When Tom O’Mara had the opportunity to help save the National Collegiate Athletic Association Equestrian Teams from possibly coming to an end in 2014, he was happy to step up.
In 2002, the National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA) was created, giving young equestrians in the U.S. the opportunity to compete at the NCAA Division 1 level, and to be a student athlete with the same recognition as members of a college’s well-known football and basketball teams. The original plan was for the members of the NCEA to build the infrastructure and network required to get more colleges and universities to participate. “I recognized that the decision to drop the equestrian program was more of an organizational and management issue than a sport issue,” Tom said, and he became a member of the national advisory board for the NCEA. With over 30 years working for investment banks, Tom felt that as a board member, he could be of help to grow the sport with financial sponsorship.
Tom fully realized the importance of his task as he and other national advisory board members of the NCEA met with its members, who are the college team coaches who manage the day-to-day activities of the sport. It quickly became clear that the coaches were very busy in their full-time jobs of training and managing their compliance with all the rules of the NCAA, and that working to grow the sport wasn’t something they had the time to do. Tom pointed out that with all the other established sports in the NCAA, none of the coaching staff are involved in the growth of their sports — they’re busy being good coaches.
“Members of the national advisory board come from all walks of life and it’s been a great team to be a part of,” Tom said. “I learn so much from them all and we’ve collectively formulated a pretty good roadmap to ensure growth of NCAA Collegiate Equestrian.”