Former Softball Player Joins Lineup in NCAA Immersion Program

Summer Lebel, sports editor of The Mercury — the student newspaper at UT Dallas — wrote this article.

For the first time in school history, a UT Dallas student-athlete was chosen to participate in a program designed to help minority students pursue careers in collegiate athletics.

Sara Navarro

Sara Navarro, who graduated in December with a bachelor's degree in business administration, was an infielder for UT Dallas' softball team. Now, one of her goals is to become a college coach.

Sara Navarro, who graduated in December with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, was one of 40 students and recent graduates picked to join the NCAA Division III Student Immersion Program. The program, in its second year, runs during the annual NCAA Convention, which takes place this week in Nashville, Tennessee. Participants are typically from an ethnic minority background and have a strong interest in coaching or athletic administration.

Navarro, who was a softball infielder for four years at UT Dallas, intends to pursue a career in coaching. One of her goals is to coach softball at a collegiate level.

“I’ve always been interested in coaching,” Navarro said. “I’m so passionate about it.”

Angela Marin, one of the University’s assistant athletic directors, nominated Navarro. For Marin, Navarro’s excitement and desire to have a job she loved stood out when it came to nominating her.

“Sara has been a role model student-athlete,” Marin said. “She’s just a great person, and I know she’ll be a great influence on up-and-coming student-athletes as they go through the process.”

About the Immersion Program

In 2015, the Division III governance staff and the NCAA Office of Inclusion partnered on a new program that brought 40 ethnic minority students to the NCAA Convention. The goal is to build a pipeline of talented ethnic minority candidates, with an interest in Division III coaching and/or administration, in an effort to ultimately diversify the division. To learn more about the program and the application process, click here.

Navarro’s communication skills and passion for softball make her a good candidate to be a coach in the future, Marin said.

“She’s so well respected within her community that I think that will carry over quite seamlessly to a coach or eventually hopefully an administrative position,” she said.

Marin suggested the program to Navarro after they discussed her interest in coaching on numerous occasions. During their conversations, the pair talked about Marin’s path to success.

“Through that discussion, I wanted to emphasize that there is no right or wrong way to do this,” Marin said. “Your path could look very different from mine. The end goal, however, I believe is the same. The qualities needed to be successful are the same. That’s where I want to help her grow.”

When Navarro found out about the opportunity, she was drawn to the road map the program gives students.

“What I really look forward to is finding out everything that I need to do. I think I’m more on the driven side. If you just tell me what I have to do, I’m going to go do it,” she said.

After they are nominated, applicants go through a lengthy process.

“The NCAA Division III really wants to make sure that they’re picking the student-athletes who are genuinely interested and want to take full advantage of the opportunity,” Marin said.

Sara has been a role model student-athlete. She’s just a great person, and I know she’ll be a great influence on up-and-coming student-athletes as they go through the process.

Angela Marin, assistant athletic director/senior woman administrator at UT Dallas

The goal during the convention is to get experience working with athletic administrators. While there, participants are paired with mentors, typically with the same degree.

“It’s a lot of networking and teaching you how to be a good executive,” Navarro said. “You’re learning all of the ins and outs of being in administration at the Division III level, which I would love to do and be a part of.”

Marin served as a mentor during the 2016 convention and has kept in contact with two people whom she mentored. A lot of mentorship is based on asking and answering questions, she said.

“They’re completely immersed within other athletic departments, athletic directors and assistant athletic directors,” Marin said. “They get the big grand picture of how the NCAA works.”

Navarro wasn’t aware of the extent of the program before applying.

“Initially, I didn’t know how big of an opportunity it was, but I’m really excited,” she said.

With school behind her, Navarro is looking forward to starting her career after the program and hopes to stay involved in softball.

“I think how fun would it be to impact people’s lives and be out on the ballfield, so hopefully that’s in my future,” she said.

After the program, Marin will continue to work with Navarro to reach her goals.

“She’s young and she’ll have a lot to learn,” Marin said. “Hopefully I can help her, but she has a solid foundation and she loves what she does, and that’s the most important thing.”

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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