Three huge topics are currently floating around the student-athlete development profession. They are:
- Comprehensive engagement of the student-athlete.
- Enhanced career opportunities.
- Helping young alumni through early career transition.
All three are necessary for the athletic department to address, but how do these elements align?
Currently, athletic departments typically break these up with each living somewhat in its own silo — student-athlete development, career development and alumni development / varsity clubs.
And while each of these serve very different needs for the department, there is a hidden opportunity for the student-athlete.
Student-athlete development and student-services play a primary role in supporting the student-athletes while they are on campus. But what happens once they leave? More athletic departments are finding a need to support their recent student-athlete graduates with resources and programming. This means that the varsity clubs and athletic alumni groups are getting more involved in the work with current student-athletes. And new resources are being put towards initiatives where they previously were not.
Lines are blurring as to whether ongoing developmental support should be supplied for alumni, as well as who should “own” that particular programming and whether or not it should stem from current student-athlete development programs and resources or that of alumni development.
One example of this and natural connection comes from the addition and integration of mentorship programming with current and former student-athletes. In order to effectively provide these services, individuals from across the department will have to work together. This also means better tracking of alumni and ultimately a deeper level of engagement from student-athletes as they transition to alumni status — as mentors and as donors (both capital and career).
If athletic departments can connect the dots, student-athlete services, the student-athlete experience, alumni support and development all have the opportunity to thrive.
The benefits associated with alumni mentoring and career guidance are endless for all parties involved. That’s a big part of why Game Plan is soon launching a virtual Mentor Marketplace for athletic departments. This tool will give athletic departments a platform to manage the relationships between their alumni and current student-athletes in order to develop a network of committed mentors.
The result is a support system that helps student-athletes achieve more and excel in their academic and professional development, as well as address the transition to career after sport.
The alumni will plunge at the opportunity to give back to their school and help a student-athlete that is going through the same transition they did not so long ago.
Student-athlete services will be fulfilling their duty of providing athletes with access to the best resources for their success.
And lastly, the athletic department and school as a whole can foster positive relationships with both alumni and soon to be alum for years to come.
What do you think? Do you see these areas blending in the work you are doing? How?