What are Your Secrets to Success? Participation

January 18th, 2018 | by Jake Hirshman
What are Your Secrets to Success? Participation


It’s amazing that a sales effort could reveal new observations into student-athlete development.

While attempting to sell my book, 20 Secrets to Success for NCAA Student-Athletes Who Won’t Go Pro, I had the privilege of learning about student-athlete development from athletic directors, directors of student-athlete development, life skills coordinators, and other leadership and career development personnel. I had spoken with representatives of more than 105 Division-I schools at this point, as well as a couple Division-II and III schools, and all that contact lead to some interesting observations. 

Observation 1: In schools that have limited athletic programs, many student-athlete development departments have just been started within the last six months to a year, and there isn’t much of a budget to work with.

Starting a department or improving one shouldn’t just be a “check the box” for an athletic program, it should be fully funded to help the student-athletes make the most of their student-athlete experience. If the budget doesn’t allow or the funds aren’t a priority for this area, assign your development department to find a donor who is passionate about this area. Donors may be more likely to want to help directly impact the student-athlete instead of through facilities, etc.

Observation 2: Many student-athlete departments don’t operate separately from the academic and compliance staff.

Life skills, career development, and other important aspects of the student-athlete experience are often given to academic advisers who quite frankly don’t have the time to address these topics with the workload they already have. Most personnel will oversee two to four teams, enough that it is hard to give each individual student-athlete more than one visit a week.

The student-athlete would have a hard time separating the responsibilities of the staff member, and it would certainly help to have someone who is solely focused on the development of the athletes. This individual or group of individuals should be seen as someone who can help student-athletes with all of the other issues they deal with outside of the classes they take and their graduation track.

Observation 3: The majority of the programs created for student-athlete development are OPTIONAL. There are a few schools who make it mandatory and see great results.

The most common complaint about why a program isn’t as successful is because it isn’t mandatory and the participation rates aren’t as high as they would like from the student-athletes. You have to get coaches to buy-in and make student-athlete development programs and initiatives mandatory.

The schools that do make it mandatory have seen a lot of success. 

The common issue is the perception that time demands get in the way and there isn’t enough buy in from the coaches. Other responses included the fact that they don’t have enough rank in the department, or that some of the schools won’t allow for student-athlete only classes or student-athlete only events.

Quite frankly, coaches need to buy-in to student-athlete development because the programs that are created aren’t more than an hour here and there, maybe once a week or month. The level of participation among optional programs is unacceptable.


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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