Written by Marqueshia Stallworth of Florida Atlantic University
Student affairs administrators come into the profession with diverse educational backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. Our unique stories and pathways to the student affairs profession influence our approach to working with students. I am increasingly finding that my multiple identities and experiences as a black female, Christian, student-athlete, Sorority member, and a background in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, have shaped who I am as a student affairs professional. However, increasingly I am finding that my experience as a student-athlete is shaping my approach to work as a Student Affairs professional. The purpose of this article is to share three things that I learned from being a collegiate student-athlete that have helped me become a more effective student affairs professional: learning how to manage time, having resilience, and always identifying a Plan B.
Being a student-athlete is a full-time job that requires quickly learning how to successfully juggle academic and athletic demands. To maintain my eligibility as an NCAA Division I student-athlete, I was responsible for being to class on time, attending study hall, tutoring sessions, team meetings, workouts, and weightlifting, as well as completing my homework and taking care of the basic human needs we all have such as eating, sleeping, and resting. There literally was no room for wasting time or procrastinating. I learned to live by my weekly to-do-lists and scheduled time in my calendar to complete my diverse array of tasks. These time management skills have helped me to balance my graduate school classes, graduate assistantship, and internship responsibilities. I have been pleasantly surprised that my experience juggling multiple demands as a student-athlete has helped me not only balance my current demands as a student and professional, but also has helped me to empathize with my busy students and to teach them how to better manage their time.
As a Student-Athlete, I faced many challenges throughout my college career. I was under pressure to deliver excellent results on the track as well as in the classroom. I learned through athletics the importance of never giving up and constantly striving to improve my performance. This commitment to excellence taught me the value of hard work, discipline, and dedication. Often the main barrier to improving my own performance was my own standards I had placed on my performance. I learned that resilience and toughness were the keys to breakthroughs in my performance on the track. As student affairs professionals, we also are presented with challenges every day. The resilience I learned as a student-athlete has kept me going as a young professional despite the lack of funding or resources. Hard work has never scared me and I constantly strive to improve my performance. These skills I learned as student-athlete have allowed me to find creative solutions to the challenges I am facing as a Student Affairs professional.
Always have a Plan B
Being a student-athlete also taught me to always have a Plan B. Although most student athletes, including me, have dreams to become professional athletes, fewer than 2% of NCAA student-athletes become professional athletes (NCAA Recruiting Facts, 2016). Like the 98% of former student-athletes, I was forced to find another avenue to pursue after a sports-related injury precluded me from pursuing a career as a professional athlete. After investigating all my options, my Plan B was to attend Graduate School and it was the best decision I could have made. I have found that Student Affairs professionals should have a Plan B. Student affairs professionals deal with a multitude of issues outside of their control, including the weather, institutional politics, and event cancellations. Having a backup plan, aka a Plan B, is an essential part of planning events and dealing with student issues.
In summary, being a Student-Athlete has taught me three essential skills: time management, resilience, and to always have a Plan B in place, that have all served me well as Student Affairs professional. I have found that the skills I learned from being a student-athlete, are the skills that are needed to work in student affairs. Applying my experiences as a student athlete to my profession in student affairs will be helpful in my quest to positively influence the lives of students that I serve. What aspects of your past experiences do you intentionally bring to your work as a student affairs professional?