What student-athletes learn on the field

A recent article ("The Role of Sports in Small-College Life") in The Chronicle of Higher Education reminded me of the important role that intercollegiate sports can play in a student's development.

I was also reminded that there is an all too frequent public perception that college athletes are only in college to compete, and might not always perform well academically.

With that in mind, and the fact that WNCC's two new sports programs (women's soccer and men's baseball) begin within the next few weeks, I thought it important to outline my expectations for this new initiative at the college.

It is my belief that educational institutions should focus on developing the whole person: a holistic approach for the intellectual, social, emotional and physical growth of each student. This is true of all students, especially those in the traditional 17- to 21-year-old age range. In reviewing the changing demographics of our campus enrollment, this may necessitate some changes in how WNCC meets the needs of our students.

I acknowledge that one of the primary goals of all competitive sports is to win; however, this cannot be the only measure of success in an educational environment. Intercollegiate athletic competition provides the opportunity to learn a number of lessons not always available in the classroom.

During my 30-plus years of working with, and supervising two-year college sports, I've had the pleasure of watching students from a variety of social, cultural, and educational backgrounds come together and develop strong interpersonal, team and personal skills. National data, and my experience, has shown that in most cases, student-athletes are more successful than students who are not actively involved in some aspect of the college. They become empowered learners as they develop team skills and an understanding of people different from themselves.

Student-athletes may not always recognize the growth that occurs because of athletic involvement until later in their lives. I believe that the commitment a student-athlete must make to be successful requires self-discipline and self-awareness. These skills frequently serve as indicators that an individual is able to assess and identify priorities, make difficult decisions, and set goals.

At their best, successful intercollegiate sports programs encourage qualities of discipline, leadership, confidence and teamwork in student-athletes, while promoting the development of strong personal values. Sportsmanship, perseverance, the ability to win or lose with grace and humility, self-esteem, self-sacrifice for the attainment of team goals and the joy of competition are traits that also exemplify a quality program.

Additionally, student-athletes are expected to respect others and authority (i.e., their coach and other personnel such as referees), while demonstrating commitment, integrity, effort and loyalty.

When student-athletes are successful on and off the field, they incorporate these learned behaviors into their academic endeavor, their relationships, and other aspects of their lives. Although they infrequently become professional athletes, they do become professionals in a wide range of careers.

Over the years, many of the student-athletes I have known make a point of communicating back and expressing their appreciation for the role that athletic participation played in successfully meeting the challenges of their personal and professional lives outside of the college environment. I also note that, in most cases, student-athletes at my previous college outperformed the general student population related to grade point average, retention, and graduation rates. My expectation for WNCC's student-athletes, coaches, and the program is that they meet the same high standard.

I encourage all members of the greater WNCC community to be actively involved in our athletic programs - as participants, financial supporters, and most importantly, as fans of our exciting Wildcat teams!

n Daniel J. Neverett is dean of student services and director of intercollegiate athletics at Western Nevada Community College.


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