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“Dear Younger Self” By: Jim Pignataro

By April 20, 2021 No Comments

Jim Pignataro has held multiple positions at Michigan State University since 1996, with his most recent role being the Executive Associate Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Services since 2015. Pignataro served as the Associate Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Services from 2008-2015 and Director of Student-Athlete Support Services (SASS) from 2002-2017. His responsibilities include overseeing all directors of Student-Athlete Engagement, Academic Services, Athletic Training, Strength and Conditioning, and Sports Nutrition. He also serves as the sports administrator for baseball, ice hockey, and volleyball.

What was your first job?

My first job in college athletics was at the University of Tennessee as a graduate student. I worked in the Athletics Student Life office.  It was my first year of graduate school after earning my degree and playing baseball at the University of Maine at Farmington.”

What advice would you give yourself as you approached your first 30 days in your first job?

“Remember to be yourself. Believe that everything you have done prior has prepared you for this opportunity.  You are qualified to be in the role, but acknowledge you have a lot to learn.  Also, be a good listener and ask questions.”

What advice would you give a young professional that wants to be in your shoes one day?

“Over the years I have found these three keys to leadership success

  1) Relationships: We are in a relationship industry. Seek authentic mentors that have your best interest in mind. Your job opportunities will come from those who advocate for you. Mentors also assist in helping you to problem-solve issues and help you connect with others for advice.

  2) Be Self-Aware: Self-awareness is a key attribute for successful leaders.  Be aware of how you communicate with people, current relationships with the staff, and the mission, vision, and value of the organization.

  3) Integrity: When decision-making is made with integrity, you will have peace in all decisions.

  4) Development Yourself Personally:  Read. Read. Read. Ask your mentors for book recommendations.”

We look forward to shining a light on the Athletic Administrators, Coaches and support staff that help put Student-Athletes first through these difficult times. To see more articles like this, check out our page “Dear Younger Self”. And if you’re interested in leaving a quote on the site. Send an email to .

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Game Plan’s comprehensive software platform integrates mobile-first eLearning as well as virtual mentorship and career services, uniquely designed for athletic organizations. Game Plan has over 275 athletic organizations with over 200,000 courses completed yearly. Our eLearning courses provide student-athletes ultimate access and flexibility while equipping both athletics departments and the conference office management tools and insight to ensure outstanding experiences and outcomes. To learn more about Game Plan, please visit