For a pair of former Penn athletes, four years alone wasn’t enough time to be with the team.
After graduating last May, wrestler May Bethea and field hockey player Alexa Hoover could have departed University City as new alumni. However, they decided to stay and use their skills for Penn Athletics as Directors of Operations for their respective sports.
Although they cannot compete on the mat or field anymore, the job still allows them to be an integral part of the team, but in a different capacity. Their official responsibilities include planning the team's travel, assisting in film breakdown, and managing administrative tasks for the team.
“A lot of what I do is operational stuff, like sending emails and planning transportation,” Bethea said. “Then there’s also the part that’s wrestling-related, where I go to workouts and lift and work with a few guys individually.”
Both Bethea and Hoover were dominant in their sports for the Red and Blue, so they were already well-known before being hired and were able to serve as model figures to help the current teams improve.
Bethea, a two-time captain for Penn wrestling, qualified for the NCAA Championships three times and finished in the top 12 in his weight class nationally as a junior. In his final year as a Quaker, he was a unanimous first team All-Ivy pick.
The Trenton, N.J. native is new to the world of the team’s administration, but his new job provides opportunities to help the team in ways he could not have before.
“It’s a different space and I’m in a different role now, but I enjoy still being able to support the team,” he said.
Hoover leads Penn field hockey all-time in goals scored with 68 and points with 163. She was also picked to play in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) Senior All-Star Game last November and is the only field hockey player from the Red and Blue to have been selected first team All-Ivy all four years of her career, a reflection of her prowess on the field since her first days on campus.
Her time on the job was limited to the field hockey season in the fall, so Hoover is no longer with the team, but the insight and help she provided in the past few months helped the team to a solid third-place finish in the Ancient Eight.
As talented athletes, it could sometimes be difficult for them to step back from competing in favor of being behind the scenes.
“I went to the Keystone [Classic], and I didn’t have an itch to go out and compete, but it was definitely strange and I felt like I should have been moving around and warming up to get ready for a wrestling match,” Bethea said.
Another big change they had to navigate after transitioning from athlete to administrator was the different relationships with their former teammates.
Both seniors and captains last year with three classes of younger players behind them, Bethea and Hoover had to re-learn their role on the team.
“It’s really helpful that I had a prior relationship with most of the guys on the team, and it also helps that I know the coaches well, too, since we work well together," Bethea said. "But it’s definitely a little bit weird and there’s a bit of a learning curve.
"My perspective of the team and the processes and my relationships with guys have changed a little bit; there are a few guys on the team who call me coach May,” he added with a laugh.
Despite shifting positions on the team, both Bethea and Hoover still have critical responsibilities to fulfill to ensure the team’s performance. Their efforts may be taken for granted by some, but in the end it’s the people behind the scenes that make sure everything runs smoothly.
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