Generally speaking, athletics in America is growing to an unprecedented level. It’s popularity is causing budgets to rise and staffs to grow. New positions which were unheard of until recent years are also becoming more common.
Stacey Torman, MSCC, sees this trend as an opportunity for the staff to provide an “umbrella of student well-being” for student-athletes. Torman admires the way programs like the University of Louisville and University of Missouri set an example for how athletes should guided.
Under Torman’s guidance, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is following suit. Its staff has several coaches employed to care for for students in new and interesting ways.
UAB’s education coordinator, sports science coordinator, and performance and wellness coordinator comprise just a few examples of the focus the university has placed on putting student well-being first.
“It’s our job to make sure when our student-athletes leave the university, they aren’t just better athletes, they are better people,” Torman says. “Our staff is set up to ensure they are mentally healthy and have had a positive experience.”
The only way to prioritize the well-being of an athlete is with a common cause. After all, what good is an umbrella with holes? But the coaching staff – across the board – will face severe obstacles if the only thing that matters to them is winning.
“The coaches want their athletes on the field, they want them on the ice, they want them in the pool,” Torman says. “It makes it difficult to set a complete standard.”
Torman understands the pressures coaches face in a results-driven culture, but she believes putting student-athletes first is a recipe for success for the coaches as well as the players. Nearly all coaches who consistently win also believe this. Coach the person first and the winning will come.
One of the issues that illustrates Torman’s point is the return-to-play protocol at UAB. Although it is sometimes difficult to convince coaches who need their best athletes back on the field as soon as possible to go through the protocol, Torman says the result will be healthier, more successful teams in the long term. It also underscores the health of the individual.
The long process of changing athletic culture to a mindset of not just coexistence or cooperation, but collaboration, is the difference between getting along and building something great. Strength and conditioning coaches must play a critical role in this dynamic.
This article was written by Adam Reed, managing editor of CSCCa Magazine and CSCCa Monthly.
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