2013 NCAA Convention: DIII Student-Athlete Well-Being Notes

The theme of the eductional session on trends in student-athlete well-being at the Division III level was doing more with less. As much as Division I gets criticized for not doing enough for athletes, the top level has plenty of resources. And certainly when a student-athlete well-being issue comes up, especially one that draws attention and makes a school look bad, in Division I there is a tendency to throw money at a problem, with expensive speakers, educational programs, even new full-time positions.

Division III needs a more judicious application of resources, something Division I could learn from as well, especially as the Board of Directors begins to lift some of the limits on what schools can spend money on over the next year or two. The speakers mentioned the free Step Up! resource developed at Arizona in conjunction with the NCAA which teaches student-athletes about overcoming the bystander problem and intervening when their fellow student-athletes are making poor choices. Also discussed was a pilot program to develop a feedback tool for talking with athletes, as well as the need for research linking substance abuse to performance as a way to augment or take the place of more expensive drug testing.

Nancy Meyer, the director of women’s athletics at Calvin College showed a checklist for athletic departments to grade themselves and make improvements. That checklist included things that might seem foreign to big-time, Division I athletics like getting away from sleeping three athletes in a room on road trips, or having tired coaches drive vans. Division III is also facing the same challenges of Title IX and Clery Act compliance, especially in result of changes to federal regulation in 2011 as well as the Penn State scandal.

One other interesting note was brought up by Gary Williams, the associate AD for education resources at Carthage College. Division III schools are normally thought of as small, idyllic liberal arts colleges without the territorial problems of large state universities. But Williams mentioned how Cathage’s incoming president found the “siloing” to be worse than at bigger, more complex institutions. Perhaps that comes from the formal policies that have been developed to force inter-department communication at large universities, something most people would have considered unnecessary at Division III institutions until recently.

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