Although Ally Bakos recently completed her senior season of water polo at George Washington University, she isn’t necessarily done with sports.
The Los Altos native wants to pursue a career in athletics – outside the pool – and being invited to the recent NCAA Career in Sports Forum exposed her to an array of opportunities in the field.
“There’s so much to learn – be a sponge and just say yes,” Bakos said of her experience at the forum, held June 1-4 at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis. “The whole weekend affirmed I picked the right sector to go into.”
The annual event brings together 200 student-athletes from throughout the country. Bakos, nominated by a GW athletic administrator because of her leadership and interest in a sports career, was among only three students from her college invited to attend.
“I was pretty shocked and so humbled,” said Bakos, who graduated from George Washington in May. “I knew it was a long shot and incredibly competitive since I was up against basically every other student athlete in the NCAA. It was just such an honor.”
She called the experience “eye-opening,” but joked it was also problematic because it sparked even more possibilities for her. Bakos said she has a wide range of interests within the field – from graphic design to sales and sponsorships.
The 2013 graduate of Los Altos High said each of the four days had “an intense itinerary,” filled with panels, networking events and keynote speeches. Participants heard from athletic directors, academic advisers, coaches, sport psychologists and others.
“(We) put (students) in a nontraditional academic setting where they can learn directly from successful leaders, which can have a positive impact on their future after graduation,” Bernard Franklin, NCAA executive vice president of education and community engagement and chief inclusion officer, said in a press release.
Aside from all of the knowledge Bakos gained at the event, she is grateful for the many relationships that came out of the experience. She appreciated the opportunity to be surrounded by a like-minded, supportive community.
“(It’s like) I made 200 friends. We still have a Groupme (group texting),” Bakos said.
A piece of advice Bakos particularly took to heart was the recurring theme of the forum: “What Is Your Why?” Participants were taught that your “what” will be far more impactful, as long as you know “why” you do what you do.
Even before the conference, Bakos had a deep appreciation for athletics.
“No matter what, people can rally behind sports, regardless of political background or culture,” she said. “We can all root for the same team.”
Bakos grew up playing softball, her primary sport until she got to Los Altos High. An injury led her to try water polo, and she developed into an all-league player and team captain. Recruited by George Washington, she was a member of the team for four years.
“She was one of the harder-working athletes in the program,” said David Carson, her assistant coach in college.
Bakos had to sit out her junior season with a shoulder injury, which wasn’t easy for her.
“I was honestly heartbroken when it happened. … My role switched to being a leader and support system. … (I learned) how to be there in a different way,” she said.
But some good also came out of the experience – Bakos was able to focus more on community service. She became the team’s community service manager.
Her passion for helping others only grew from there, as she became increasingly involved in the greater Washington, D.C., area. This included working with the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation, a charitable organization run by the professional baseball team that helps children in that area.
Bakos plans to return to the Bay Area in July to resume her education at the University of San Francisco, where she will pursue a master’s degree in sports management.