Pursuing a dream at the Summer Olympics

Shayla Schuett at the wrestling venue in December where the test event was held and where the wrestling competition will take place at the Summer Olympics.

In addition to the athletes, others participating in the Summer Olympic Games also are pursuing their dreams.

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student Shayla Schuett, for example, is headed for London July 27 as an official volunteer with the title “Sport Equipment Team Member.” (She will be blogging about her experiences at http://saschuett.blogspot.com/.)

For Schuett,  a student in the Athletic Training Education Program, this is a step in pursuing her goal of working with elite athletes.

The test event for wrestling in December included a full competition that featured a medal ceremony, where Schuett assisted.

In fact, she has previous experience with the Olympics. She holds a degree in Kinesiology from Northwestern College in Minnesota. Her coursework required an internship, which she served at the U.S. Olympic Complex in Colorado Springs from January through July 2010.

“I’ve always been passionate about the Olympics,” says Schuett. “I hoped an internship would help me toward my goal of someday working at an Olympic Training Center or with a professional sports team.”

Drawn by the reputation of the Athletic Training Education Program in the College of Health Sciences, Schuett decided to pursue a second degree at UWM. With the London 2012 Summer Olympics on the horizon, she contacted her former supervisor in Colorado Springs to ask about a job. “He said that there weren’t any paid positions available for me. But he suggested that I look into volunteering.”

Schuett applied through the London 2012 Summer Olympics website, and in April 2011 she was interviewed. There were long months of silence until August, when she got the word that she was accepted as a volunteer in the wrestling venue. AND she was encouraged to attend an Olympic test event in London scheduled for December 2011.

December, of course, is final exam time at UWM, and the specific dates of the test event weren’t divulged until late in the semester.

“I alerted my professors, then I had to plan all semester as if I would need to take all my exams before leaving,” says Schuett. She even guessed at the dates when she purchased her airline ticket. (As it turned out, Schuett missed just one exam, which she was able to make up on her return.)

Shayla Schuett sports her official shirt and credentials from the London test event. Photo by Peter Jakubowski.

“Shayla has taken it upon herself to apply, commit and travel to London all on her own,” says David M. Bazett-Jones, associate clinical instructor and assistant scientist in the Athletic Training Education Program. “That takes courage and determination, and this makes Shayla stand out. She is willing to take a risk to follow her dreams and she is willing to do something that is new and uncomfortable. Her reward will be an amazing experience, I’m sure.”

According to Schuett, the test events are “dry runs to work out the kinks and see what they have to improve on for the actual Olympics.” For wrestling, the test event was held in the venue that will be used during the actual Olympics Games, with a switchover from another sport, just as will occur this summer. Athletes who were candidates to be Olympians competed, records were kept and medal ceremonies were conducted.

“As a volunteer at the test event and the London Olympic Games, you’re on your own, as far as paying for your ticket there and back, lodging and food when you’re not actually volunteering on site.” From July 27 through Aug. 12, Schuett will be staying with a “friend of a friend” who lives an hour outside London.

Her duties will include setting up the area of play, supplying any missing equipment and running errands as needed. “I’ll be working less with the medical team than I would like, but hope to observe and see how athletic training is handled in many different countries.”

“The UWM Athletic Training Education Program was thrilled to hear about Shayla’s opportunity at the Summer Olympics. It will be tremendous for her to be able to add this experience to her resume, in terms of the professional development and networking that an experience like this can provide,” says Ryan D. Wilkinson, interim program director and director of clinical education. “Nothing can simulate working with athletes at such an elite level, and we look forward to the experiences that she will be able to bring back to campus as she continues to progress through our curriculum.”