Career development for student-athletes

By September 12, 2014 No Comments

Written by Vin McCaffrey

Ever wonder why a student-athlete goes to college?

Here is what we have found – in order of priority:

1. Play their sport
2. Receive an education
3. Become world ready – specifically, enter a meaningful career and / or graduate school

Ever wonder how an athletic department is measured?books8

To be honest, there are many measurements. Let me call out a significant one: academic performance of their student-athletes.

Athletic departments invest significantly in the success of their teams in various ways including recruiting, facilities and coaches. What you may not be aware of is that athletic departments make significant investments to provide student-athletes the resources and support to help them perform well academically.

Why? There are a number of reasons – one that I want to talk about is accountability.

The NCAA measures key performance indicators such as GPA, retention and graduation rates. The expectations are clear. Fall short of these expectations and there are consequences.

By design, measurements create accountability. In turn, accountability draws investment and resources. Investment and resources provide the opportunity for real performance and change.

It’s implied that where there is measurement, there is accountability. I often joke when I say these things that I am “captain of the obvious.” By in large, athletic departments perform exceptionally well by the NCAA standard for academics. So it begs the question – can more be done to help our student-athletes?

Over the past few years, there have been steps taken towards the overall development of the student-athlete, which includes career awareness. Some schools have progressed more than others but clearly student-athlete development is a significant topic of discussion nationally.

Relative to career development, our team has the chance to talk with athletic departments regularly and we frequently ask: “how many of your student-athletes got jobs last year?” There are some great anecdotal answers out there: “Julie Athlete got a great job on Wall Street this summer.” “Pete Player was just hired by one of our alumni.”

That is wonderful, but those are two. Over 100 graduated last year. How about everyone else?

Ask the same school about academic performance and you will get details on every student-athlete, their major, their GPA and expected graduation date. From the time that student-athlete commits to the university in high school until the time that student-athlete graduates from their university, the athletic department can go chapter and verse on their academic performance.

So what about their careers?

If they exist, student-athlete career development measurements are internally developed, unique to the athletic department and at the end of the day, these measurements fall into the “nice to have” camp.

Don’t get me wrong – EVERYONE in the athletic department wants that student-athlete to get a job. But if the student does not get a job, will there be consequences? Loss of scholarships? Loss of post-season play?

Poor academic performance – absolutely there will be consequences.

Poor career advancement performance – not yet.

Don’t be mistaken. This is not an athletic department-only concern. In fact, many argue that athletic departments are more advanced than their counterparts on campus. Career development and advancement is challenging and has become a priority for campus leadership nationally.

Over the past several months, the media has had a number of headlines on student-athlete welfare and the mission of the athletic department. I believe the sands are shifting.

Today we measure academic performance.

Is it unreasonable to think employment will someday be a metric to consider?

Why should an athletic department focus on it? What is the expected ROI and how can they measure success?

Academic performance – *45% of students “study much harder” when they perceive a direct connection between their academic plans and career. Study after study points to improved academic success when advisers are able to show the student how their academic plan relates to prospective careers. In fact, it becomes a primary motivator for the student. In other words, academic and career planning are not necessarily mutually exclusive. *THE NEXT GENERATION’S VIEW: CAREER AND PERSONAL FULFILLMENT SURVEY. A REPORT BY CPP, INC., 2011

soccer58Athletic recruiting – Coaches have a new tool in their recruiting tool bag when talking with recruits, parents and guardians about their institution’s athletics, academic and life after school development. To speak convincingly with facts and measurements enhance credibility and creates a very compelling value proposition to a recruit.

Alumni engagement – If an athletic department assists a student-athlete with scholarship funding, academic support, career awareness and then assists the student in finding job opportunities, how can that new alum not give back?

Giving / Capital Advancement – The athletic department that invests in a culture of comprehensive student-athlete development creates a brand new value proposition to take to alumni and friends of the athletic department. Alumni and fan bases want to support athletic departments for their performance in every aspect – both on and off the field.

GTG’s mission is to assist student-athletes and athletic departments in providing comprehensive student-athlete development services and tools and I am very proud to say we began investing into this vision 6 years ago this month.

An area that I take great pride in are the relationships GTG has developed with college athletic departments nationally. It is incredibly exciting to see how these individuals view their responsibilities, specifically that the development of the student-athlete is core to their mission. They have created a broad, comprehensive strategy with measurements on student-athlete development and success. From top to bottom, there is total buy-in to this philosophy. These organizations don’t just have programming – they truly have a culture of student-athlete development.

Over the next several weeks, you will see us publish a series of interviews of these customers and stories that capture this. We look forward to sharing them with you.