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Student-Athlete Well-Being

So you want to be an AD

 

Nothing you do as an athletics director is more important than ensuring the well-being of the student-athletes for whom you are responsible.

Winning and losing matter, of course, but the ultimate goals are the safety and the academic/social development of your stu­dent-athletes. As such, this chapter requires special attention.

Segments in this chapter include the following:

  • Student-athlete handbooks
  • Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) bylaws and minutes
  • Student-athlete exit interviews
  • Student-athlete employment forms
  • Drug-testing policies and procedures
  • Missed class time policies and procedures
  • Emergency action plans for travel, including team travel, individuals traveling to competition on their own and indi­viduals traveling to practice
  • Travel policies
  • Transgender policy

Student-athletes function best when they clearly understand what is expected of them, so a concise, communicative student-athlete handbook is essential. This isn’t something you can do once and scratch it off the list; your student-athlete handbook needs to reflect constantly changing times.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What does “student-athlete well-being” mean to you?
  • What priorities would you put in place to ensure a high-quality environment for your student-athletes?
  • How would you use your senior woman athletics adminis­trator and faculty athletics representative to create a better climate for student-athletes?
  • What sort of training or professional development would you provide for SWAs, compliance officers and faculty athletics representatives?
  •  How do you make certain that coaches, who have more day-to-day contact with student-athletes than anybody, focus not only on competition but also on student-athlete social and academic development?

The handbook will take you only so far, however. Questions and occasional conflicts will arise, and those problems are best addressed, if possible, through an effective Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Any campus SAAC is likely responsible for community outreach, but good programs also rely on SAACs to discuss small problems before they become large ones. They should be capably staffed – many programs use the senior woman athletics administrator in this capacity – and should be able to rely on the willing assistance of the faculty athletics representative.

Questions can get complicated. Your student-athletes need to understand institutional and NCAA drug-testing policies, not only because of how their physical and mental well-being may be affected but also because of what could happen to their eigibility. Likewise, they should understand the conditions under which they can earn extra money and, perhaps above all, the policies and procedures governing missed class time. They should know what they are permitted to do with social media and what the consequences are for violating those policies.

Ensuring a quality student-athlete experience is the reason any athletics director has a job. Legitimate ongoing account­ability in this area – as described in the chapters on institutional control and athletics department – is essential for the success of your program and your career.