4 Former Female Athletes That Achieved Success After Sports

Since the establishment of Title IX in 1972, countless women have competed at the Division I level. Following sports, several women have made a name for themself in the working world. Read how their success is influenced by the lessons learned in D1 athletics.

  1. eBay CEO Meg Whitman. Meg Whitman is no stranger to success in the business world.EBay CEO, Meg Whitman speaks at a dinner, May 5, 2004 in Washington for a group of Ebay small business owners. (Photo by Linda Spillers/WireImage for Kaplow Communications) According to Forbes, Whitman is the 331st richest person in the United States due to her position as CEO of eBay. What most people don’t know, however, is that Whitman competed in both lacrosse and squash at Princeton University. With a knack for competition, Whitman was bound for success long after her time as an D1 athlete.
  2. President of Gatorade Sue Wellington. As a former All-America swimmer at Yale, Sue Wellington still contributes to women’s sports nearly 30 years since her time in the pool. In recent years Wellington received a prestigious NCAA award for her success in business and her support of women’s athletics. Through D1 competition, she learned to be competitive and humble, ultimately launching her to the exclusive status of president of Gatorade.


  3. Sportscaster Donna de Varona. At just 14 years old, Donna de Varona was the youngest competitor the 1960 Summer Olympics. Several medals, records and meets later, Varona became the first ever female sportscaster in the United States. Through her time as an Olympic athlete, she credits her success as a female sportscaster to the resilience she developed in swimming.
  4. Author Maryann Karinch. A former gymnast at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., Maryann Karinch is now an author, literary agent and human behavior specialist. In her time as a Division I athlete, Karinch found that often times athletes would only focus on being a great athlete rather than dueling in achieving academic success. She learned through her athletic career that she never wanted to be lazy. The result: she is now the author of several publications.

Pursuing Her Passion

Iowa Hawkeyes mb Emily Yanny (9) Thursday, July 17, 2014 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)

Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak with former Iowa Volleyball player, Emily Yanny. To listen to our conversation, click here.

It’s been a few years since her time in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, but with plenty of physical therapy experience under her belt, Yanny is now working through her second year of PT school. Although her knee injury was a tough adversity to tackle, Yanny says that her life after Division I sports is wonderful and she’s so grateful that she can finally work towards her dream of helping injured athletes, like herself, get back on the court.

If you’d like to listen to the full interview with Emily Yanny, listen here!

Defying the Odds

Iowa Hawkeyes mb Emily Yanny (9) Thursday, July 17, 2014 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)

At only 19 years-old, former Iowa volleyball player, Emily Yanny, suffered the most brutal knee injury UI hospital orthopedic surgeons had ever seen. Tearing nearly every ligament in her left knee, Yanny was told that would most likely never step foot onto the court again. However, as a pre-physical therapy student, her perseverance to rehab and reload fueled her to make an incredible comeback. Defying all odds, Yanny finished all four years of her career as a Division I athlete.


Breaking the Mental Barrier

Recently, I woke up to a Facebook notification. 

When I gazed at the message, one eye half open and the other eye sealed shut, I read that  a childhood friend of mine had shared an article with me entitled: Its Time To Break The Stigma Of Mental Health In Student Athletes. I was instantly intrigued. As a former Division I Athlete that privately struggled with mental health issues through out my career, the article struck an emotional chord.

Scrolling through the article, author Becca Martin shared her story about her experience as a collegiate lacrosse athlete. Like myself, Becca explained how invisible she felt through her constant pain. Unlike a broken arm, she said that most all mental health issues are easy to hide but very difficult to detect in others. Day after day she went through the motions of balancing her responsibilities as a college athlete, student and teammate. Because she was an athlete, she never wanted to appear weak and she never wanted to fall into the mental health stigma that society has so often placed on athletes. 

Last week, I felt compelled to respond to her article on my weekly radio show, Erin & Erin @ Nite on KRUI 89.7

When I was 10 years old my mom had a major heart attack. 

Two hours before it happened, her mom died of cancer after a short, 2-week battle with the disease. When her heart attack occurred, she died for 20 minutes. By the time the paramedics  mom-and-meshocked her heart 13 times, she was permanently brain damaged for the rest of her life. In the 12 years to follow, my mom has lived in countless brain injury facilities across the country. She cannot walk, talk, or remember anything after her injury. Now residing in a nursing home, my mom spends her time resting.  She cannot leave. She cannot remember. She cannot make memories.

I wouldn’t wish her condition on anyone. Having a heart condition myself, I have always experienced extreme anxiety in knowing what happened to my mom. Although I played competitive volleyball for several years of my life, her story was a continual reel in my head. My first year of college volleyball made the reel spin faster. As my heart condition mom-photobecame more serious, the reel spun out of control. What was worse was that I never talked about it. I was ashamed of the toll my heart condition was placing on my mental health. There were countless days where I would finish a practice, get in my car, close the door and sob uncontrollably. Fear fueled my anxiety and depression.

What if I have a heart attack? What if I end up like her? How could I quit volleyball? How could I let my teammates down? What if I feel like this for the rest of my life?

Following my first heart surgery during my senior season last fall, I had major PTSD. Because I had to be awake during my surgery, each night I’d dream I was on the operating table. My fear continued. I found no relief. I kept everyone out of my thoughts. After all, I was STRONG. I wasn’t WEAK.

It wasn’t until Christmas break that my endless anxiety came full circle. After an evening with my dad, I broke. Through choking on tears I told him how truly miserable I was. How my mom’s injury and my condition were becoming too difficult for me to bare. I simply let go of every barrier I had ever held.

In one particular part of Becca Martin’s story, she said:

“(Athletes) continue to push through the pain because of how passionate they are about their sports. It’s time to stop pushing through the pain and star treating mental health like we would a torn hamstring.”

It’s time to break the barrier.

I didn’t ask for help because I didn’t know how anyone could fix my pain, a kind of pain that they couldn’t me-yellingvisibly see. I bought in to the idea that, because I was a college athlete, I was weak if I struggled with my mental health. I firmly believe, however, that some of the most important pain that needs to be healed is the pain of the mind. A healthy, strong athlete is an athlete that is sound physically, emotionally and MENTALLY. I appreciate authors like Becca who are willing to share that truth.

The stigma of mental health issues in athletes is very real. However, if athletes, coaches, parents and fans all recognize this prevalent issue, only then will mental health issues be cured.

5 Reasons DI Athletes are Prepared for a Career After Sports


Each year, more than 480,000 athletes compete in the NCAA. However, only a few from each sport continue to compete at the professional or Olympic level. For the thousands of athletes that complete their careers, Life After Division I Sports serves as an incredible opportunity to prepare for a career. Read why Division I athletes have the necessary tools for success in the work force.


  1. Division I athletes are structured and focused. In order to properly balance a typical day as a student-athlete, they must master the art of time management. Between weights, class, practice, film, eating and sleeping, minimal room is left for leisure activities. Not only are D1 athletes structured, but they’re prepared for the here and now. Whether it is the playoffs or a test in Biology, continuous daily pressure to perform fuels a “one day at a time” lifestyle.
  2. Division I athletes know teamwork. With a 30-plus hour a week schedule, D1 sports link players with teammates that inevitably become family. In order to be a dominant program, each individual teammate has to work well with one another. After all, Alabama football’s NCAA championship last year wouldn’t have been possible without the combined efforts of the entire An employee that masters teamwork early in their career is naturally bound for success.
  3. Division I athletes have failed. No matter how many accolades a college program receives, each one across the board knows failure. The athletes that encompass these programs have often failed more than they’ve won. When entering the working world, athletes have a sensational hunger to win; a trait that that few employees can simply adapt.
  4. Division I athletes can communicate. Long before athletes retire their sports, they understand the pressure of having a boss. Not only do coaches instill expectations, but they also provide constant, necessary feedback that athletes must digest and apply in their performance for the betterment of their program.
  5. Division I athletes are tough. Dedicating an entire college career to athletics is no easy task. In fact, the NCAA states that the probability of earning a spot on a D1 football team after high school is 2.6%. This miniscule statistic fuels a massive population of young football players to tough it out and go for the top spot. To make a team, remain on the roster for an entire career and graduate is rare. D1 athletes are called upon to be resilient, tenacious and tough- three traits of many that have prepared them for success long after the competition is over.

The Odds of Reaching the Biggest Stage

Countless high school athletes dream of competing at the Division I level. While only a minuscule population will play D1, the athletes that are able to earn a spot on an elite college roster face an immense amount of pressure to finish all four years of their careers and graduate with a degree.

According to NCAA.org, the national percentage of high school female athletes that play Division I sports is an average of about 2.5%. Below lists the annual average percentage of female athletes that compete at the top level each year.

Percentage of High School Female Athletes That Play NCAA D1 Sports



According to ncaa.org, the national percent of high school male athletes that play Division I sports is an average of about 1.9%. Below lists the annual average percentage of male athletes that compete at the top level each year.

Percentage of High School Male Athletes That Play NCAA D1 Sports



After fulfilling a four-year career in Division I college athletics, the NCAA states that the graduation rate has dipped back and forth from 2011 to 2016. Below lists the annual graduation rate over the last six years.




From the Court to the Courtroom


When Loxley Keala transferred to the Iowa Volleyball program in Spring 2015, her passion for law truly sparked. Eager to attend law school after her senior campaign, the setter standout wasted no time preparing for the biggest exam of them all; the Law School Admission Test.

Through countless hours of studying in between workouts, on buses, planes, and late nights in local Iowa City coffee shops, Keala registered to take the LSAT on September 24, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, just hours before her team’s match versus the Michigan volleyball squad. I sat down with Keala after her team’s win against Northwestern Saturday evening to learn more about her post Division I athletics endeavors. 

When did you decide you wanted to be a lawyer? Any particular practice you’re interested in pursuing?

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-5-00-40-pmI have wanted to go to law school since the second semester of my sophomore year when I transferred to Iowa. Ideally, I would like to become an attorney practicing corporate law- although I haven’t really decided what other fields I’m interested in.

As a Division I athlete wrapping up your athletic career, how do you reach your goal of attending law school while balancing classes, practices, games and a social life?

It’s definitely challenging to balance and succeed in both academics and athletics. Time management skills and prioritization are necessary. Even though it’s stressful at times, I am so thankful that I am able to participate in Division I athletics because I know that it will help me in the future, particularly in the courtroom. Missing out on opportunities because of prior commitments to sports isn’t easy, so I’ve always planned ahead. Over the 2015-16 winter break, I had the honor of working with Judge Richard Perkins, First Circuit Court Judge of the 8th Division in the State of Hawaii. It was truly an experience I will never forget.

How did it come about that you would take the LSAT on the road in Michigan?

I knew I wanted to take the LSAT twice in case I didn’t get the score I wanted the first time. However, the screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-5-01-27-pmLSAT is only offered four days throughout the year and they make very little exceptions. We happened to be away the weekend of Sept. 24, so I knew I needed to take it in Ann Arbor.


What does it mean to you personally that you are prepared for a career following your Life After Division I Sports?


Volleyball has been amazing to me my entire life and has prepared me to step out into the real world. I feel confident in myself and in my skills to succeed in law school and then go on to succeed in my career. It truly is nice knowing what I want to do with my life.