A few weeks ago, I read an article announcing the opening of a new NFL locker room facility on Baylor University’s campus. The new Charline Dauphin Pro Locker Room is a special facility open any time for the former Baylor and active NFL players who want to come back to campus. This news got me thinking about the various methods and levels of support college athletic departments provide its student-athletes and the messages it sends.
My initial reaction to reading the news was, “this is ridiculous” and “what a waste of money.” I immediately asked myself, why invest in facilities like a new NFL locker room that will serve so few? Why not invest in sustainable programs and services that will aid entire populations of student-athletes in succeeding in their academics and in life after they leave campus?
I believe strongly that we need to be doing more to support student-athletes as they transition out of colleges and into the workforce. While I understand that facilities do a lot for the recruiting efforts, the focus needs to also be on personal development of the individual.
That being said, after my initial burst of irritation, I forced myself to re-examine and approach this from a different perspective.
Here is why I think this new, exclusive facility could be a good opportunity for Baylor and those like it.
With this effort, the school is trying to institute an initiative to tie its former players to its campus. With that comes familiarity and camaraderie with existing players and staff. Having this presence around an athletic department could also regularly foster an environment with leadership, role models and even allow for easier access to mentors. In addition, I think it’s probably a way to keep donations from their potential “high-rollers” coming in.
I think this could also send a message to players and former players saying, “we want you around our players and our campus, you are a part of a family and you are always welcome back.”
From research, we know that one of the most difficult parts of transitioning out of college (and athletics) is the lack of a community or support system. While this isn’t the way that all would necessarily send that message, it may be a decent starting point for Baylor.
I do think that this facility was likely done for the more egoistic reasons of receiving more donations and for PR, but I also think it has the opportunity to represent more in the message that it sends and by the way the University chooses to integrate these athletes into the overall current student-athlete support systems.
To come full circle -- the facilities and the programs are all a part of the support systems being provided to student-athletes today. Investments in personal development, transition programs, coaching programs, as well as mentorship and post-graduate emotional support are all ways to help send a strong message to student-athletes – showing that they matter beyond the sport and that they are a part of something bigger — even once they have moved on to something else.