Young Alumni Q & A: Kati Dugan

Kati Dugan

Kati Dugan (B.S., ’16; M.S., ’19) was born and raised in Denver, CO, and proudly earned two degrees from the Department of Health and Exercise Science. Kati recently published her thesis in the Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology. She currently works in youth soccer, promoting physical activity for the next generation. She likes long, romantic walks down every aisle at Target and is a proud plant mama. To learn more about Dugan and her current position, read her interview below.

Describe your current position and some of the responsibilities that come with it.

I work for the Colorado Rapids Youth Soccer Club as the director of Soccer Start, a program for 3-5-year old players. I oversee all five regions of Soccer Start along the front range, from Fort Collins to Castle Rock. My day-to-day responsibilities include registering players, managing parent volunteers, answering parent emails, and other administrative tasks. I coach five days a week, and I manage my team of program directors for each region. In short, I am responsible for creating and delivering a high-quality, age-appropriate soccer program for Rapids families.

How has COVID-19 changed operations for your organization, and how are you responding to it?

This summer, we are offering free summer camps for anyone who wants to play soccer – and have over 6,000 players safely back to the field across all regions. To make that happen, we established our “Return To Play Policies and Procedures.” All players and their families must sign a declaration of health before the first day of camp with weekly symptom checks. The mandated coach: player ratios are 1:10 indoors, and 1:25 outdoors. In reality, most groups are 1:10 or even less. In our indoor facilities, all players, spectators, and coaches are checked for fever/symptoms and are given hand sanitizer. All adults, including coaches, are encouraged to wear face coverings, which we provide. I am very proud of the work my coworkers have done to create a detailed plan of action that we were able to enact on June 1.

Why did you decide to pursue your current career path?

While I was working on my Master’s in health and exercise science, I coached with Smart Fit Girls and Youth Sport Camps. After seeing how to apply the classroom knowledge to kids in the real world, I knew I wanted my career to include kids and promoting physical activity. I grew up playing soccer, so working in the coaching world seemed like a really good fit. I’ve known the executive director at Rapids since I was in high school. I chatted with him on the phone about creating a job that fit my love for the Soccer Start program and my leadership skills I’d recently developed, and he hired me!

How have your education and experiences at CSU helped you in your career?

While at CSU, I learned how to take exercising blood pressures, and that lactic acid buildup doesn’t cause muscle soreness. But more important than the steps of glycolysis, I learned how to think critically. I was encouraged to ask hard questions, to lean into the grey areas of science, and pursue what we don’t know. In addition to my education, I had great experiences at CSU, including my internship at Children’s Hospital of Colorado, my graduate service assistantship in the Heart Disease Prevention Program, meeting some of my very best friends in grad school, and coaching with Smart Fit Girls, co-founded by HES alumna, Chrissy Chard & Kellie Walters. By learning to think critically, I’ve been able to work through problems that arise on and off the field. My experiences working with all ages in the exercise world made me a better coach.

Which faculty member in the College of Health and Human Sciences inspired you most?

 I have so many people in the HES department who were instrumental in my success as a student and beyond. If I had to pick just one, it would be Dr. Heather Leach. She taught me that if you don’t know something, find someone who does. She believed in me and supported my thesis in childhood cancer research when all her former research was in breast cancer. She edited my thesis and made it SO much better than I ever could alone. Dr. Leach is the epitome of “get it done & do it right.” Her work ethic is inspiring. I am so grateful that she was my mentor throughout my graduate school years.

What advice do you have for students looking for a full-time job in your field?

 Ask for what you want. Don’t be afraid because you are young, or don’t have a ton of experience. Tell the employers how you will benefit them and what you bring to the table. Womxn, especially, stay strong and be courageous. You want a $XX,000 salary? Ask for it. Bring research that supports that number. The worst they can say is no.

The Department of Health and Exercise Science is a part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.