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Outside the Lines

Senior CEHHS Student Discovers Career Paths Off the Field

Article by David Jackson, University Communications and Marketing
Courtesy photos from Kennedy LaFountaine

The light switch flipped on for Kennedy LaFountaine while watching a Vandal football game at the P1FCU Kibbie Dome in Fall 2022. Ironically, her epiphany was about how to find a career in sports that didn’t involve playing.

The Post Falls native and high school basketball standout found U of I’s Recreation, Sport and Tourism Management (RSTM) program within the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences and knew it was what she was looking for.

Woman in uniform sitting in locker room.
Kennedy LaFountaine.

“Sports will be part of my life forever – I can’t walk away from it,” she said. “What the RSTM program has shown me is how many different ways I can combine my interests with possible career paths in the sports world.”

Showing Her Strength

LaFountaine played college basketball briefly. She intended to play for Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, but that season was lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. She then transferred to North Idaho College, playing one season before graduating with an Associate’s in business administration in December 2021.

She spent the next year substitute teaching and coaching basketball while trying to determine how to align her interests in the business world with her passion for sports. As soon as she found U of I, she declared RSTM as her major and began immersing herself in the possibilities.

“She reached out to me early on and was immediately interested in finding internships, practicum jobs and anything else we could find for her,” said Brian Fowler, RSTM clinical professor. “It was clear she had a true interest in the field – she wanted to jump on every possible opportunity.”

I heard several people talk about their experiences in promotions and events while I was in Seattle, and it was like ‘yes, this is what I want to do.’
I’m super grateful for the experience and for my time at U of I. Kennedy LaFountaine, senior

One of LaFountaine’s interests is coaching and strength and/or conditioning training. In order to learn more, she found a job shadow opportunity with Brandon Mikulecky, associate strength and conditioning coach for U of I’s men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s tennis and men’s and women’s golf.

LaFountaine said his mentorship was very valuable, providing lessons that apply to more than just the sports world.

“We got to sit and observe training sessions and then after, we’d sit down with Brandon to discuss and break down what we just saw,” she said. “And they wanted us to show our experience and growth by demonstrating what we learned and offering suggestions. It was a very positive learning environment.”

Standing Up

At the top of LaFountaine’s list of possible career paths, however, is becoming involved in sports-related events and promotions, an interest she discovered while at U of I.

One attraction to being involved in events and promotions instead of the coaching side of sports is job security.

Woman standing in front of concrete wall.
Kennedy LaFountaine.

“There’s generally a lot more stability on the operations side versus coaching,” Fowler said. “Coaching is all about wins and losses. There’s a lot of movement on that side of sports.”

LaFountaine was able to intern with U of I Athletic Events Manager KC Sheffler during her time on campus. While working in the Department of Athletics, she discovered an opportunity that became a highlight of her college experience.

She took part in a promotional activity at the 2023 Major League Baseball All-Star game in Seattle as part of a group that placed cards promoting Stand Up To Cancer in almost 48,000 cupholders at T-Mobile Park.

In the middle of the fifth inning, while LaFountaine and members of her volunteer group were handing out additional cards at their table, everyone in attendance stood up and held their cards in the air, most of which had a name written down for someone who was either battling cancer or had lost the fight.

Photo of people standing in baseball stadium holding cards.
Stand Up to Cancer event at 2023 MLB All-Star game in Seattle.

“It was an amazing moment watching everyone stand in silence and solidarity,” she said. “It was really cool to help people connect with something bigger than the game.”

LaFountaine, Fowler and a small group from U of I attended the Sport Sales Workshop and Job Fair in Denver in early April. The event provided opportunities for students to interact with employers in the sports industry and often results in job offers.

Long term, LaFountaine is hoping to earn a master’s degree in RSTM or a related field and is open to relocating to different parts of the country to follow job and educational possibilities.

No matter what she ends up doing or where she ends up doing it, she credits her time at U of I for helping her find the right path.

“I heard several people talk about their experiences in promotions and events while I was in Seattle, and it was like ‘yes, this is what I want to do’,” she said. “I’m super grateful for the experience and for my time at U of I.”

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