Samantha “Sam” Amato is the Academic Counselor for the University of Arizona Athletics Department. Sam is also the former teammate (University of Tampa Soccer) of Champion’s QUEST Coach Brittany Gonzales. The Tampa Spartans soccer record books are covered with Sam’s name as she helped make the program a well-known competitive name at the NCAA Division II level. Sam’s honors and awards include: All-American, All-South Region 3x, First-Team All-SSC 2x, Second Team All-SSC, SSC All-Tournament Team 3x, NCAA National All-Tournament Team, NSCAA Team Academic Award 2x.
Q: What is your role as an Academic Counselor at the University of Arizona?
A: “I am responsible for managing all academic support for my assigned student-athletes. We customize the resources each student-athlete would need to be successful and help mitigate the balance of school with sports. In addition, it’s my responsibility to be sure nothing academic would withhold someone from competing. It’s my charge to be sure all my athletes are academically eligible to compete per NCAA rules.”
Q: Which sports do you work with and what do you see are the main differences between those sports?
A: “Men’s Basketball and Men’s & Women’s Swim & Dive teams. Each of our 20 teams has an assigned Counselor. The differences…where do I begin? The team cultures are drastically different. Apart from the differences in demographic profiles of my athletes, both teams have unique challenges and parameters because of their sport. Both compete in the fall and spring semesters which is challenging; you never really have an “off” term. Swimming & Diving is heavily individual, creating different dynamics than a team sport. Per NCAA rules, men’s basketball players can enter the NBA draft after only one year of college. This creates many different circumstances for these student-athletes versus any other college sport. There’s a lot of controversy about the “one-and-done” rule, so I’ll let others speak its efficacy, but it certainly impacts my role DAILY. The likelihood of my basketball players pursuing a professional career in their sport is enormously higher than my swimmers. Simply put, my basketball athletes have far more opportunities to continue to compete after college. This results in the experience (class and major selection) of a basketball player much different than a swimmer. Please pardon that I’m speaking in generalities.”
Q: What do you like about your job?
Sam and Coach Brittany celebrate after a goal in college at the University of Tampa
A: “I love working in athletics. For me, nothing is more exciting and emotional than sports. It’s extremely rewarding to help a student from their first visit on campus as a recruit, to the first class they take, through to graduation. Lots of special relationships and experiences because of this job!”
Q: What is the most imperative academic resource that the University of Arizona offers for their student-athletes?
A: “All of them! I think it depends mostly on each individual and what they need. It’s important for student-athletes to truthfully assess what resources would be best and take advantage of every last one of them! Tutoring is the most popular service offered. We provide a tutor for every class as often as they’d like. Then I’d suggest building rapport with all the people who surround you. There are a lot of people on the peripheral supporting a student-athlete, much more than just the coaches, so it’s imperative to go out and get to know what is available to you. In addition, someone in my position helps connect a student-athlete to campus…which would only multiply the amount of academic resources offered. Did I mention to TAKE ADVANTAGE of all those resources?”
Q: You have played and coached at the Division II level and now work at the Division I level, what are the biggest differences you have seen between those 2 divisions?
A: “The amount of people. I was also at a mid-major Div. I school prior to now a Power-5 conference school. All the same functions exist at each, but the number of people you have to carry out a task and focus on detail is a big change. The staffs for each unit are larger (coaches, strength & conditioning, medical, academic, personal development, etc.). The national recognition is also different, which is sometimes great and sometimes not so great. I’ve played or worked at 4 universities and I think each experience is very unique to the institution..”
Q: What advice would you give to High School athletes aspiring to be a collegiate student-athlete?
A: “I’d suggest taking into consideration equally the three areas of your potential college life: school, sport, and social. Sometimes it’s easy, in an unobvious way, to let one area throw the others off kilter. I recognize it’s extremely hard to look into the future, but starting with where you want to end up when it’s all over will help determine where you should go. There are so many different paths to any destination, be sure the journey (your college experience) is a positive one.”