September/October 2020 - 37

student-athletes. We were fortunate to have access to
professional athletes who were graduates. It was amazing
to see how focused these freshmen were when the alumni
spoke. This was a tremendous tool that reached young
athletes in a unique way. If you can find this type of
mentor, your athlete could benefit greatly.
Have a Planning Meeting
After several years of knowing their routine of schedule,
teachers, and extracurricular activities, these students
are heading to college and into a system they don't know
anything about. One issue many students face is the plethora
of details that have to be taken care of in college. Topics
such as enrollment paperwork, final transcripts, housing
applications, and parking permits can be overwhelming.
Put together a support group of people such as the coach,
guidance counselor, sponsor, and family to figure out what
all needs to be done. Make a list and make sure the student
knows what needs to be done. Delays can occur if paperwork
has not been done correctly. Most incoming student-athletes
cannot afford to get behind in the classroom or on the athletic
front. Help them avoid these issues.
Do Some Homework on Technology
One of the issues many students face as a freshman is
the use of technology on their campus. Few high schools
use learning platforms such as Blackboard and Canvas.
I have seen this lack of experience become an additional
roadblock to success. Not only do these students have to
learn the material in their first courses, they have to learn
how to use these systems. Many times, the students do
not know where assignments are located or where they
have to submit them. Help your student find out what
their future institution uses. A simple internet search
should quickly provide the answer. From there, videos
can be found to assist them on the basics. When classes
begin, your student will be glad he had some basic
knowledge of the platform and can concentrate on the
course content.
Talk to Them about Time Management
Although student-athletes are undoubtedly busy in high
school, most have no concept of what they are about to face
in regards to demands on their time. Below is an example
of what an average football player's schedule could look
like in a Power 5 school.
6:00 AM - Weights/Run
8:00 AM - Study Hall
9:00 AM - Class
10:00 AM - Class
11:00 AM - Tutor
12:00 PM - Lunch/Free
1:00 PM - Class
2:00 PM - Position Meetings
3:00 PM - Team Meeting
4:00 PM - Practice
6:30 PM - Eat/Study/Homework/Free time/Rest
(unless you have a tutor at night!)
Anyone who has been around this type of program
knows that this is no exaggeration. A majority of the
student-athlete's time is spoken for. They have to become
good time managers to be successful. Make sure they
are aware of what they will face. Help them come up
with a system before they leave you. Come up with ways
to help them, such as using the calendar on their phone.
Encourage them to practice scheduling things in the
spring and summer before they leave for school. We want
them to enjoy their last months in high school. But try
to get them to pick a day here and there to practice this
skill. When they arrive on campus in the fall, it will sink
or swim.
Have a Hard Conversation with Them about
Social Responsibility
Heading off to join their college teams is an exciting
and happy time for your student-athlete. They are
leaving for what they hope are four of the best years
of their lives. While we should never dampen that
excitement, there are dangers you need to let them know
are out there. It is not an easy conversation to have, but
it is possibly one that could keep them safe. As studentathletes,
they will be in the spotlight. Every mistake
they make will be magnified. Talk to them about
the situations that they could face. Find information
about Title IX offices and others that are similar on
their campus. These offices now have a great deal of
information about what is acceptable behavior and what
are the processes when someone is accused of improper
conduct. Have the student read or watch the information
provided by the school. Most will have examples of
situations that have occurred as a warning of what could
happen. While it is not an easy conversation, talk " real
talk " to your student. Talk to them about the scrutiny
they will be under and how best to avoid situations that
would put them in a bad light. Since your student may
be a minor, you should talk to your parents beforehand
to make sure they are on board. Assure them; this
information is possibly the most important they will get
as they prepare to leave the nest.
Student-athletes will always have people want to talk to
them about their respective sports. They will get advice
on shooting, passing, talking, or hitting. But few people
are in a position to speak to them about the other part
of being a student-athlete. You, as a coach or athletic
director, have the chance to help them in a way few will
see or appreciate. But the fulfillment you will feel both
watching your student compete athletically and graduating
graduates when the playing days are done is well worth
the effort.
Cliff McCain works as a learning specialist in the
athletic department at the University of Mississippi. He
spent two decades working as a coach and administrator
at the secondary education level. McCain holds a doctor of
education degree in higher education and master's degrees
in history and educational administration.
COACHAD.COM 37
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