Taylor Sekyra Finds Passion Off the Pitch
April 16, 2020
Originally posted by University of Washington Athletics
Rain falls onto the pitch as the UW women’s soccer team finishes practice on a brisk weekday morning in the fall. Taylor Sekyra, a fifth-year senior has been on the field since 9:30 am and it’s 11 a.m. when the drills are finished.
She grabs her things and runs to the locker room so she can get ready for more practice. But this time, it is in the Student-Athlete Academic Services (SAAS) department, not on the soccer field.
“Erica Cenci had sent out an email to student-athletes, letting us all know about The Sport Institute at UW Medicine,” said Sekyra. “I’m a biology major student-athlete who hadn’t had a chance to work in a research lab or in a healthcare system. Unfortunately, I didn’t have those experiences due to athletics.”
“I’m a biology major student-athlete who hadn’t had a chance to work in a research lab or in a healthcare system.”
The Sports Institute at UW Medicine brings together experts in science and technology to advance participation and safety in sports through evidence-based research. So when Sekyra made her way to SAAS that morning after practice, she knew she wasn’t going to be practicing headers or defensive tackles, but her interview skills.
“We’re excited to partner with The Sports Institute to launch this comprehensive internship program for Husky student-athletes,” said Senior Associate Athletic Director, Shondell Reed. “We’re always looking for unique ways to create opportunities for our student-athletes to gain real-world experience and this program does that within a structure that considers the student-athlete’s schedule. We’re grateful for the continued commitment and engagement with The Sports Institute and look forward to watching this program evolve.”
The Sports Institute Husky Fellowship – launched last year – offers Husky student-athletes a unique and diverse experience in potential career paths in sports and physical activity.
“During my time as a UW student-athlete, an internship was a fulfilling and valuable experience for me and for my future,” said Associate Director of The Sports Institute, Sara Mosiman. “We’re excited to bring more opportunities to Husky student-athletes through the Husky Fellowship, and I know we’ll benefit from their talent, hard work, and unique perspectives at The Sports Institute.”
“I went through a deep dive into the work conducted by The Sports Institute and I was really excited about it,” explained Sekyra. “I applied and landed an interview, but I’d never had an interview before, so I was definitely excited but also nervous about the next step.
“Thankfully, I was able to practice with Erica after soccer practice so having that experience under my belt made me feel better going forward.”
Despite her limited interview experience, Sekyra sealed the deal on the internship to become The Sports Institute’s first Husky Fellow. And even though Sekyra was a starting defender, captain, and student in advanced biology classes, she was hungry to take on more during her fifth season for the Huskies.
“I was able to work in this role during season, from about mid-August to the end of February,” said Sekyra. “They were very accommodating to my schedule, especially with me being in season and taking classes.”
While it was a handful for Sekyra to tackle these responsibilities, she was ready to do whatever it took to have a great experience in her last season in the purple and gold.
“When I was in school, I would wake up, go to practice and train from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and then try and get to work by 11:30,” explained Sekyra. “I’d then work until 3:30 p.m., and then go to my classes at UW which were at night.”
The Kirkland native certainly made the most out of her final season for the Huskies and she didn’t miss a step along the way. The two-time captain helped lead the Dawgs to a third-place finish in the Pac-12 while taking down WSU in Pullman for the first time in 15 years.
Aerial is an online training program that helps coaches and athletes practice the correct use of the head in soccer.
“There’s a rule for children that are 11 years old or younger, you’re not allowed to head the ball,” explained Sekyra. “There is no current protocol to teach girls to head the ball, there’s not a program for explaining what aerial challenges are supposed to look like.”
Because of her unique experience as a student-athlete and elite soccer player, Sekyra was able to add valuable insight on the program, helping develop it into a more comprehensive and effective system.
“When I got there, the first phase of the program had been developed and I worked on modifying it to take it to the next level,” explained Sekyra. “I got to assess what the second phase should look like for research and user experience.”
The program has mostly been in the research phase as the institute finds the best ways to finalize the training and prepare it for use by customers. Sekyra made impactful advancements on Aerial, but it wasn’t the only project she worked on.
“I also got to help out and do some work with The Daily Mile,” said the fifth-year senior. The Daily Mile is a fun, free, and simple children’s health initiative that gets kids to run or jog at their own pace for 15 minutes every day. “Due to significant budget cuts in public school physical education, children in elementary schools are often left inactive without physical activities during the school day.
“This is a challenge and a chance to help kids be active every day. It’s simply 15 minutes a day when kids get out and run,” said Sekyra.
“I worked on this in the office and did some observations at Lynndale Elementary in the Edmonds School District where I recorded statistics and heard feedback on the program from teachers.”
Working on multiple important projects made Sekyra enjoy every minute at The Sports Institute. What she loved most of all was the responsibility her coworkers gave her and the impact she knew she was able to leave.
“It was pretty cool how much ownership and trust was given to me, I really wasn’t just running coffee,” said Sekyra. “I was a part of the team and made impactful contributions that were appreciated by the whole group.”
With a degree in biology and solid work experience, Sekyra seems perfectly prepared to begin her post-athletic career. She isn’t ready to hang up her cleats just yet, however.
“I signed a professional contract for a first division team in Iceland,” said Sekyra. “I’m looking forward to playing at that level. I’m open-minded, if I love it then I am super willing to play more.
“For a long time, I had been concerned I would never find passion like I found in soccer. But being at UWand getting this internship opportunity has made me confident in what I am passionate about besides soccer,” said Sekyra. “I think it’s tough for lots of athletes and I’m happy to be excited about what’s to come.”
For more information on The Sports Institute at UW Medicine and the Husky Fellowship, visit thesportsinstitute.com or follow @thesportsinstUW on Twitter and Instagram.
“For a long time, I had been concerned I would never find passion like I found in soccer. But being at UW and getting this internship opportunity has made me confident in what I am passionate about besides soccer.”