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By Travis Misner
Misner is a Loras College baseball student-athleteand NCAA Division III SAAC representative
Being a Division III student-athlete has helped me to grow and develop in many ways. I have gained leadership qualities, time management skills, and the ability to prioritize – all skills that simply cannot be taught in a classroom.
One of the cornerstones of the Division III experience is the willingness of faculty and staff to go above-and-beyond to help each student-athlete in their academic endeavors. As a baseball student-athlete at Loras College in beautiful Dubuque, Iowa, I see first-hand how our athletics administration is eager to help each one of us excel, not only on the field or court, but also in our courses.
The goal for a student- athlete at Loras College, or any Division III institution, isn’t to get drafted by the Chicago Cubs or the New York Knicks, but rather to be prepared for the real world by walking across that stage with a diploma. And an often overlooked key to a strong educational foundation for our student-athletes is the active presence and efforts of Faculty Athletic Representatives (FARs).
According to the NCAA, a FAR is in charge of, “monitoring the academic preparation and performance of the student-athlete on each sports team, and is involved in reporting this information to the CEO, the director of athletics, and athletics board or committee.”
Deb Sazama, one of Loras’s FARs, has contributed and committed so much more than the standard job responsibilities. She, alongside our Senior Woman Administrator (SWA) Denise Udelhofen, have built our SAAC from the ground floor starting in 2009. Also, Deb has played a valuable role with our Academic Alliance committee where she and one of our SAAC members attend a faculty meeting at the beginning of each academic year to inform the faculty of what is happening in SAAC and the goals for the year. A true champion for a comprehensive student-athlete experience, she also seeks input from faculty on how best to monitor student-athlete grades in courses and provides guidance to student-athletes who are struggling.
Deb has been a physical education professor at Loras since the fall of 2007 and has served as our FAR since July of 2009. Prior to joining the team at Loras she served as the head volleyball coach, SWA, and Assistant Athletic Director at Defiance College in Ohio. She then moved onto Winona State University in Minnesota to be an assistant volleyball coach. When she arrived at Loras, intercollegiate athletics was still an instinctive part of her life that she could now impact in a different way.
“I really wanted to stay involved in collegiate athletics,” Deb said.
“My experience as a coach and educator provides me with a unique perspective, so the Faculty Athletic Representative role was a perfect opportunity for me.”
As an institution where nearly 35 percent of the student body is student-athletes, it’s important to have an open line of communication between the athletic and academic departments. Prior to each traditional season, Deb meets with each team to go over the academic expectations, and opens her door to any student-athlete that may have academic challenges or questions, whether about selecting a major, scheduling classes, course load, or specific subject help. She also understands the bigger picture and importance of attending athletic department meetings and SAAC meetings, and having a working relationship with our athletic director, dean of students and president.
While Loras is lucky to have such an involved FAR, as a national SAAC member, I know that many other institutions miss out on having an active FAR. Although the FAR position is required by the NCAA, the value an athletic department or a faculty member places on the position is often muddled by an enormity of other responsibilities.
But FARs are integral to student-athlete development – both academically and professionally – as their perspective and support is often a driving force to success in the classroom and on the court.
So if you are at an institution where the FAR isn’t fully utilized, it is time to start building the relationship. As a SAAC, ask what benefits could an FAR bring to us? How could a FAR enhance the development of our student-athletes? As a FAR, consider the immense impact that your role could have on bringing an academic and athletic community together, and your potential to prepare more students for life after college. If you are an athletics administrator, evaluate the current situation of your FAR and assess the opportunities for improvement.
Ultimately, the NCAA Division III SAAC the recognizes that the FAR role functions as a key player for student-athlete success, so is working towards enhancing this partnership on campuses and at conferences. If you have ideas or best practices to share, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will share them with the larger SAAC group, as we strive to empower all Division III student-athletes to take advantage of the outstanding FARs on their campuses.
For more information on the roles of a FAR, visit the Faculty Athletic Representative Association website at: http://www.farawebsite.org/. For questions or to discuss anything in this article feel free to contact Deb Sazama (email@example.com), FAR, or Denise Udelhofen (firstname.lastname@example.org), Assistant Athletic Director and Senior Woman Administrator.Last Updated: Jan 24, 2013