Capitalizing on skills year-round
I look forward to the fall each year. The reasons college athletics are so special are never more apparent than they are on our campuses during this time of year. Most people think of spring as the season of new beginnings. But as an academic at heart, I consider fall to be our time of rebirth. Colleges and universities come alive. The school year begins. People start to buzz about fall sports. And the wide-eyed freshmen find a new home to cultivate their inspiring dreams.
In my time on campus, I would walk around and see parents moving freshmen into their dorm rooms. Student-athletes were indiscernible from other students. I could see in each of them the excitement of endless possibilities. And best of all, I could look at them and know that the next four years were only the start of a much bigger dream.
Now that I have moved away from campus, I feel that same energy when I spend time with student-athletes across the country. It’s inspiring to learn about their aspirations, and motivating to hear how our work can assist them with the challenges they face after graduation. They often sound just like we all did as we readied ourselves for those first steps beyond college, still uncertain about what lies ahead.
It reminds me of the incredible impact that we have on these students, from those fall afternoons when we watch them move into their dorms to the spring day when we watch them step across the graduation stage. In that time, we provide a foundation that helps them succeed in the classroom, in competition and in life.
Not long ago, I was talking with a women’s soccer student-athlete who compared her résumé with that of her roommate who wasn’t a student-athlete. Where one was full of internships and extracurricular activities, the other had the experience as a student-athlete as her primary credential. She wondered how she could get employers to view her experience as equally valuable. Would her experience make her as competitive in the job market as she was on the field?
It’s our job to help those student-athletes, who give everything they have to their studies and their sport, and turn those experiences into skills that will propel them into the future they have earned and deserve. It is our responsibility to show them how to capitalize on all they have gained in their time with us. No matter what division, what region or what resource level in which you operate, we are all grounded in a set of values that place our student-athletes at the core.
Our student-athletes are learning how to lead with grace, to depend on and be responsible to others, to be accountable for their mistakes, and to analyze and think critically. As the seasons change and our student-athletes grow, we should remain mindful of our true mission. Soon fall will become spring, and we have to be sure we are sending people out into the world who are able to use the skills they’ve developed as student-athletes to create positive change. Instead of having forgotten or abandoned the wide-eyed dreams they brought with them on those inspiring fall afternoons, our student-athletes should be fully equipped to achieve them.
The excitement buzzing on our campuses cannot be solely about our wonderful fall sports. It should be about much bigger victories.
This column originally appeared in the fall 2013 issue of Champion, the NCAA’s national magazine.
Office of the President
On the Mark
Quotes from President Emmert on various NCAA topics.
Where the money goes: “The money we generate buys services that support those students. If we can keep the athletic programs financially healthy, they can create more opportunities for students to participate in athletics.”
Pay for Play: “As long as I'm president of the NCAA, we will not pay student-athletes to play sports. Compensation for students is just something I'm adamantly opposed to. We're providing athletes with world class educations and world class opportunities. If they are one of the few that are going to move on to become a pro athlete, there's no better place in the world to refine their skills as a student-athlete.”