In the past year, we’ve seen a lot of changes in college sports. Some good. And some not so good. The changes I’m most interested, had to do with the increase and attention around athlete development, career development and the athlete's transition from sports into the workforce. We saw a lot of great work around financial literacy programming, career planning and services, as well as thoughtfulness and attention to the emotions and the experiences that come from retiring from sports.
Here’s what I think we’ll see in 2016:
1. A deeper integration across department and campus resources.
We’re already seeing university athletic departments working on programs to help their student-athletes transition out of athletics, but what I think we’ll see more of is a formalized specialty in this area and dedicated positions. We will see schools bringing career coaches into the fold regularly and a focus on developing a comprehensive program that puts the student-athlete benefits first. I also think we’ll see more integration of services throughout the athletic department and less of the segmented workshop and presentation approach. This means key players in the athletic department will be involved in the process of developing the student-athlete from the time they step on campus their freshman year.
2. A big emphasis on financial planning and financial literacy for athletes.
I think we’ve seen foreshadowing of this (as a number of institutions have already started testing this programming), but with the amount of funds being given to student-athletes for cost of attendance, I think we’ll see nearly every school get on board with some type of financial literacy program or workshop. This is an important detail that athletes must get a handle on as it’s a skill everyone needs in life. Frankly, I think this is one of the easier “issues” to tackle from an athletic department programming and support perspective. It’s an entry point for schools to provide more comprehensive, personal development for their student-athletes.
3. Research and awareness around the emotional and personal process that occurs during athletic retirement transition.
I’ve spent a good amount of time digging in on this particular area as I’m most passionate about this element of the athletic career. Here, we’ll see athletic departments focus more on proactive development work as they look for how to best address the emotional and personal needs of an athletic career. I also think we'll see athletic departments make an effort differentiate themselves from other institutions in this particular area. This will happen for two reasons: first, it’s essential to be addressed for athletic well-being and if a school can say they work with athletes on this particular challenge (and also track it), it can help their recruiting efforts. Second, it can help with alumni donations and engagement (more to come on that in a future post).
4. We’ll see more accountability and measurement.
Right now, we don’t see much ownership for the actual personal / professional development or placement of student-athletes within athletics administration. There is a lot of discussion over who is ultimately responsible, but in 2016, schools are going to take some risks and take on a bigger role by putting compensation and metrics around this work. Tied to that, we’ll see a start to standardized measurement of these efforts -- as this will be needed to substantiate funds for the programming and staffing.
5. Technology and personalization.
Technology has obviously changed how athletic administrators manage their student-athletes (for the most part making it easier). We’re going to continue to see technology implemented across the board at athletic departments, allowing for deeper levels of integration and management of student-athletes and their progress. This will allow for a more personalized approach when working with each individual. Imagine if you could assess, educate, train, monitor and track the personal and professional development of every athlete in an online platform that easily integrates into the programs you already have in place? And then, also add a layer of customized support to meet the athletes wherever they are in the process. All from freshman year through securing a job after college….Sign me up, right? I don't exactly know what shape this will take, but believe it can be done and that some folks are getting close to figuring this out.
I’m excited for 2016. There’s a lot of great work to be done to support athletes actively involved in their careers and as they retire from sports. I think we’ll make some real progress towards further defining what success looks like in this arena and learn lots from the collective effort of everyone working in the industry.
What do you think? What am I missing? Where else will we see changes in student-athlete development next year?