Game Plan’s Playmakers Series is a new series of blog posts meant to highlight some of the brightest leaders in the student-athlete development field. These excellent “playmakers” will be answering questions about their experiences, what they have learned, and lend advice to those looking to excel in a similar career. Game Plan is proud to work with each of these playmakers and see the difference they make in the lives of their student-athletes!

Karen Schiferl is the Associate Athletics Director for Student-Athlete Support Services for the EMU athletic department. She guides development and implementation of programs and services that support academic achievement and integrity as well as contribute to the personal growth and career development of EMU student-athletes.

Where did you work before your current position? What were your responsibilities?

“Assoc AD/ SWA at Chicago State. It was my role to assist the athletics program to achieve the parallel goals of development of competitive athletics teams and support of student-athletes’ individual educational goals through the management of personnel, budgetary, facility, and equipment resources. I worked to assure achievement of internally and externally established goals and objectives while continuously evaluating individual and unit performances toward the achievement of those goals and objectives. My responsibilities included, but were not limited to: functioning as a sport supervisor, planning, developing and evaluating policy and procedure, serving as liaison to various campus offices, implementing gender equity plans, assisting with strategic oversight for select athletic department units, leading the Academic Services unit, managing the NCAA’s Academic Performance Program (APP) data, and representing Chicago State Athletics at the local, institutional, conference, and national level.“

Why did you get into athlete development? What motivates you?

“It combines my passion for helping others along with my love of sport in one role. I am motivated by the fact that in this role, you are always learning and growing. It may be a constant grind, but it allows me to come up with new and creative ways to help implement processes and procedures to help the department be a success. I am able to be an agent of change and to find solutions to the many different challenges presented on a day-to-day basis. There are days you feel like you are the arsonist starting a fire and then there are days you feel like you are the fireman putting out a fire. Most importantly, I get to impact young men and women who have tremendous talents achieve their goals and dreams each and every day!“

Tell us a bit about your work at your institution: What programs do you offer? What is your focus? What are your goals?

“EMU is a mid-major program with approximately 450 student-athletes. Our staff is small (4 full-time, 2 part-time, 2 GAs) but we are mighty! We focus on making sure we are providing the need-based programs and services that help the student-athletes from the time they arrive through graduation and beyond. We want to help them develop holistically and be prepared to be great citizens of the world when they graduate. We want to build Champions for Life. Our goals are always in sync with our six pillars:

  • Student-Athlete Experience 365
  • Integrity Always
  • Powered By Passion
  • Expect to Win
  • Inspired to Innovate
  • Impact People”

What do you see as the biggest challenge(s) in athlete development today?

“There are many challenges and they may be different for each and every student-athlete but overall I think mental health is a hot topic along with time demands, whether s-as should be paid, the media attention, and economic sustainability. The biggest overall challenge is trying to figuring it all out (i.e., how to do it all the things we want to do to help the student-athletes when there are so many challenges).”

What is next in athlete development?

“Mental health, sexual violence prevention, leadership”

What books/articles would you recommend to others that are looking to either get into athlete development or improve their current position?

“Extreme Ownership, Jon Gordon and Simon Sinek books, keep up with NCAA articles including Champion Magazine, pay attention to articles about trends in sports.”

What advice would you give other professionals who are looking to work in your field?

“It is a grind, but it is rewarding. Make sure you are doing your work! A lot of people have a romantic notion of what it means to work in athletics, but we work hard (but play hard too!). Also, you should know what your “why” is.”

What advice would you give current or prospective college and pro athletes?

“It is not going to be easy, but work hard and enjoy the ride. Take time to be present in the moment while always keeping your end goal in sight. Seek excellence and success in all you do and even if you fail along the way, keep going. Pele’s quote sums it up: “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all love what you are doing or learning to do.”