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Normally, when Gallaudet’s star runner Eric Gregory visits the track at another school, he is there to win a race. But for the past few months, he has been riding his bike or taking the Metro to The Catholic University of America multiple days a week for a different challenge: an internship. “I know my own way to teach,” he says. “But I realized I need to be open to new ideas.”

Man in a Terps shirt focuses intensely on folding a shirt that is on a counter.
Cristian Martinez-White kept track of uniforms, helmets, and more gear for the University of Maryland’s football team. At top, Eric Gregory poses with Steve Rahn, director of Track & Field for The Catholic University of America.

The Physical Education & Recreation (PER) program requires that majors complete an internship that is a minimum of 150 hours. “This helps them beef up their portfolio,” explains Dr. Carol Cutler Riddick, who along with the PER faculty wants to make sure students are graduating with the skills and experience they need to get jobs. For the first time, two universities have accepted PER interns.

Gregory and Cristian Martinez-White, who has a gig as an equipment manager for the University of Maryland’s football team, are demonstrating the strengths of the Gallaudet student body.  “It’s an opportunity to grow. Getting out of your comfort zone can lead to bigger things,” Martinez-White says.

Martinez-White is interested in becoming an equipment manager for a professional team, so he has really appreciated the chance to dive into all of the detail-oriented tasks that go into this kind of work. He checks the helmets and pads, maintains orderly equipment storage, and reorganizes a lot. “We have to make sure all of the athletes are safe to play,” he says.

Being in a hearing environment hasn’t been an issue. “I tell them I’m deaf and I need you to be clearer, speak louder, and use eye contact,” Martinez-White says. “I always double-check everything. You need to make sure you know what you’re doing and what the task is specifically. You can’t be afraid to ask questions.”

Although the work can be fast-paced and demanding, Martinez-White looks forward to showing up and seeing the players in action. “The energy is so high,” he says. “They’re going hard, and giving it their all. It makes me feel connected.”

Gregory, who is working with Catholic’s Track & Field coaching staff, finds himself scribbling notes long after each practice. The exposure to new ideas has improved his own performance in myriad ways. He now focuses more on the importance of muscle memory, so that his form doesn’t break down when he gets tired. He has tweaked how he comes off the starting block during a race. And he has practiced how to take deep breaths and keep his mind clear. “You can’t let emotions control your mind. You’ve got to put discipline before emotions,” he says.

These are all lessons Gregory is able to pass along to other athletes. “I tell them they can do what I can do,” he says. He often warms up with them and runs alongside them, so he has a close-up view of any issues.

He is also spending quality time in the office, finding out about how to handle administrative tasks, such as preparing for competitions and travel. Understanding the recruiting process has been particularly fascinating, says Gregory, who enjoys watching videos of meets.

In another first for the PER program, student Wendell Ratliff — who is interested in a career in sports management — will be interning this summer with the Wareham Gatemen, a team in the Cape Cod Baseball League. Ratliff’s responsibilities will include preparing the ballpark before games, running activities for children, and assisting fans with questions.

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