As a college student-athlete development leader, you are rapidly and, likely, stressfully preparing for the return of your athletes to campus this fall, it’s hard not to become overwhelmed and caught up in day to day tasks. All of you are faced with daunting challenges simultaneously:

• Protecting student-athletes and other related parties from COVID-19
• Determining future programming
• Addressing social justice
• Prioritizing mental health concerns
• Preparing graduating student-athletes for a world certain to present limited career opportunities

As a student-athlete development leader, you can benefit from taking a comprehensive and long-term view of your position. By critically analyzing your position, you can create professional growth opportunities for yourself as well as comprehensive structures and systems for your organization and student-athletes. To be impactful, as a leader, you must recognize that the key to your professional and personal success lies not only in the work you do, but also in being appropriately positioned to demonstrate your value to your organization.

Demonstrating one’s value means establishing yourself as the expert, “go-to” person for all things related to your student-athletes and engaging your athletic director in the important matters in your unit, particularly those related to the student-athlete. Consider the following questions:

• Are you a member of the Athletic Director’s leadership team or report to the person who reports to them?
• Do you regularly present and discuss student-athlete concerns and issues internally and on the campus and provide leadership in addressing them?
• Do you have a written job description, unit strategic plan and budget that includes professional development for yourself and your staff?
• Do you provide formal annual and ongoing reports on your unit, staff performance and programming impact that includes performance objectives?
• Do you have a Crisis Response Plan for your unit? Is it integrated into the overall department?
• Are you a leader in your profession, aware of the trends, research, best practices and able to present a plan of how this information is utilized to support student-athletes and department goals?
• Are you capable of identifying and engaging best-in-class professionals and industry experts who understand the mission, goals, culture of your organization? Can they help you to integrate your work within the context of the department’s goals?
• Can you demonstrate how to integrate all aspects of the student-athlete’s ecosystem to achieve their and department and organizational goals?
• Do you take a 360 approach to the education, development and transition of your student-athletes and staff?

To be an effective and influential leader in athlete development, you must not only be able to think and act proactively, you must also be positioned correctly in the organization. In subsequent blogs, expect to discover the next three critical strategies designed to:

• gain the respect and cooperation of coaches
• create interdepartmental collaboration
• engage “New Age” student-athletes in innovative ways

If you are ready to grow your ability to help student-athletes help themselves and the world, I invite you to stay connected. Our journey together promises to reap benefits for you, your athletes and the world they will enter.

At Hilliard Solutions, our proprietary 360 framework for athlete development helps you help your student-athletes be successful in their educational, sports, career and life pursuits. The framework integrates multidisciplinary perspectives that support both your personal development and that of your student-athletes. Through consultation, career, and curriculum services, we help you build and implement a success plan that addresses the challenges that all student-athlete development professionals face today. Contact us today for a free consultation and let us help you and your organization create a game plan for success.