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Preparing Students to Become Student-Athletes

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By Dr. Cliff McCain |

As a high school coach, athletic director or administrator, helping students prepare for life after graduation is part of the profession. But helping student-athletes who will go on to play on the collegiate level is a more complex goal.  With the changes occurring almost daily for collegiate athletics, that process has become increasingly more difficult. Twenty years ago, it would have been hard to phantom some of the items that an 18 year freshman are faced with as they roll onto campus.

While there is no way to hand a high school coach a complete manual to help their players, I have provided a list of topics you should at least help them be familiar with.

1, Initial Eligibility – What do they need to become eligible?

2. Continuing Eligibility – How many hours do they need each year and what is the Minimum G.P.A.?

3. Navigating Learning Management Systems – Blackboard/Canvas/D2L etc. – Find out what the chosen school uses and help them prepare.

4.Disability Services/Testing – What accommodations do they have now? What is offered at their chosen school and what is the process?

5. Class Attendance – What is the policy at the new school/conference?

6. Title IX – Understand the meaning and what services does their new school offer?

7. Community Engagement/ Community Service – Will your new team have a program? Are there requirements with your major?

8. Time Management– Let them know what their days will be like. Help them with strategies for handling it.

Below is an example of what a normal football player’s schedule could look like in a Power 5 school.

                6:00 – Weights/Run

                8:00 – Class

                9:00 –Study Hall

                10:00 – Class

                11:00 – Tutor

                12:00 – Lunch/Free

                1:00 – Class

                2:00 – Position Meetings

                2:45 – Team Meeting

                3:30 – Practice

                6:30 – Eat/Study/Homework/Free time/Rest (unless you have a tutor at night!)

9. NCAA Rules – Help them know some basic NCAA rules concerning benefits etc. They will be educated, but make sure they do not cross a line before the school has a chance to cover it.

10. Academic Support Programs– What are the services offered at their new school ? How do you get a tutor?

11. Social Media – Talk to them about the dangers of social media  as a college athlete

13. Housing – Are they required to live on campus?  Apartments?

14. Cost of Attendance Checks/Alston Checks – Many schools have these type funds available.  Find out what money they make available and what it can be used for.

15. Academic Integrity – Plagiarism and other offenses can derail their career before it starts. Make sure they know some basic of what is acceptable.

16. Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) – This has changed the way  students look at college sports.  Help them understand what is available.

17. Mental Health Services – College is stressful. Find out if there is someone available through their school or athletic department

18. Drug Testing – What are the rules of your team or conference?

19.. Transfer Rules – We see it every week. But help them find out the rules.  Where can your transfer?  How does it impact their academics?  

Also, two tips I would have that can help some of these problems include:

*Get them a mentor – Find them someone to talk to before they get to college. A mentor who was a student athlete  can tell them how it actually is in college.

* Make sure everyone that deals with the student is informed – parents, guidance counselor, admin- Have a meeting.  Get a plan. Make sure they get things done and know what is expected.

Again, this is no complete list. There is no way to know everything a student-athlete will face. But these are items I have seen over the last decade. Students who at least have been informed of these issues have a better chance of navigating those waters. After that, they can concentrate on excelling in the classroom and their chosen sport.

Cliff McCain works as Assistant Director of Academic Enrichment 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

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