San Joaquin Delta College student Makaelah Murray is organizing the "Be More Than Your Sport" conference, encouraging student athletes to pursue academic goals.
Student athlete's message: 'Be more than your sport'
Alex Breitler
April 30, 2019

Makaelah Murray has played soccer since she was in the first grade. And the way she smiles when she talks about her sport tells you how much she loves it.

But after she tore ligaments in both of her legs in high school, Makaelah realized that she needed more than athletics in her future. She needed academics, too.

Now, as part of a leadership program at Stanford University, Makaelah is organizing a May 11 conference – “Be More Than Your Sport” – which seeks to remind student athletes, particularly minorities, that it’s important to have a plan for their academic future also.

Organizing a conference is no small feat for a busy 19-year-old college student soon to transfer to Howard University. What motivates Makaelah? Read on. And click here for details on the free conference.

Question: Why did you do this?

Answer: I’ve seen how so many kids think that their only way to college is through an athletics scholarship. We want to empower students to let them know they can be more than their sport. We really want to emphasize to have something to fall back on when athletics are over.

I’ve met so many student athletes who say, 'After my two years I can’t transfer because my parents can’t afford it' or 'I didn’t get an athletic scholarship.' I feel they don’t know there are so many resources out there to let you know college is affordable if you do your part academically.

Q: Why is this issue important to you?

A: I want to become an orthopedic surgeon as a result of the soccer-related injuries I’ve had to deal with. When I had to deal with those injuries, in my mind it was like, ‘OK, there’s a possibility I’m not going to get a soccer scholarship because I’ve been injured.’ So that’s why I decided I really needed to make sure I had something to go to when soccer wasn’t part of my life anymore. And that’s why I want other people to be aware of that as well. You never know what can happen.”

Q: Organizing a conference is a big job. How did this all start?

A: I am part of a program at Stanford called LEAP, which is Leadership Education for Aspiring Physicians. The point of the program is to have monthly seminars to give us leadership skills, to teach us how to be leaders in the community and to create a project in the community where we feel there’s the most need. We’ve been working really hard on it.

Q: Why are you focusing mostly on minorities?

A: The reason why we are targeting minority student athletes is those are the ones who feel most often that they can’t pursue more education due to financial need. I’m a minority myself. I’ve seen so many people say the same thing. I just want them to know that it’s possible and we can do it together.

But you don’t have to be a minority and you don’t even have to be a student athlete to attend. If you want to hear from these amazing people in our community and just really empower yourself to be more, please feel free to come.

Q: What do you have planned for the conference?

A: It’s like a speaker series. Former Stanford football player, Dr. Ian Brown is from Chicago. He was a football player at Stanford, now has his M.D. and is a surgeon at U.C Davis Medical School. He’s going to talk about what it’s like coming from a city like Chicago and how he transitioned from an athlete to a doctor. We’re also going to have a current soccer player from Stanford and a current women’s basketball player from Cal. They’re going to talk about their majors, why they chose what they chose and what they plan to do with it after athletics. And we have Officer Jessie Smith, who played sports within this community and then got his criminology degree and is actually a police officer. He used that when athletics were no longer a part of his life.

Q: How did Delta prepare you for this undertaking?

A: I grew so much at Delta. It’s completely ridiculous when I look back on it. Two years ago I would not have wanted to have this conversation. I would have been way too shy. Delta has allowed me to come out of my shell and learn how to advocate for myself. I’m so excited to take that with me wherever I go.

REMINDER: "Be More Than Your Sport" runs from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 11 at Delta College, in Room 161 of the Science and Math Building. A campus map is available here. Free breakfast (from Chick-fil-A) and lunch will be provided, along with goodie bags. While the conference is aimed toward minority student athletes in high school, anyone is welcome to attend, including parents. RSVP here.