The Story of Athlete2Athlete
With 10 years of experience in higher education at a Division I institution as a Director of Recruitment, and as a doctoral candidate at the University of Nebraska in Educational Administration with a specialization in diversity and student athlete leadership, I have all too often witnessed the transitional challenges that many first generation, international, and transfer student-athletes experience.
Several coaches have commented that mentoring just happens and “our seniors will lead and take care of our young guys”. My position in a bystander role fueled me to take a closer look at the transition experiences of all incoming students-athletes and to create curriculum and assessments tools that would demonstrate whether incoming student-athletes’ transition needs we’re indeed being met.
I contacted every Division I Big Ten institution to inquire whether mentoring services and or mentor training related to transition services were offered to their student-athletes. I discovered that most Division I institutions do indeed have mentoring programs, but the majority of them only focus on specific groups of student-athletes. Two examples include only mentoring honor student athletes and racially diverse student-athletes. Most, also offer tutoring, media training, career planning & development, life skills programming, academic mentoring, strength & conditioning, athletic medicine & physical therapy, sports psychology & mental health counseling, sports nutrition, chiropractic medicine, and massage therapy.
These responses formed the initial impetus for Athlete2Athlete, a unique, comprehensive initiative aimed specifically to address transition experiences. After securing an internship with the University of Nebraska Track & Field/Cross Country teams, coach Matt Martin, Da’Nelle Earl, and coach Kris Grimes (at Texas A&M) gave me the opportunity to pilot my mentorship training and leadership development program, now known as Athlete2Athlete, with their Life Skills leaders.
Athlete2Athlete was then established. Importantly, the Athlete2Athlete mentorship and leadership development program provides a mentor (current student-athlete) to all incoming student athletes, which makes Athlete2Athlete one-of-a-kind.
With a background in curriculum and with extensive feedback from the University of Nebraska Track & Field /Cross Country Life Skills student-athletes and coaches on the transition challenges that they have encountered, I have developed a mentor training guide along with mentorship and leadership development assessment tools targeting student-athletes’ personal development needs.
The Nebraska Track & Field/Cross Country teams started with about 12 student-athlete mentors, growing to 22 the second year and 25 this year.
The University of Nebraska has roughly 150 Track & Field/Cross Country student-athletes. Every incoming Track & Field/Cross Country student-athlete is assigned a mentor for the entire year. Most relationships are continued after the first year and the incoming mentees are encouraged to pay it forward and apply to be a mentor for the next academic year.