South Hadley, Mass. - September 21, 2020 - For Ireland Clare Kennedy (Oakland, Calif.), her passion for sports started at a young age. These interests developed over time and eventually led her to Mount Holyoke College, where the current senior was able to develop her interest in both athletics and academics. In 2020, Clare Kennedy will be wrapping up her time as a representative of the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) and Mount Holyoke on the NCAA Division III National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).
Clare Kennedy is one of a select few student-athletes across the Country that represents the Division III student-athlete voice in the Division III governance structure by reviewing legislation; identifying significant student-athlete issues; implementing national student-athlete based initiatives; encouraging community outreach; and enhancing Division III student-athlete involvement in and understanding of Division III in general.
In addition to her duties within the Division III National SAAC group, Clare Kennedy is also a vital member of the Mount Holyoke College Department of Physical Education and Athletics, as she is active within the Mount Holyoke College SAAC and a member of the Student-Athlete Leadership Team (SALT). On top of that, Clare Kennedy is a dual-sport athlete that competes both on the Mount Holyoke College basketball and track and field teams.
"Being a part of the Division III National SAAC has been an incredible opportunity," stated Clare Kennedy, who will finish her time with the National SAAC in January. "Being a part of this group has certainly bolstered my experience at Mount Holyoke College and has opened future pathways for a lot of student-athletes across the nation. For me, I have been exposed to so much opportunity, whether that be leadership development, or understanding how you represent yourself, but also others including our institution and conference."
Clare Kennedy was exposed to many sports through her childhood, including softball, soccer, basketball and cross country (for a hot second). These experiences developed her love for sports, as she was able to detect the inner linings of "the game".
"Through sport you learn valuable lessons like dealing with different personalities, conflict resolution and everything that accompanies being a part of a team," added Clare Kennedy. "I have had a lot of leadership opportunities and learning experiences through high school and different challenges with being at a small school with a small team, but I have drawn many benefits from both of those experiences."
Clare Kennedy graduated among a class of 27 from Holy Names High School, a small catholic all-women's school in Oakland, Calif., which only had an enrollment of 107 students total at the time. Her experiences of being a multi-sport athlete at a smaller high school eventually led her to Mount Holyoke College. Upon her arrival in South Hadley, Mass., Clare Kennedy was disappointed that Mount Holyoke did not offer softball as a varsity sport, so she earned a spot on the basketball team, and then began her involvement with the College's outdoor track and field program soon after.
"Sports have always been something I've done. I've always played sports. I have always bounced between seasons. I could not see life without it, really," said Clare Kennedy.
After three years as a member of the basketball and track and field programs, Clare Kennedy serves as a leader within both programs. She accredits her leadership development to her experiences working with teammates in both sports.
"I'd say that I have learned a lot about patience," reflected Clare Kennedy. "Everyone has their different skill sets, especially in basketball. We have to work together on the court. We are competing with teams that are normally more talented than us, so it is up to us to bond and out work them as a cohesive unit. Track & field is a very individualized sport. You are not fighting against the clock, or trying to score more than your opponent, but you are very much part of a team. You have to stay connected to teammates in a different way."
Connecting with teammates came quickly for Clare Kennedy upon her arrival at Mount Holyoke College, as she remembers a pair of Mount Holyoke College student-athletes that helped pave the way for her time on campus.
"Michaela Butin was a junior when I was a first-year, and she really took me under her wing," said Clare Kennedy. "She was very interested in Olympic lifting, and really showed me how to lift properly. Even though she was a post player and I was a guard, she still helped me where she could. I met Kathryn Violette when I was visiting the College and that was my first introduction to the basketball team. Kat and I would always push each other in practice my first year. We were on the same energy level."
"I certainly looked up to those two in my first year," continued Clare Kennedy. "Both of them helped me be more confident in my abilities. They helped me understand that I could do more than I thought I could. They took me under their wing and I was definitely grateful for their friendship and leadership."
Clare Kennedy's future plans include continuing her education in the field of Medicine, perhaps within the Navy. Although these aspirations do not include athletics, Clare Kennedy is committed to an active lifestyle and has enjoyed her time as a student-athlete in College.
"Student-athletes have heart," exclaimed Clare Kennedy. "Something that helped me get through practices was something that our coach told us "Your 70 percent is someone else's 100 percent. We are all on different scales and we all put in different amounts of work, but it is important to show up and do what you can to the best of your ability."