Update - Since I Have Been Away

It has been quite a while since I wrote a blog post, but the time has come to begin posting again. I want to thank those who reached out to me and asked “when is the next post?” your interest in my blog and the topic of social work and sports was and still is very inspiring to me. I thought I would start my first blog post back with an update on what I have been doing and some highlights of my trip to London, England.

As I stated in my last post, I would be traveling through a study abroad program. Taking part in a program abroad was undeniably one of the best experiences of my life, being in London, England when it was preparing to be an Olympic city was something I will never forget. The knowledge and friendship gained will last a lifetime. After my flight arrived, the mode of travel was by bus or train (“The Underground”) and the occasional cab when we went out at night. I must say the public transportation in London will rival any large city’s transportation system here in the United States. We also did a lot of walking I lost some pounds with our daily activities.  We stayed at Roehampton University in their dorms or as the Brits call them ‘flats”.  As far as the food, no notable places to mention sorry to say. I took a day trip to the All England Championships, Wimbledon. I took in the grounds and a tennis match. I can check off eating strawberries and cream from my bucket list. 

It was great to meet others from all over the world that have an interest in sport whether it was sociology, marketing, business, etc. I think we all learned from each other. I was the only social worker in the group as well as one of two African-Americans. Our day was spent with three hour lectures then two to three hour site visits that correlated to that day’s class. Some of the topics covered were Sport, Culture, and Globalization - Globalization Debriefing - Visa Europe and Sport - Sport, Race, & Britishness  and Funding the Olympics. After that day’s requirements were fulfilled we then explored and did sightseeing all over England.

We had quite a bit of assigned reading before we arrived to London. Much of the reading was on the globalization of sport, the business side of sport and on culture and the correlation of sport. This would prove to be the foundation of our learning during lectures.  We worked in small groups and teams of two for many presentations throughout our time in class. I am proud to report my partner and I were runners –up for best presentation! The voting was done by our fellow students. Taking part in this experience left me with memories I will always cherish. Being in the program pushed me in ways I did not think possible. I returned home even more committed to what has really become my life’s work, which is researching and working with athletes from my prospective as a Sports Social Worker. 

Returning home I had two semesters to complete in my Addictions Study Program. I also completed a full-time internship at a methadone clinic where I worked with people recovering from addictions which included heroin. I worked in the capacity as drug counselor. I worked with clients in groups as well as individually. I officially completed the program this past May. Making the decision to pursue education in substance abuse and addictions is a wonderful asset in helping my clients. Having specialized knowledge equips me to be a better clinician.

After I completed my Addictions Program I had the opportunity and privilege to speak at four conferences on the topic of social work and sport. My first speaking engagement was in June at the International Sport and Society Conference here in Chicago. My topic was on the Mental Health Risk Factors of Athletes. This past October I spoke twice at the National Association of Social Workers Illinois Chapter Conference. I was asked to speak at their very first ‘Rapid Confab’ format as well as a full length workshop. Out of seventy-five speakers the NASW choose eight speakers to take part in their two day Rapid Confab event, four speakers in day one and four speakers in day two. I was one of the eight and was the first speaker on day one. My topic was Student-Athletes: A Vulnerable Population. The way it works is the speaker is given 15 minutes to speak on their topic and then the speaker gives the group a question to discuss for 15 minutes, after that, the next speaker will speak for 15 minutes and then give a question until all are four speakers are done. It is a great way to learn about different topics very quickly. The next day of the conference I was scheduled to present my full length workshop on Social Workers’ Role with Student-Athletes. I received a great response from the attendees.  A day later I traveled to Lansing, Michigan to speak at the Michigan School Social Workers Association Conference; two days later I spoke at the Illinois School Social Worker Association Conference. Along with all of that I am working and growing in my private practice.

This past year and a half has been a very busy time for me with research, speaking, writing and building my practice; through these experiences and accomplishments I have grown more focused on achieving the goals I have set for myself. 

So that is what I have been doing.

More stuff to do…

Natalie Graves, AM, LCSW


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