This is the first in a three-part series on creating meaningful connections and this post will focus on your campus. I’ve yet to meet a coach who thinks that the faculty at their school really respects what their student athletes are doing…that they really “get it”. I’ve also never met the coach that feels that their job is completely understood and valued by their coworkers on the academic side of the world. But, is it my fault that I don’t know what’s going on in the Microbiology department? On my own, I’m probably not going to look for that info. But if I got to know a couple professors and they hosted a “Microbiology for Dummies” seminar and made it something I could kinda grasp…then I’d be interested and more apt to follow up on the haps in their department.
And it’s the same for us coaches. We’ve got to be willing to leave our offices, stop watching video, and be ambassadors for our athletes, our teams, and our department. Have a “day in the life of a student athlete” session at your next (interminably long) meeting so that folks on the outside understand the juggling act our athletes must master. Or maybe a “how did they get here?” session on recruiting…I think the academic types would be interested in what it takes to make sure that their classes are full. And of course it’d be pretty important to highlight your superstar soccer goalie who just happens to be on the Dean’s List. All of these things help people to realize how the athletic department not only adds value to the campus, but helps it fulfill its mission statement.
From a practical standpoint, create meaningful relationships with faculty is pretty key to getting them to leave their offices and support teams. Find out which professors are sporty…do they like to run or play racquetball or lift weights? Well then ask to join them! Is there a college book club or similar gathering that you could attend and put your brainy face on and chat with the academic types? Creating Faculty Friends is pretty important to bridging the gap between academics and athletics. Lots of schools have the “coach for a day” program, where a faculty member sits in on pregame meetings, sits on the bench during the game, and is generally a member of the team for a day. That’ll help with the perception that we just roll the balls out and hope for the best.
I’d love to hear what other folks are doing on their campuses! There can never be too much interaction between academics and athletics…after all, it’s what our student athletes do everyday. Next up in the Connections series will be community involvement.