Jessica Duff ’09, graduated from Wellesley with a degree in Women’s and Gender Studies. While at Wellesley, Duff was a four-year member of both the basketball and volleyball teams. After Wellesley, Duff went on to earn her Master’s in Education from Tufts in 2012.
I will never forget the day my collegiate athletic career ended, for up until that point my life had largely revolved around training sessions, pre-season workouts, and playoff games. Suddenly, my athletic career was all over, and I was left to redefine myself in light of this abrupt change. As part of this self-reflection, I realized that while my playing days were over, my experiences as a student-athlete at Wellesley would continue to shape me for the rest of my life. These experiences taught me commitment, leadership, teamwork, diversity and responsibility. Through challenges I learned resilience, and through successes I learned humility. My teammates were my unwavering backbone throughout my time at Wellesley and in striving to provide the same support for them I learned accountability and selflessness. I learned to sustain my competitive spirit, drive and desire to win, even in the face of defeat. I learned to accept my teammates’ differences and to create an open and safe environment where those differences were welcomed and celebrated. I could not attribute the person I had become to the points I scored or the digs I had, or even to the biggest wins or losses; instead it was my teammates, my coaches, and the overwhelming sense of pride I felt as I stepped onto the basketball and volleyball court wearing Wellesley Blue that truly shaped me and that I would remember forever.
Upon realizing how much of my identity was tied to my experience as a Wellesley student-athlete – and because I believed so deeply in the importance of fostering that same positive opportunity to grow and benefit as I was privileged enough to experience – I committed myself to doing just that. Since graduating from Wellesley in 2009, I have been coaching and involved in athletic administration at various institutions. First, I grad assisted the Women’s Basketball Team at Tufts University for the three years it took to complete my Master’s. Then I spent a year coaching both Women’s Basketball and Volleyball at UMASS Boston, and currently, I am in my first year as assistant to the Athletic Director and assistant Women’s Basketball Coach at Mount Holyoke College. Coaching is not merely about teaching technical skills, but about educating individuals to achieve high levels of success, both on and off the court. While I can sympathize with the many collegiate athletes who are dreading the day their careers come to an end, the life lessons they gain are everlasting.
I think that Wellesley student-athletes are uniquely equipped to make themselves marketable to any employer. I talked about how my experiences shaped me individually, but the reality is that all student-athletes gain similar skill sets from the college athletic experience, especially at such a demanding school as Wellesley. There is no doubt that the College’s academic and prestigious reputation is what drew me to Wellesley, but participating in intercollegiate athletics is what kept me there.