What are Your Secrets to Success? An Interview with Dr. Janice Hilliard

January 24th, 2018 | by Jake Hirshman
What are Your Secrets to Success? An Interview with Dr. Janice Hilliard


This week, for three days in Indianapolis, the 2018 NCAA Emerging Leaders Seminar will take place for more than 200 current graduate assistants and interns across the NCAA. The program’s goal is to educate and prepare these individuals for careers in college sports. I was fortunate to speak with an intern from the 1991-92 class, Dr. Janice Hilliard, whose presentation is entitled: Next Steps: Narrowing and Conducting the Job Search.

Hilliard, a former VP of Player Development at the NBA also has experience at UNC-Chapel Hill and the University of Houston in academic support. Her recently developed consulting company, Hilliard Creative Education & Development Solutions, LLC engages, educates and empowers athletes and key players in their ecosystem to address the challenges inherent in integrating education, sports, and business.

Throughout your career, what are the aspects of student-athlete development that administrators and coaches can assist in helping student-athletes better maximize their experience?

Athletic Directors and coaches would benefit from greater knowledge about student-athlete development research, trends and best practices. Student-athletes are becoming more entrepreneurial and socially active. Providing mandatory training in financial education and social responsibility provides them with opportunities to gain knowledge, skills, and leadership that benefit them in their sport, the classroom and in life.

The best athletic departments continually invest in the training and development of its student-athletes development staff. The selection, training, and support of these individuals should be a priority. Educational preparation in counseling, psychology, social work and related fields is important. Necessary skill sets for staff include relationship building, conflict management, cultural communication, program design and evaluation, budgeting and strategic planning.

Educational programming for student-athletes should be sport-specific. The work-out program for baseball players is not the same for football players. Pitchers and hitters don’t receive the same skills training, nor do offensive lineman and receivers in football. Student-athletes have different learning styles. It is important to develop evidence- programs based on research and that can be evaluated for the desired impact.

Student-athlete development programs and services should be well integrated into the athletic department and university. Such integration ensures that student-athletes’ voices, needs and issues are heard, identified and addressed comprehensively and ongoing.

Where do you see the opportunities for improvement in design with programs and curriculum within student-athlete development departments?

Engage coaches. Coaches bring experience, perspectives, and credibility that can help motivate and engage student-athletes to take advantage of the support and resources available to them.

Broaden leadership training curriculum to educate student-athletes on how to use their voices appropriately to engage in their social responsibility and justice interests.

Regular meetings with Athletic Directors allow all student-athletes the opportunity to share their experiences and express concerns, and for both to create joint strategies for achieving mutual goals.

Implement career education programming for student-athletes interested in pursuing careers in sports.

Diversify program delivery methods and provide industry expert providers in key areas like financial education, mental wellness, and career development. Ensure a balance of in-person, online and experiential learning platforms that produce measurable results.

The opportunities for growth in student-athlete development are endless, and this aspect of the industry will only continue to evolve and grow. Creating solutions to the current problems, weaknesses, and opportunities is the goal in which innovation, expertise, and experience can lead to a better ecosystem for student-athletes.


20 Secrets to Success for NCAA Student-Athletes Who Won’t Go Pro is a guide and resource to help student-athletes succeed during their journey, and transition successfully out of sport and into life. To find out more about how to help your student-athletes be successful off the field, you can find the book on Amazon!

Jake Hirshman About Jake Hirshman
Jake Hirshman is a former student-athlete at the University of Redlands and Ohio University, and now co-author of “20 Secrets to Success for NCAA Student-Athletes Who Won’t Go Pro”. After finishing his undergraduate degree in 3 years, and bouncing back from a career changing injury, Hirshman pursued two masters degrees at Ohio University. One in Sport Sciences and Recreation, and the other as a member of the Sports Administration Program. After leaving Athens, he worked in Player Development for the Seattle Mariners, as a coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks Academy, and as Special Events Coordinator for Major League Baseball’s Arizona Fall League. As a young professional, Hirshman’s goal is to positively impact student-athletes and help prepare them for life after sport.

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