An athletics leadership professional, Da’Mon brings to Catlin Gabel a wealth of experience from working in middle school, high school, college, and graduate school programs.
A native of Los Angeles, Da’Mon has worked as a coach, administrator, and educator at top schools on the West Coast, including Price School, Orange Lutheran High School, Scholarship Prep Charter School, and Whittier College in southern California, and the University of Washington and University Prep in Seattle. He most recently served as Assistant Director of Athletics and a Middle School Student Advisor at University Prep.
What sports did you enjoy playing when you were growing up?
I grew up playing football, basketball, baseball, and played soccer for a little while. I started out playing local parks, and then transitioned to playing club basketball and flag football, and then transitioned to playing basketball at the high school level.
Basketball was the sport I wanted to really focus on once I got to high school. After High School, I went on to play at Whittier College, an NCAA Division III school. I knew that I wasn’t going to continue to play beyond college so I really focused on what I wanted to do post-playing.
Did you have mentors who encouraged you to be forward-thinking about your career?
I had some great mentors that steered me in the right direction. My parents, my high school coach, and a few others instilled in me the idea that I should “have an idea.” They would always say, use college the best way you can by trying to figure out what you want to do for a career. Try a bunch of things and see what sticks. And that's what I did.
Is that why you chose to study Sport and Recreation Management at Whittier College?
Yes. I wanted to be involved in sports after playing, but I didn't know what it would look like. I knew that sports management would give me access to different careers within sports and help me to figure out what I enjoyed the most. I was going back and forth, trying to decide if I wanted to coach or get into administration. And I figured, I'm going to try both and just see what sticks the most. And the admin side of sports was what I was drawn to the most throughout all my experiences.
What was most valuable to you about your UW years, where you combined studies in Athletic Leadership with real-world administrative experience?
In my grad school program, they gave me access to different roles within college athletics: development, being the head athletic director, sport operations for Olympic sports, marketing, compliance. They gave me access to everything, so I could figure out what it is that I wanted to do. After I finished my program, the UW Men’s Basketball coaches decided to keep me on staff for an additional year, just to gain some additional experience moving forward.
As men's basketball Graduate Assistant, I would do everything behind the scenes, such as scheduling, transportation, equipment, logistics, and practice and game set up. That helped me in roles that I have now. As Director of Player Development, I was charged with making sure the players had everything they needed outside of basketball and working with the coaches on scouting reports and game film breakdown.
While serving as Assistant Athletic Director at University Prep, you were also a Middle School Student Advisor. What did you gain from that experience?
It was a good experience because it gave me a chance to interact with student in a different way. The conversations were like, how are you doing as a student? I was at University Prep for three years, and I had the same group of students; when I first got there, they were sixth graders, so I was able to see them progress through middle school.
It was good to see the academic side, and work with teachers, and make sure that if a kid was struggling in a certain class or having some challenges, I was able to be that middle person to help them navigate the situation as best as possible. And to see them grow and be eighth-graders and graduate and have them be appreciative of all the things that I and all the other advisors did. It was a rewarding experience.
What are some of the larger lessons that students can take away from sports?
I think sports play a really big role in instilling life lessons that students can use for the rest of their lives. So many of the things that I've learned or things that I've built came from when I started playing sports.
That includes learning how to be accountable, how to communicate with different types of people. Being able to work in a group setting, or work with a team. Self-awareness—that’s a big one. Time management. Learning from losses and defeats and using the losses as ways to continue to improve and get better.
What drew you to the role of Associate Director of Athletics at Catlin Gabel?
The opportunity to work at a bigger school, and at a school that has a tradition of being successful, both on and off the field or court. And the people that I have had the opportunity to meet so far and interview with and speak to. I had never been somewhere where I was receiving text messages from the Head of School, or from different people on campus reaching out, making sure that I had all my questions answered. They made it very hard for me to say no.
It just feels like a place where I can continue to learn and grow as a professional, and as a person. It feels like the right place for me to be at this point in my career.