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Graduate assistantship leads to career passion in student-athlete development

When JT Mellendick was pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in Athletic Coaching Education, he couldn’t imagine being far from the field.

“During undergrad, I interned with the [WVU] baseball staff at Pro Performance in Morgantown,” Mellendick said. “During that internship, I worked with several high school athletes that went on to play Division I baseball and that really prepared me for working with baseball student-athletes.”

Upon graduation, Mellendick received his University Teaching Certificate in 2016. Then, in 2018, he received his Master of Science in Coaching and Sport Education. 

While pursuing his master’s degree, Mellendick worked as a graduate assistant in the WVU Student-Athlete Development office. Through his experiences working with student-athletes, Mellendick realized a passion of his: counseling and tutoring college athletes.

“While I was a Graduate Assistant in Student-Athlete Development, I gained critical experience needed to obtain a position in athletic academic advising,” Mellendick said. “In that role, I learned a lot about the responsibilities required for a full-time position in Athletic Academic Advising. During that semester, I applied for several jobs through the NCAAMarket. One of them was Marshall and I got called for a phone interview, which led to an on-campus interview.”

Mellendick now works for the Marshall University Thundering Herd as an Academic Counselor for baseball, men's soccer, women's track/cross-country, and softball. That combination of sports allows him to work with about 130 students throughout the school year. He says that he enjoys working one-on-one with the athletes because he can build relationships with everyone.

“There are several things that I learned at WVU that I have implemented at Marshall,” Mellendick said. “A lot of my sport psych background comes into play when counseling my student-athletes, establishing rapport and providing these student-athletes with their three basic needs: autonomy, relatedness, and competence.”

Mellendick loves the structure of his job, but also appreciates that even a structured schedule can change when working with college student-athletes.

“A normal day for me consists of checking the daily tutoring schedule to make sure all of the appointments are in order,” Mellendick said. “During the fall/spring, we usually have upwards of 150 appointments a day.

“The rest of my day mainly deals with meeting with student-athletes that are assigned to me: making sure that everything is going well in their courses, and adjusting schedules as needed. I also perform transfer evaluations for potential student-athletes and monitor their admission status with the University,” he said.

The best way to earn an internship or graduate assistant position, says Mellendick, is to find work in collegiate athletic departments.

“While I was working on my master’s, my goal was to work in student-athlete development in some capacity and I have found my passion with this job,” he said.

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