Westmont Magazine An Advocate for Athletes

Camille Filardo-Kraft ’89

Camille Filardo-Kraft ’89 says she’s known for her love of sports and high energy level. She has pursued an active career and life, successfully owning two businesses and for- merly serving as the administrator of the NFL Substance Abuse Program.

“I get my energy from people,” she says. “I’m used to going full speed and doing multiple things. It’s a blessing and a curse.”

Even as a child, she recalls taking off ballet slippers and exchanging them for cleats. “It wasn’t odd at 5, 6 and 7 for me to leave the soccer field and walk to the swimming pool for practice,” she says.

After securing a spot on the Westmont women’s soccer team, she made the difficult decision to sit out her freshman year to focus on academics. “I knew the main reason I was at Westmont was to get a degree,” she says. However, her love for the sport never wavered, and she finally joined the team her senior year.

The California native, who graduated with a degree in psychology, moved to Massachusetts and earned a Master of Science in athletic counseling at Springfield College. But she found limited employment opportunities for counselors providing academic support for athletes in California.

Then she met with Dennis Farrell, former commissioner of the Big West Conference, who recommended she talk to Evans Roderick, who was pursuing the kind of career she hoped for at Mount San Antonio College in California.

“Evans had a compassionate approach to student-athletes that embodied a high expectation of accountability while lack- ing any tolerance for nonsensical behavior,” she says. “He made me realize this was my calling.”

After interning at Mt. San Antonio College for a year, Camille accepted a paid, one-year, post-graduate internship at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

She continued in higher education for 22 years, serving as an associate athletic director, senior woman administrator, Title IX deputy and dean. She has worked and taught at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly Pomona, Mt. San Antonio College, Sonoma State University, Mt. San Jacinto College, Concordia University Irvine, University of San Francisco and CSU Monterey Bay.

In the midst of these positions, she earned a Doctor of Education in administrative leadership in higher education from USC. She believes much of her success derives from the academic and spiritual foundation she received at Westmont. “It challenged me both academically and spiritually,” she says. “Its high academic expectations set me up for success for both my master’s and doctorate. The academic rigor and personal compassion that faculty and staff modeled prepared me to expect the same excellence of myself.”

While working at Sonoma State, she walked with the faculty in full doctoral regalia at commencement. “While on stage, I witnessed various student groups donning sashes and wondered why we weren’t recognizing our student-athletes,” she says. “A lot of work goes into being a student-athlete by both the student and the university, and we should be celebrating our accomplishments together.”

So in 2003 she launched her first business, Student Athlete Sashes (SAS), which has grown to more than 100 schools. As the CEO, she oversees all aspects of the business, which continues to grow.

In 2015, Camille became the administrator of the NFL’s Substance Abuse Program, responsible for coordinating services for players seeking access to rehabilitation facilities, team doctors and clinicians across the country. She was the first woman to represent the program and serve on the NFL Substance Abuse Committee that reported to the NFL and NFL Players Association.

“I went to NFL headquarters in New York to interview with 20 lawyers and upper manage- ment in the room,” she says. “I’ll never forget what they said: ‘Most people write their resume to fit a job description. It looks like this job description was written for your resume.’ I was so excited to help people at the highest level of athletics.”

During her two years with the NFL, she strove to make an impact. “I believe I brought a completely new perspective and approach,” she says.

Camille Filardo-Kraft ’89
Camille playing on the Westmont women's soccer team.

During the pandemic, Camille served for a year as commissioner of the Women’s Nation- al Football Conference. “I’m pleased with the foundational work I did to help them reach a new level of professionalism,” she says.

Along the way, she met Gay Culverhouse, a former president of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “It was the first time I had a woman mentor with a similar path to a high-level position in the NFL,” she says. “She encouraged and supported me and even asked me to contribute to a book she authored, ‘When the Cheering Stops: Life after the NFL.’”

Culverhouse also connected Camille to Randy Grimes, and Camille serves on the executive board of his company, Pro Athletes in Recovery, which offers services to professional athletes seeking assistance with recovery and sobriety.

While managing SAS, Camille consults with professionals and collegiate athletes balancing advocacy and accountability. She has worked with NFL draft picks and former NFL veterans battling substance abuse.

Camille now seeks to work with agents to prepare professional athletes before they begin treatment. “Treatment is completely counterintuitive for athletes who were taught to ‘suck it up’ and not show emotion,” she says. “Professional athletes have not been coached to handle vulnerability or emotional situations. If I talk to them first, I can make their experience with counseling much different.”

Camille remains an avid swimmer, averaging 200 miles a year. She and her husband, Jerry, live in Temecula with their dog, Gracie.