It is the time you have all been waiting for. Preseason and the start of a fresh new season is upon us. Dreams of what the future holds, how your team will shape up, and who will take that starting spot sit in your mind as you play with all the potential line-ups that can happen. Your injured athletes have been cleared and are ready to play. Equipment has been delivered, sizes checked, and everything is in the locker room ready for the Christmas Day of preseason, when the student-athletes burst into the locker room excited to what they got. You have prepared your practice schedule, scheduled your workouts, developed your leadership meetings, and scheduled your meetings with all the necessary departments. Academic Advisor-check, Strength and Conditioning-check, Athletic Training-check, and Equipment person-check.
But wait, we are missing a few people. I know that these preseason meetings are meant for a quick meet and greet, but it is also a great opportunity to show both incoming and current student-athletes an idea of the resources that are available to them if needed. It is a great opportunity for facetime between your student-athletes and the departments available to them.
Many times student-athletes are siloed and only know about the athletic department resources. In this day and age when colleges and universities have numerous resources, we are doing the student-athletes a disservice if they are not being told of the of what is available to them. I know that time is precious and you do not want to overwhelm your student-athletes the first day with everything they have to know about the school, athletic department, team and now resources. But this doesn’t have to be crammed into a one-hour time slot where everyone is fighting for their 10 minutes of time to talk about their center and/or services. The type of importance you place on these interactions will be the same type of importance your student-athletes put on it. All through campus, there are resources galore that can help you student-athletes with a plethora of things from money, identity, sexuality, race, careers, to mental illness and more. TELL YOUR STUDENTS ABOUT THOSE SERVICES!
Who are these resources that our student-athletes need to hear from?
1. Diversity/Inclusion Centers
2. Women’s Centers
3. LGBT Centers
4. Counseling Centers
5. Career Services
6. Study Abroad Services
7. Internship Services
8. Community Service
9. Those who run the crisis centers/hotlines
10. Public Safety
11. Writing Centers
12. Graduate Fellowships
13. Spiritual Life Offices
14. Leadership Offices
There are probably many others that I have forgotten to add, but I think you get the idea of who your student-athletes need to meet to make their college experience better and potentially healthier because a healthy student-athlete off the court will make for a healthy student-athlete on the court.
I know you are thinking how and time. How can I do it and I don’t even know if I have the time to do it. Well, you do have the time, and the how is easier when you think outside the box. Here are a few ways to start introducing these centers and services to your team:
1. During preseason your team will pretty much eat every meal together. Every meal. Why not invite someone from those centers or services to eat lunch or dinner with your team? The first 10 minutes while everyone is eating they can give their spiel about who they are and what they do and then they can sit with the student-athletes and talk with them. This is a great informal method to get your student-athletes the information they need without having to find more times throughout the day for new meetings. (And whoever is speaking gets fed, big win!!)
2. Start having your team meetings in those centers. Most centers have conference and meeting rooms that can hold large groups. Use those. This is hugely beneficial because it helps student-athletes learn the location of the centers and services. It makes it more tangible for them when they have to not only find the location but also go in for meetings. This helps them become acquainted with the center and those who work there. This will not only help with your student-athletes but also your coaching staff.
3. Have a team meal in the center and invite all the center staff to it. This would be AWESOME. You brought students to the center, you invited the staff to get to know them and eat with the team. You can’t get a better option than this.
4. Bring the various center staff members to your meetings and allow them to introduce themselves and what services they can help with.
5. Do a walking tour, but this one will be more in-depth. On this tour, you will walk around campus to the various center, go in and have conversations with the center staff about the services. Walking your student-athletes to each of the centers will help them be more comfortable in knowing where they are going.
6. SCAVENGER HUNTTTTTT!!!! Put all the centers and services on the scavenger hunt and let your student-athletes get to hunting. This will help them figure out where the centers are, chat with some of the staff, take pictures, but more importantly- get to know campus on a deeper level. Also, it will help the coaching staff get to know where the centers are, what they do, and chat with those who work there. A win-win for everyone.
Preseason seems short. Coaches want to pack in as much sport, strategy, team building and leadership as possible. It can be hard to want to include other parts of campus during this time, but the bigger picture needs to be looked at. These suggestions can help your student not only academically and socially, but also mentally and be a healthier student-athlete.
Now go start talking to the centers on campus and planning those meetings, you won’t regret it!
Interested in having me come out and chat with your staff and or athletic department about race and diversity issues? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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