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Hornet gymnast is one of two student-athletes in the U.S. to receive prestigious NCAA Career Development Award

Sacramento State gymnast Karissa Hoffman was recently recognized with the NCAA 2022 Career Development Award. (Courtesy Karissa Hoffman)

Karissa Hoffman was taking a final exam when she received the email she’d given up on.

“I was very nervous,” she said. “I figured it was past the deadline. I assumed I hadn’t gotten it.”

But the 22-year-old Hornet gymnast – whose injuries kept her off the mat for much of her college career – stuck her landing after all.

The message told Hoffman she received the NCAA 2022 Career Development Award, which recognizes student-athletes pursuing careers in athletics. The award is part of the NCAA’s Accelerating Academic Success Program, and, among other benefits, provided travel expenses for Hoffman to attend the program’s Career in Sports Forum, which was held in early June in Indianapolis.

Karissa Hoffman committed to the Sac State gymnastics team when she was in high school but injuries and the pandemic prevented her from competing until the last few meets of her senior year. (Courtesy Karissa Hoffman)

Hoffman is one of just two individuals nationwide to earn the award. Yoro Sidibe, who plays basketball at Norfolk State University in Virginia, was also honored.

Hoffman also recently won Sac State's 2022 Student-Athlete Advisory Committee Award – the second straight year she’s received that leadership honor.

An Arizona native, Hoffman committed to the Sac State gymnastics team when she was a high school junior.

Injuries and the pandemic, however, prevented Hoffman, a Kinesiology major, from competing until the last few meets of her senior year.

“She never gave up,” gymnastics head coach Randy Solorio said.

Instead, Hoffman became a campus leader, serving on the Student-Athlete Advisory and Intercollegiate Athletics Advisory committees.

“She put the time she would’ve spent training into representing the Athletics department in a different way other than as a gymnast,” Solorio said. “I am so proud of her for her perseverance and her dedication.

“It’s been great to watch her grow into a great leader.”

Hoffman also helped faculty and staff with game-day operations for several events, said Matt Vincent, associate athletic director for compliance.

“Karissa always has questions about athletics work and what other options are out there,” said Vincent, who nominated Hoffman for the award. “She’s very inquisitive and always wanted to be part of athletics in general, which is great to see from a student-athlete.”

Hoffman’s award covers the cost of travel to two NCAA professional development events, including the Career in Sports Forum. The conference drew 200 student-athletes to the NCAA national office in Indianapolis to explore careers in sports and meet athletics professionals.

Hoffman attended last year’s forum on Zoom.

“Getting to be in person and physically connect with my fellow student-athletes and speak with presenters face to face, getting hands-on instruction was so helpful,” Hoffman said. “It was definitely a game changer.”

Hoffman, who graduated in May, is sticking around to get her master’s in Business Analytics and plans to pursue a career in athletics administration.

With one year of eligibility left at Sac State, she says she is not done competing.

“I want to stay a part of the Hornet Family,” she said. “I want to pursue my last year of eligibility and stay where I have the support I need from my current administration, coaches and teammates.”

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About Jennifer K. Morita

Jennifer K. Morita joined Sacramento State in 2022. A former newspaper reporter for the Sacramento Bee, she spent several years juggling freelance writing with being a mom. When she isn’t chauffeuring her two daughters, she enjoys reading mysteries, experimenting with recipes, and Zumba.

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