As of this summer, I can say that I have worked in all three types of NCAA Division I institutions, and I would like to dive a little deeper into the world of student-athlete development. The term student-athlete development may seem like a generous euphemism for academic support, but I can assure that after a year of working behind the scenes, and it is an erroneous misconception to believe that student-athlete affairs are restricted to helping student-athletes pass classes. Student-athlete affairs professionals play a critical part in facilitating a total student experience for student-athletes.
An important note for this area is that titles vary greatly and are less important because whether you’re a learning specialist, tutor coordinator, academic counselor/advisor, you are likely to end up wearing multiple hats within your department. Since there’s no point in trying to categorize the jobs themselves within student-athlete development, I broadly categorize the academic field itself into three main categories. These categories are Life-Skills, Advising, and Academic Supervision. These categories are not mutually exclusive to each other, but working at a larger institution has given me some insight into what these areas look like when they are essentially specialized.
Roles within life-skills usually have the least official interaction with student-athletes on a day to day basis. The primary focus of this area is to create efficient and impactful programming to build student-athletes’ interpersonal and professional skills. Some programming that I’ve seen and helped organize are resume review nights, education on professional dress, understanding how to manage social media, and mock interview nights just to name a few things. Often times, organizing community service and leading student-athlete advisory committees will fall under this wheel house as well.
Academic Advising roles consistently interact with students on at least a weekly basis, but honestly will check in on student-athlete progress daily. This area is focused primarily on the advisement and matriculation of student-athletes through their degrees. However, athletics academic advisors are not a substitute for on campus advisors. In fact, athletic academic advisors typically engage with on-campus advisors and make sure that student-athletes are making the most of their available academic resources. These advisors are usually assigned a caseload of student-athletes by sport, often times with men’s basketball and football having separate academic advisors/directors that manage entire rosters.
There are also roles in academic supervision that typically involve overseeing the daily learning hours of a caseload of student-athletes or an entire department’s worth of student-athletes. In these roles, you often work hands on which developing study strategies, organization tactics, and continually evaluate student-athletes’ preparedness for college level academic work. With typically daily interaction there is an opportunity to build strong relationships with student-athletes, likely their strongest relationship with someone not on their coaching staff. However, the scope of authority and structure of study hall will always depend on the specific institution.
Even beyond these very broad categorizations of student-athlete development, there are still bureaucratic processes involved that I haven’t mentioned. Student-Athlete development departments often play a huge role in the overall compliance of athletic departments including navigating the initial eligibility process, continuing eligibility, acting as liaison to the registrar, admissions office, financial aid, and many other vital relationships on campus. For those more interested in learning about student-athlete development services follow @SAthleteDevChat and @NfourA on twitter. @SAthleteDevChat even hosts a twitter chat about the student-athlete development industry Wednesdays at 7 ET. Even if you’re not a part of this area, as young professionals we can never learn too much about the interworking of athletic departments run.