As those Saturday afternoon TV spots remind us, most of the more than 400,000 NCAA athletes will be “going pro in something other than sports.”
Take Kristin Hoffman of Batavia, for example. The recent Northern Illinois graduate learned early on how to balance athletics with academics.
“I think when I was in high school is when I had to learn about time management,” she said.
Hoffman had to drive an hour each way almost daily to practice with her club volleyball team.
“It really forced me to be serious about my studies in the amount of time I had,” she said. “I think that really prepared me for NIU.”
At Northern Illinois, she received numerous accolades for her success on the volleyball court.
She was a first-team all-conference selection her junior and senior years and was the Mid-American Conference setter of the year as a senior, when she led the nation in assists with 12.3 per sets. She helped the Huskies claim their first MAC championship in a decade last fall and received an honorable mention All-American recognition.
But her academic achievements were perhaps more impressive. The history major graduated this spring with a 3.975 GPA. She was named to the Academic All-MAC team three times and was a first team Academic All-American as a senior.
Now a graduate student at Marquette, Hoffman last month was named the female recipient of the MAC’s Bob James Memorial Award. Presented in honor of the second commissioner in the conference’s history, the $5,000 post-graduate scholarship is awarded to one male and one female student-athlete who have achieved at least a 3.5 GPA and who have demonstrated good character, leadership and citizenship.
Hoffman displayed those qualities in a variety of ways throughout her collegiate career, including her work as an AmeriCorps volunteer in the Students in Service (SIS) program. A requirement of the program was that she complete 300 hours of community service in one calendar year, which Hoffman fulfilled primarily by working at The Growing Place childcare center in DeKalb.
“I was really grateful that I got a lot of hands-on experience with the kids,” Hoffman said. “I was there some days up to eight hours. It was kind of like a job.”
Hoffman would typically arrive at the center at breakfast time, after completing workout and conditioning regimens with the volleyball team and sometimes would stay as late as 5:30 p.m.
Hoffman also traveled to six cities in seven days to perform service duties in underprivileged areas as part of the Students Today, Leaders Forever program. She also volunteered at a summer Girl Scouts camp and at a nursing home.
Her dedication to community service was a major factor in her nomination by NIU for the prestigious NCAA Woman of the Year award.
“It was a great honor just to be representing our athletic department,” Hoffman said.
To her surprise, Hoffman was selected as the MAC nominee for the award. To her even greater surprise, she was named one of the 30 finalists for the award, including just 10 student-athletes from NCAA Division I schools.
“When I found out I made the top 30, I was overwhelmed,” she said. “To have my name with the other 30 selections is an extreme honor and I feel very blessed.”
In two weeks, Hoffman will join the other finalists in Indianapolis for a Sunday evening recognition ceremony. She has to be there a day earlier to take part in a community service event.
“It’s a full weekend,“ she said. “I won’t be leaving until very early Monday morning.”
She plans to get up at 3 a.m. that day to board a flight back to Milwaukee so she can make her classes that day at Marquette’s law school.
So far, law school is going well, Hoffman said.
“The amount of reading is daunting at times, but I knew that going in,” she said. “My dad [Tom] is an attorney, so he’s kind of prepped me for what to expect. … It’s been really rewarding these first few weeks. The professors have been great and I’ve made some great friends.”
Hoffman said she probably realized her junior or senior year of high school that she wanted to go into law.
“I definitely like to talk,” she noted, and she also doesn’t have a problem doing the reading, writing and research required.
“Those are strengths of mine and also things I enjoy doing,” she said.
• Dennis D. Jacobs writes a weekly On Campus column for the Kane County Chronicle. To submit information about local athletes participating in college, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.