The inaugural NCAA Sports and Entertainment Summit received a good review from those who matter most: the 100 student-athletes who attended the event. Read more »
By Brian Hendrickson
Tyler Summitt thought he was following an accelerated path to a coaching career when he arrived at the Career in Sports Forum in Indianapolis on June 12.
Student-athletes participating had the opportunity to talk with NCAA President Mark Emmert.
He was the son of Hall of Fame Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt. And when his playing career as a Volunteers walk-on finishes next spring, Summitt will move on to a graduate assistant position on University of North Carolina coach Roy Williams’ staff. For a student of basketball, it was the equivalent of a physicist being raised by Einstein and tutored by Oppenheimer.
But the Career in Sports Forum at the Downtown Marriott revealed to Summitt that there is more to great coaching than an effective pick-and-roll offense. For four days the program’s seminars introduced 281 ambitious student-athletes to the challenges of personality conflicts, crisis management, safety and compliance, opening Summitt’s eyes to the full breadth of a coach’s responsibilities.
“In terms of the X’s and O’s I probably am ahead, but there’s so much more to it,” Summitt said. “Every time we met with somebody it’s been a different aspect that nobody really thinks about. I thought I’d seen it all, and yet I still learned.”
Opening aspiring minds to the greater responsibilities of collegiate athletics prompted the creation of the Career in Sports Forum last year. The participants, who are selected from more than 1,100 nominees, have been immersed in playing their sports for several years. But their responsibilities as players were free of the daily challenges that program leaders face. How would they resolve personality conflicts among their players and foster constructive team chemistry? How would they manage proper compliance procedures, or ensure academic expectations were being met? What personal strengths did they need to draw upon, and what weaknesses did they need to address to become effective leaders on the fields of play or in administrative offices?
They may have never considered those issues during their sporting careers, but as athletes transition to positions of leadership those questions become important to their success. The Career in Sports Forum provides an introduction as experienced administrators and coaches offer their perspectives and give participants opportunities to consider how they might respond.
There’s a real opportunity for us to promote our student athletes who want to pursue sports careers,” said Assistant Director of Student-Athlete Affairs Christina Wright, who organizes the Forum. “Our focus is to give them the ‘Aha!’ moment. We want them to come through and be better prepared to make decisions about their lives and their careers.”
The Forum stresses that those careers extend beyond athletics, something NCAA President Mark Emmert emphasized as he spoke to the participants over breakfast on the program’s second day. Emmert testified to the impact he has witnessed coaches making in the lives of young athletes and stressed that the mission of collegiate athletics wasn’t just about their sports, but the process athletics plays in shaping lives.
He presented the student-athletes with a key question: Did they want to be involved in sports, or in sports education?
“That has to be in the forefront of your mind,” Emmert said. “An NFL coach isn’t responsible for the lives of his players. A college coach has a very different set of aspirations. It’s athletics in the mission of education. It’s a very different calling than just winning a gold medal. We want to do more than that.”
The Forum provides an extension of that educational goal by coaching student-athletes on how to become the industry’s next generation of leaders. A range of seminars discussed key issues coaches and administrators face, examined the participants’ personality traits and how they can help or hinder their paths to success, and introduced them to networking and communication skills that are essential to breaking into and navigating the athletics world.
Participants discussed issues related to career and personal development in Color Team Sessions.
Among those skills was the concept of developing a personal brand -- establishing their mission in athletics which is readily identified with their name. Several participants said they had never been introduced to the term. But the process of writing a mission statement, considering their individual brand identity, and discussing their personality traits and how they are received by others revealed insights that several participants said could impact their effectiveness as leaders.
It was one of many ‘Aha!’ moments the athletes experienced as they progressed through 12-hour days of seminars, group discussions and workshops.
“Everybody expected to spend more time with the coaches,” said Western New England lacrosse player Josh Tullis. “But we spent more time with the personal development side that was not related to your sport. It was much more about developing yourself than the sport you play.”
Athletes seeking careers in coaching discussed safety and injury prevention, and learned from current coaches about how to build and maintain quality programs. Those interested in administrative careers learned about media and public relations, directing facility and event operations and managing finances. Participants were also provided an opportunity to be certified in CPR, promoting safety in athletics since coaches and athletes are often the first responders to an emergency.
“They prove it in multiple ways all the things you have to think about,” said Bryant volleyball player Jazmin Stoner. “It’s not anything I wasn’t aware of, but I wasn’t aware of how in-depth you have to think about it.”