We are in a time when much is being made of student-athlete experience and welfare. Solutions have been offered that have varying degrees of substance. Certainly, financial relief in the way of cost-of-attendance scholarships is a positive for almost every student-athlete. The same applies for guaranteeing four-year scholarships. I applaud such efforts.
In addition, accountability is growing, and that also is a good thing. Athletics Departments are looking to increase academic support, leadership development, career development, and general life skills. Impressive facilities to serve this programming are being planned for and built. Again, I applaud such efforts.
But, I have a caveat. Programs are not the answer in and of themselves. People are. What student-athletes need, what they are longing for, what is a huge part of their motivation to participate in sports, are relationships. They are driven by being part of a team, being mentored by a coach, and, hopefully, being involved in a cause bigger than themselves.
It has been my experience that the best athletic departments do not look into simply creating programs. They create a culture. This culture drives the student-athlete experience in such a way that the student-athlete develops comprehensively. As an example, the student-athlete’s career development is reinforced in a consistent manner by the coaches, academic counselor, and career development specialist. The culture supports it. It’s seamless.
Joe Ehrmann says that we are to judge our personhood on two things…having a transcendent cause and the quality of our relationships. As we all work together to develop boys and girls into men and women of character and integrity, let us not forget that we are in the people business. Good programming is important, but, a culture of love and empathy is essential for true and sustainable success. Establishing a program and ticking the box do not make an Athletic Department.
It has been my experience the best athletic departments do not look into creating programs. They create a culture. This culture drives the student-athlete experience in such a way that the student-athlete develops comprehensively. As an example, the student does not go from leadership development programming to career development programming. They are surrounded by both and develop in a more complete way.