Mentorship Program Teams Up Former and Current Student-Athletes

March 25, 2016

Brian Hoppy
“I’ve always looked at life in a way that you need to give back, whatever it may be,” says GW Soccer alumnus Brian Hoppy, BS ’90.

On the morning of an important GW soccer game, a contractor turned off the electricity and Brian Hoppy, BS ’90, missed his alarm – and the team bus. He borrowed his roommate’s car, drove to the game, and met his coach in the locker room.

“Coach looked at me and said, ‘I knew you’d make it, but I can’t start you now because you missed the bus,’” recalls the biology major. “I said that’s all right; put me in when you need me.”

Nearly three decades later, GW needs him again.

The director of environmental sciences and planning at HDR, an architectural and engineering firm with offices around the world, Hoppy was contacted by a friend and GW Swimming alumna. “She emailed me and said, ‘Hey, you’re in the environmental field. Would you mind taking on a student-athlete as part of this new program that we’re starting up?’ I said absolutely.”

This new program is the GW Athletics mentorship program, which pairs athletics alumni with student-athletes in their junior and senior years. When possible, mentors and mentees are matched by career interests. In only its fourth year, the program has 34 juniors and 16 seniors – among them gymnast Taylor Redmond, CCAS ’16.

“Taylor’s great,” says Hoppy. “I could see right away she had a great sense of the totality of what she could get involved with after she graduated – policy, lab work, consulting, government, she had it all laid out, but she didn’t really know what she wanted to do. Did she want to stay in school and get her graduate degree or go into the workforce?”

Hoppy credits his experience as a GW student and an athlete with his success and relies heavily on that experience as a mentor.

“GW provided me the backbone, the science, and the ability to apply the scientific method to what I do,” says Hoppy. “Being an athlete here taught me hard work – rather, it added to the level of hard work necessary to succeed. Balancing schoolwork, being an athlete, and working – all three of those things, not to mention the time when you join a fraternity – you know what that takes as well.”

Balancing in all its forms comes naturally to Redmond. The captain of the Gymnastics team is completing a double major in geology and environmental studies while holding down an internship and planning her wedding.

“I’ve been doing gymnastics since I was two,” says Redmond. “When I was young I used to climb all over the house, and we lived in a two-story house so I’d climb on the bannisters on the second floor. My parents were like, ‘Oh my god, we have to get rid of this energy!’ So they enrolled me in gymnastics and I stuck with it ever since.”

Today, Redmond’s favorite event is the balance beam, of course.

“I really like beam because it seems the scariest to everybody else,” she laughs, “but it’s actually very relaxing. You get to really think about what you’re doing when you’re up there. It’s not like bars where it’s really quick. It’s really just you and the beam. It’s nice.”

The one-on-one connection with the beam mimics the mentor-mentee relationship. For the last two years Hoppy has focused his attention on Redmond, and together they fine-tuned her professional routine.

Redmond says she entered the Athletics mentorship program after finishing two years of research between the United States Geological Survey and Columbia University and realizing she didn’t want a career as a researcher. Hoppy’s mentorship, she says, has been key in helping her to see what other options outside of research were available in the environmental field.

“He’s been a great leader in showing me another whole option of consulting, as opposed to research which I didn’t enjoy,” she says.

Redmond landed an internship with Hoppy’s company, HDR, working on geographic information systems (GIS) and even moving into marketing, which was “a little frightening because I know nothing about marketing,” she laughs.

The beam specialist now has a full-time job at HDR waiting for her when she graduates this spring.

“I realized they want me there because I have a very broad understanding of the field,” she says. “They need someone who can read proposals and understand what’s going on, someone who has a scientific background, and can explain things to people.”

Could Redmond see herself participating in the GW Athletics mentorship program as an alumna?

“Absolutely!” she exclaims. “I haven’t had that much experience yet, but as I get more experience in the field I think I could help student-athletes. I feel like I could help them understand how important it is to know what you want to do when you graduate because you’re not going to be an athlete anymore, you’re just going to be your student component that you have to move forward on.”

For Hoppy, his experience in the GW Athletics mentor program has been a rewarding one.

“There’s nothing like seeing that spark and being able to stoke those flames a little bit to get them going in the direction they need to go to be successful,” says the GW Soccer alumnus. “And being successful doesn’t mean making a lot of money; it just means doing what you want to do each day of your life. Getting a little better each day – athletes understand that. I particularly like mentoring athletes because they get it. That switch goes off in their heads. The drive the athletes have, it’s there.”