Game, Reset, Match

Wildcat Workshops offer student-athletes time to connect and grow outside of the classroom and competition

By Kenny Ayres

The tops of graduation caps represent a variety of sport courts and fields

Three days out of the week during swimming season, Henry Gingrich ’26 VSB leaves his residence hall at 5:30 a.m. and returns around 11 that night. His schedule is full of athletic and academic opportunities that he would never trade, but is also one that leaves him with little extra time.

This is the nature of the commitment Villanova’s student-athletes put into their sports and coursework. That’s why the Office of Academic Support for Athletics and Student-Athlete Development joined forces several years ago to create Wildcat Workshops, offering opportunities for student-athletes to grow professionally, socially and personally, all on their schedule.

Chapter members gain knowledge and expertise by engaging with guest speakers, attending state and national Student Nurses’ Association conferences and preparing publications, presentations and independent studies on leadership that are linked to their involvement in SNAP through these activities that help them prepare for successful nursing careers.   

“We found that student-athletes wanted to go to info sessions or attend various programs, but it often conflicted with their class or athletic schedules,” says Jenn Brophy, director of Academic Support for Athletics. “We were thinking, ‘How can we still provide them with these same opportunities, but in a manner that they would be able to participate?’”

 The program was initially geared toward professional development: résumé building, career advice and the like. While still including those topics, organizers have since incorporated workshops focused on mental health and classes in financial literacy, nutrition and yoga. On the social side, food truck events and holiday socials allow athletes to connect outside of sports and the classroom.

What began as a collaboration across two departments in Athletics has grown into a cross-campus collaborative effort, thanks to the work of Eryca Bennett, director of Student-Athlete Development, who oversees all aspects of the Wildcat Workshop series. Many faculty and staff members volunteer their time to work with student-athletes.

“We have never reached out to someone to come over and help with a workshop and had that person say they didn’t have the time or see the value in it,” says Allison Venella ’08 CLAS, ’13 MA, senior associate athletic director of Student-Athlete Development.

The impact the workshops have had on the student-athletes’ lives is evident.

“Even if it’s just a half hour, it allows me to take a step back from my athletic, academic and social life and just relax,” Henry says.

Taryn Nichols, assistant director of Academic Support for Athletics, says the whole program is driven by the idea of showing the student-athletes “that we are thinking about them and care about how they’re doing.”

Riley Homer ’23 VSB, ’25 MBA, a member of the Volleyball team, has attended most Wildcat Workshops offered during her time as a Villanova student-athlete. “It speaks to how amazing this community is,” Homer says. “We are respected not just as students or athletes, but as people. And we are focused on becoming the best people we can be.”


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