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Five ways athletes make great City Year AmeriCorps members

City Year AmeriCorps member with student

Student athletes and keys to successful service

Kate Sweeny believes in the power of team sports to build skills, advance careers and help players become true collaborators and professionals. During her undergraduate years at Ohio State University, Kate was a student athlete on the women’s rowing team. She was a two-time, top-five finisher at the NCAA Rowing Championships and a Big Ten Champion in 2011. Kate went on to serve with City Year Columbus for the 2012-2013 academic year.

In her career, Kate served two seasons as assistant coach for Indiana University’s rowing team and subsequently, as volunteer assistant coach at the University of California-Berkeley for the 2016 season. In June 2020, Kate was named head coach of Ohio State University women’s rowing team.

Kate Sweeney, City Year alum and head rowing coach at Ohio State University

We asked Kate why she believes athletes who participate in team sports make great AmeriCorps members. Here’s what she said:


As an athlete in a team sport, you develop a keen understanding of how to share the workload with your teammates and how your behavior affects everyone on your team. This will serve you well during your year of service with City Year as all AmeriCorps work on school-based teams. Your time will be spent in collaboration with your teammates as you learn new skills and work together on things like afterschool programming, literacy fairs, community service days and much more.

It’s also likely that your teammates will become part of you support system during the most challenging parts of service. Understanding the importance of shared responsibilities and being cognizant of your actions relative to others will help your team serve your students in an impactful way.

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Through your sport you learn that the game, race or match will carry on after you make a mistake. This is true in the real world, too! Understanding that you will make mistakes as you learn, and being able to bounce back quickly, will be paramount as you enter a new environment.

While your City Year service will be more like a 10-month sprint than a marathon, it will certainly require some resilience on your part. There might be times when you’re feeling burnt out and exhausted, or you’re not seeing immediate results with students—these are feelings are normal and a part of the process! But it’s important to come back each day and give it your best because the students we work with deserve that much!

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Read about one City Year AmeriCorps member’s service experience and her reflections on resiliency at the half way point.

Handling pressure

A high-school game where the college recruiter was there or a competition against your rival school creates a lot of pressure! When you’re serving your students and the community, you will feel pressure to perform just like you did as an athlete. Your prior experiences in high-pressure situations help you to maintain a balanced perspective and provide you with helpful tools on how to work through your nerves.


As an athlete you’d never go into a game without watching film or go into practice without warming up. This is true during your time with City Year, too! Maybe you’re planning a large math fair to celebrate Pi Day in March, a scientific experiment for your afterschool engineering club, or leading a discussion during your lunch club—all of these require pre-planning and preparation so that you’re serving your students to the best of your ability. Understanding the importance of planning ahead sets you up to be successful in your role.

Self-care routines

While these may shift from ice-baths and foam-rolling to unwinding with a good book and cup of tea, you know the importance of taking time to take care of your body and mind. As an AmeriCorps member, your days are long and you are on the move nearly the entire day. While this is a lot of fun, there are tough days when you need to spend a little extra time prioritizing self-care. And at the end of the day, you can’t fully be there for your students if you’re not taking care of yourself first!

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Learn more about our resources to support the mental health and well-being of City Year AmeriCorps members.

Are you an athlete who thinks you would make a great City Year AmerCorps member?

Learn more or apply to serve!

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