UCONN’s Michael Mallery Speaks on Branding, Education: “You’re Not Just an Athlete.”

Consistently throughout his consistent chat with Marist’s sports communication students and faculty, Michael Mallery consistently used the word “consistent.” 

Not only did he preach consistency, he himself was consistent. “Consistent, consistent, consistent,” he said. When talking about the future development of a real, vibrant student section, he mimicked a kid bouncing out of his chair in excitement. “‘How did we get here? Consistency.” 

Mallery, in the final stage of his Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut, spoke at Marist College this evening about his studies and promotion of, broadly, the idea that student-athletes should use their time to its full potential. Even if you’re not an athlete, you should be too; “You’re paying to be here,” he says, “so why not make the most of it?”

Sitting alongside Assistant Professor of Sports Communication Zach Arth, as well as student-athletes Nick Cantone, Chidera Udeh, and Michael Cubbage, the lively one-and-a-half-hour chat – much more a conversation with the room than merely the panel up front – Mallery was active. In speaking, in listening, in using his hands like a conductor while he spoke. He questioned the athletes, “How do you interact and leverage your position as a student-athlete to better the culture?” “How are individuals and contemporaries posting about themselves?” Then pointing toward the audience, “What’s your name? What do you do? What year are you?” 

While calling for engagement, he stimulated it. Normally, these sort of things turn into “talks” or an “event” in a “speaker series.” This didn’t feel like that. Mallery was evidently interested in learning about the people he sat beside, the people sitting before him in the audience, and the overall “vibe,” as he inquired, of Marist as an academic and athletic institution. 

“It’s pretty specific to our sport,” responded Cantone, a junior baseball player, to a question about whether or not student-athletes intermingle. When he asked Udeh, a junior on the volleyball team, about her interactions with classmates had she not known them prior to class, “If I’d talked to you before, I might say hi,” she said.

Now, to be clear, Mallery had no interest in chastising their lack of interaction with their peers, nor did he see it as a negative. More so, he was interested in how athletes can find a solution to this “problem,” but “problem” may not even be the appropriate word. He’d probably prefer “opportunity,” as the tone of the discussion was far more optimistic than anything else. “I’ll have everyone in [my classes] and they’re like, ‘oh yeah, I saw you at that end-of-the-year banquet thingy,’” he said. “But you all have no idea; you can all create such cool things right now with these connections.”

To make those connections, perhaps you could have started out like Mallery did; he played basketball in college, and when his career was cut short due to injury, he lost the love of the game, but not a desire to interact inside or outside of the game. More than that, he cares about one’s identity outside of their sport, something he assured he was proud that he had. “I would introduce myself, shake their hands,” he said, “and eventually, they’re like, ‘Oh, he’s everywhere, he must be important.’” It might be a daunting concept, but he asserted that branding yourself starts with that approach. 

“You’re not necessarily reinventing the wheel, right?” he said as he spoke about a favorite branding method of his: “cutting and pasting your way to success.” Essentially, you can model some of your tactics after those who came before you. But instead of, well, plagiarizing, you ensure that your own posts, while similar in design, speaks to why something is really important to you. In terms of what an athlete should strive to do on campus, he said: “You make yourself warm, the campus will respond.” 

By the end of the conversation, Mallery might have said “consistent,” in some variation, 258 times, and it was the perfect amount. In your time as an athlete on a college campus, he said, you should be forging an identity that stretches far beyond your sport. “One kid may say, ‘after crew, I’m going to Wall Street.’ They already had an identity… Sure, being an athlete is about the wins and losses, but also the holistic identity that we’re forming.”

Another phrase that rang through the Admission’s Theater was only mentioned twice, but it had an equal effect to “consistent’s” 258 appearances: Arth mentioned an expression he likes to promote in his classes, on that reads “One of these days, these days will end.” 

To summarize, and as he said before, Mallery would put it simply: “Why not get the most out of it?”

Edited by Lily Caffrey-Levine

Header photo taken by Connor Kurpat

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