Toni Gockel joined the C-USA staff in August and is working in the Marketing Department. But she doesn't just stop there! She helps out in all areas here at C-USA, and we appreciate her hard work and enthusiasm! She is a former UAB Soccer player and gives us her insight from a student-athlete's perspective. C-USA conference play opens up tonight so be sure to check out and support C-USA soccer! Here is her post:
Greetings Conference USA lovers and internet surfers! I'm kind of new to this blog thing, so take it easy on me! I was asked to do a blog about my life as a student-athlete in C-USA, and now staff. My name is Toni Gockel and as previously hinted, I am one of the interns here at C-USA. I work alongside the fabulous staff of the marketing department, particularly Kelly Carney. I arrived here, in Dallas, Texas, at the beginning of August from Birmingham, Ala. And let me tell you, it was HOT here. Not hot like 90 degrees where you could still manage to exit air-condition and be okay...No, hot like 109 degrees to the point where metal was melting. Oh well, enough about weather chit chat. Let me tell you a little about me and C-USA!
I was a former C-USA soccer athlete that competed with the
UAB Blazers from 2006-2009ish. I say "ish" because I was still eligible to play
in the Spring of 2010, but our season is a Fall sport, therefore spring matches
were more or less for new players to get confidence playing in game
experiences. Being part of a collegiate
team is like being part of a family. You have your ups and downs, but at the
end of the day everyone is family and we love each other. You do everything with your teammates.
Traveling, practicing, eating, class, study hall, living together, going out,
exploring....you get the picture. And yes, we actually went to study hall
(believe it or not). There were fights, there were smiles, there were tears and
there were hugs. It was definitely part of my life that I wouldn't trade for
anything. Before I go on, I have to give my UAB teammates a shout-out for being
the 2006 C-USA champions! I have a ring to prove it Look!
After soccer life was over, I took some time to be a "normal" student for my last year at school. It was bizarre not having to wake up at 5:45 a.m. for practice or conditioning anymore. Some days I would wake up and feel guilty, as if I was skipping...but I wasn't. It took some serious time before I finally got out of the swing of being a competitive athlete. But those first few weeks felt so free and wonderful. Your body isn't sore, you can actually sleep until 8 a.m., no more training room visits between classes, and no more fitness tests! Life was grand, but then after the high of feeling free and independent wears off, it hits you like a brick in the face. I truly missed being part of a team and doing what I love to do every day. I would trade soreness and lack of sleep all over again for my soccer family. True friendships were made to last a lifetime. It was a bittersweet goodbye to a great chapter in my life.
Now it was time for the real world! I knew I always wanted to be surrounded by the athletic world one way or another. I began my college career thinking I was going to become a physical therapist, boy was I wrong. I began being very fascinated in the intricate workings of what goes on inside sports operations. It all looked so magnificent and well put together. As a student-athlete, you don't always appreciate what staff members do to bring a game or tournament to life. I decided to take the opportunity of doing an internship with the UAB athletic marketing department before I faced the work force. It was exhausting yet exciting! I finally knew what really needed to be done just for a single event to take place. Cameras needed to be up, promotions needed to be set, production trucks had to be ready, and the script needed to be finalized! It is a full-time job and most gets unnoticed by the student- athletes. I can take blame; I was one of those unaware until this opportunity opened my eyes.
So, after finishing up at UAB, I was lucky enough to keep my passion alive by an internship offer here at C-USA!
It's pretty awesome getting to work for the conference that supported me for four years. The life of a C-USA intern has some nice perks. I get a chance to see what all it takes for a major athletics conference to succeed. It's pretty sweet to now be on the other side of the playing field. I no longer battle on the field, but now I compete for all of our student-athletes off the field here within C-USA. I somehow still feel a relationship with all those athletes, like I am one of them. This is a perfect way to still stay connected.
Every day for me so far has been different. One day I might be on the phone and writing e-mails to our member schools and the next day I might be meeting coaches, players, or other important people that deal with our sponsorships and television deals. I basically assist whoever may need a helping hand at that particular time. As an intern, I get to experience bits and pieces of everyone's line of work. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to learn from so many great people and watch them do what they do best. Since I just began working at the beginning of August, I have not seen the full picture nor made any trips yet. However, I will travel to the football championship site (TBA) and the Men's basketball tournament in Memphis, TN. I look forward to experiencing a whirlwind of events.
There is a lot of work and effort that goes on around here that keeps Conference USA productive and well established. So keep cheering for your favorite team and keep supporting Conference USA! Oh, and all of you student athletes out there reading this...keep up those grades, because nobody likes a dummy! :)
Sadly,the time has come for me to say good-bye for now. Thank you all for
reading my thoughts and expressions on the transition of being a student-athlete to a
working gal. If any of you ever have any questions, comments, funny jokes,
concerns, etc. feel free to drop me a line.