind/body connections and was able to effectively share opinions with faculty and students from all disciplines using sport as an avenue for an optimal experience."
Even Putnam herself admitted that it took some time for her to completely adjust to the life of a student-athlete at the collegiate level. Choosing to continue her basketball career at Endicott played a major role in that crucial adjustment as a freshman.
"Playing basketball at Endicott has only enhanced my experience here," Putnam said. "I came into college a shy freshman not knowing anyone, but by playing basketball I came in with a team of freshmen who were in the exact same boat as me," said Putnam. "I quickly became close with the other members on the team and we have become a family. They are some of my best friends and I am so glad that they have been through this with me. They have pushed me to be a better teammate and player, which would have never happened if I wasn't on the team."
WORDS OF ADVICE
What makes a successful student-athlete, anyway? Two words: TIME MANAGEMENT.
"Playing basketball has helped me become a better student. The structure and routine of having a practice or game every day have forced me to develop time management skills and learn how to prioritize better."
Entering her final semester as a student here at Endicott College, you can imagine that Putnam has, naturally, been doing some reflecting on the last four years of her life.
Being a senior about to graduate and enter the so-called "real world," Putnam had some advice for incoming freshmen student-athletes.
"Take it day-by-day. You don't want to rush the four years that you will be playing a sport competitively, so cherish every moment you are on the court, field, track, ice, etc. Give each practice and game everything you have because you only have four years to play at a high and competitive level. Don't take it for granted."
As Putnam's collegiate career comes to a close, she's currently in the midst of working on her senior thesis and remains unsure about whether or not she will attend graduate school or enter the workforce upon her graduation from Endicott.
Nevertheless, if Putnam's time at Endicott has shown her anything, it's that there's no rush. Endicott has collectively taught her that things take time, even something as daunting as your future career prospects.
"Although I am not exactly sure of what I want to be doing post-graduation, whether I will go back to school or get a job, I know that I will be prepared for whatever comes my way."
THE ENDICOTT INTERNSHIP MODEL
A philosophy of "learning by doing" permeates the college curriculum in which students are encouraged to integrate theory and practice in all of their studies.
Through their experiences in internships students will be prepared to:
- Apply, integrate, and evaluate knowledge within a particular academic discipline
- Develop competencies for careers and community service
- Explore career options and gain field experience
- Foster personal growth through increased self-confidence, interpersonal skills, an understanding of self and others, and a heightened awareness of ethical standards
- Improve the ability to learn in a self-directed manner
(Photo Credit - Kaleigh Putnam '20/America East Conference)