May 1, 2012
University of Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon will regularly offer his view on a variety of topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. All his posts, along with links to related content, will be available on his page, mgoblue.com/brandon, and he is also on Twitter at @DaveBrandonAD.
One way to engage a roomful of department team members is to open the meeting with a big performance. It can be done in a myriad of ways, but when you bring together a great opening act and it ties together with an organization's guiding principle, the result can be magnificent.
On Friday morning (April 27), we held our quarterly huddle meeting with the entire U-M Athletic Department to discuss where we stand with our goals and objectives as we approach the end of another academic and fiscal year.
And while all the numbers and discussion might mean different things to different team members, one aspect of the meeting made a big hit.
We started the meeting by inviting three U-M student-athletes -- Courtney Boylan (women's basketball), Luke Glendening (ice hockey) and Zack Novak (men's basketball) -- to speak and take questions from our athletics department team.
As we work to create positive academic and athletic experiences for our student-athletes, many in college sports administration have no personal experience of being a student-athlete. And if they were student-athletes, most were student-athletes many years ago.
Times have changed and so have the student-athletes. Life is faster. During this special time with these three outstanding student-athletes, we might get just a brief glimpse of the student-athlete's social, family and academic experiences.
Who are they? What are they all about? How are we helping them? And, are we really a part of creating those positive experiences?
On the other hand, few of our student-athletes truly know how many individuals within each athletic organization have touched their lives. They know their coaches, athletic trainers and few others, but the bulk of what goes on behind the scenes sometimes goes unnoticed. They are pretty busy young men and women!!
Their lives have changed from the days of high school as they mature during this time period. They have received the opportunity to attend and play a sport at the University of Michigan, and the challenges and rewards are both very significant. And to be a successful student-athlete at U-M you not only have to excel in your sport, you must excel in the classroom.
We need to occasionally be reminded why our priorities and efforts must all be channeled to help these young people achieve their goals and have the full Michigan experience. It is what we do and why we work so hard.
On Friday, these three student-athletes put a face on the term "student-athlete."
They talked about the speed of their game, their intensity level, their frustrations and their experiences. And, they talked about their love for Ann Arbor and the life-long bond they have created with their teammates.
They told us about learning to understand time management, achieving goals, taking on leadership positions and the support they received from their teammates, coaches, fellow student-athletes and our department. And through the presentations and the Q&A, they told us what Michigan means to them.
They said it's not just lip service.
In response to a question, we heard about how a Michigan Man or Woman is someone that will take the high road; it is someone people look up to.
And as Zack said, "... When you see a Michigan Man, you want them to say, that's what I want to be ... and there is a responsibility that comes with along with that, too."
We learned how close our student-athletes are in all of our 29 sports, the support they give to each other at the various sporting events, how they socialize at the Stephen Ross Academic Center, and how they just hang out and enjoy one another.
What was great for our team is they found out how much these student-athletes appreciate the efforts of all those who work in the athletic department. They understand there are hard-working people behind the scenes allowing them to have a better chance for success in competition, in the classroom and in their chosen careers.
Courtney, Luke and Zack didn't just talk about themselves and their teams; they thanked everyone in that room for preparing them to be successful in life.
The informational aspect of the meeting started after Courtney, Luke and Zack were excused. But it was the impact our student-athletes had on our department that made this meeting special. It showed our departmental team that our student-athletes care and appreciate their work and effort.
After listening to Courtney, Luke and Zack, the department knows everyone is on board as we continue to execute the Michigan Athletics game plan -- as we "relentlessly strive to make Michigan Athletics the Leaders and Best in every way."
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