Tag: NIU Intercollegiate Athletics

KNPE helps student-athletes prepare for mentoring positions at District 428’s Clinton Rosette

Paul Wright

Paul Wright

Ask an athlete to talk about a coach, Paul Wright says, and the stories will flow naturally.

Expect the anecdotes to overflow with loving examples of the positive and lasting effects of an additional, caring adult in a young person’s life. Their appreciation is genuine – and touching.

Consequently, athletes make good mentors.

“If they’ve been playing sports for a long time, they’ve developed a love for it and they have a passion for it,” says Wright, NIU’s EC Lane and MN Zimmerman Endowed Professor in Kinesiology and Physical Education.

“That also means they’ve had coaches or parents who’ve focused on them, developed them as individuals, supported them, picked them up when they were down,” Wright adds. “Relationships like that are at the heart of mentoring. It’s really an easy connection to make – or a slam dunk, to use a sports analogy.”

NIU’s world-class student-athletes are no exception, of course.

Several volunteer each year to mentor students at DeKalb’s Clinton Rosette Middle School through The Huskie Experience program of the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics’ Student-Athlete Academic Support Services.

“Our mission is to develop our student-athletes personally and professionally while engaging in the community and the campus community,” says Rachel Steward, an academic coordinator with SAASS. “I see a lot of tangible skills that our athletes are building. Time management is huge. Patience is a big one. Ultimately, though, I think they like the satisfaction of knowing that they’re making an impact on that next generation that really aspires to be like them.”

crms-signRobin Enders, a counselor at Clinton Rosette and the liaison between the school at NIU, says that her sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders receive wisdom and assistance on homework, arriving on time to class, locker organization, how to approach teachers with questions, the value of higher education and more.

Mentees are chosen through recommendations from parents or teacher, Enders says; sometimes the students ask on their own if they’ve had mentors before or see friends with mentors. If she sees that the Huskie athletes are early in their education, she pairs them with younger children to extend the length of the relationship.

“It’s become a part of the fabric of our school,” Enders says.

“Parents appreciate the opportunity to have another caring adult in their children’s lives,” she adds. “For the NIU student-athletes – and I’ve served as references for them – it’s also been very beneficial. They see that what you put into something is what you get out of it.”

Wright saw another opportunity.

He enjoys a long relationship with Clinton Rosette, where he ran an after-school program focused on youth development and social change through sport. He also frequently connects with staff at Huskie Athletics, who appreciate his 20-year scholarly focus on youth development and social change through sport.

“The Huskie Experience is a great concept; it serves the mission of Athletics to develop their athletes and their social responsibility, and there’s an obvious benefit to the Clinton Rosette kids,” Wright says.

huskie-flag“But Athletics didn’t have a structured approach on the philosophy of mentoring or the best practices to share with their athletes. This is where I was able to offer my support,” he adds. “I talked with Melissa Dawson, the director of SAASS, and she was open to it. She said, ‘We would love to get your insights and recommendations. We built this thing, but how do we improve it?’ ”

Wright created an orientation program to prepare the athletes in “what mentoring is; the do’s and don’ts; the youth development; how to build relationships with kids.” His third annual presentation took place Sept. 11 at Anderson Hall, home of the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education.

Meanwhile, the professor hopes to evaluate the program through data collection and analysis. He encourages graduate students in his KNPE 596: Sport-based Youth Development course to assess the Clinton Rosette program for their class projects, independent studies or theses.

His students attended and observed the Sept. 11 orientation for a close-up look at how mentoring promotes the development of middle-schoolers and college students alike as well as for how to grow and improve such programs.

“It’s an all-around win,” Wright says. “Collaboration creates opportunities.”

Steward and Enders agree.

“NIU is obviously a main focus in the DeKalb community, and I believe that the more we can engage with the community is a benefit for both sides,” Steward says.

“Our student-athletes continually work with youth through camps, clinics and those type of experiences, and they yearn to get more of that on a consistent basis during the school year,” she adds. “For others, it’s leaving their mark on the DeKalb community. When they spend four or five years here, DeKalb is giving a lot to them, and they want to give back.”

Rachel Steward

Rachel Steward

Middle school students offer a perfect avenue: When the Huskies encounter adolescents who “might be hard to get to know,” Steward says, the athletes “keep pulling back the layers” until they uncover something that yields the reward of a breakthrough moment.

“For us, it might be the smallest thing, but for that kid to open up in that way is huge,” she says. “Just to see the relationships evolve over the years is pretty remarkable. Middle-schoolers might not necessarily say that they really enjoy the time they have with their mentors, but secretly on the inside, they do – and the more our student-athletes see that, the better.”

Staff at Clinton Rosette, meanwhile, love to see the smiles on children blessed with mentors.

“It’s just another positive person, like an older brother or sister, someone who reinforces the message of how important school is,” Enders says.

“Whenever I talk to them, they’re usually very excited,” she adds. “They’ll say if they did an art project with their mentor, or if they played a game of basketball. They’ll say, ‘Look what we did!’ and ‘We had so much fun – when’s my mentor coming again?’ It’s really a fun thing to see the kids get so excited.”



McEvoy, Frazier set to co-teach KNPE course in college athletics

trackOne is the chair of his academic department, a respected professional in his field and an active consultant to the industry.

The other is the tremendously successful director of Intercollegiate Athletics at a Division I, Football Bowl Subdivision university that has scored several conference championships in recent years.

Both are co-teaching a course this fall in the College of Education, providing students with a real-world, from-the-trenches, theory-meets-practice view of the business side of college athletics – and what these two have lived could fill more than any textbook.

Sean T. Frazier, associate vice president and director of NIU Intercollegiate Athletics, and Chad McEvoy, chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, will team up to teach LESM 341: Administration of Intercollegiate Athletics.

“How many students can say that they have had a leading industry practitioner and a leading scholar involved in teaching their class?” says McEvoy, who previously worked in the “front offices” for the Iowa State Cyclones and the Western Michigan Broncos.

“I’m excited about that kind of dynamic classroom environment. I’ve wanted to carve out some time from my schedule to contribute to our teaching mission, and I have some background in college athletics,” he adds. “I reached out to Sean because I thought it would be an interesting way to deliver this class. We can rely on his wealth of experience and expertise.”

Sean T. Frazier

Sean T. Frazier

Frazier was game.

“This is a course,” Frazier says, “that fits right up the alley for potential sports administrators, and especially those individuals who want to know more about the collegiate side of things, from the standpoint of a practitioner who runs a FBS-Division I program. We have one of those programs here – and it makes sense that myself, our coaches and our student-athletes help out.”

Introduced last semester, the LESM 341 course introduces students to contemporary and important issues in intercollegiate athletics.

Among them: philosophies of athletics, the place of athletics in the educational curriculum, the relationship between men’s and women’s programs, budgeting, facilities, equipment, personnel, event operations management, fundraising, public relations, governance, compliance as well as other legal matters.

Guest speakers, including many of Frazier’s senior staff, department heads and coaches, and tours of athletics facilities pump up the syllabus.

“Students are really going to get the best of understanding the theory and research as well as the cutting-edge, industry best practices,” McEvoy says. “We have 20 students, a fairly small group that will promote lots of discussion and good engagement.”

Frazier expects those classroom conversations will include plenty of questions, from how he negotiates coaching contacts and multimedia rights to how he got his start and what he would count as his greatest moment.

Chad McEvoy

Chad McEvoy

NIU’s A.D. has taught before – courses in higher education leadership, policy and analysis, sometimes with a sport management component – during his stops at the University of Maine, the University of Wisconsin and Merrimack College.

He now finds himself eager to return to that vocation, even if for just one hour a week.

“When Chad brought this to me, it was something of a no-brainer for me. To sit in a classroom and facilitate a conversation about topics students are reading about is a passion of mine,” Frazier says.

Calling himself “not an old, but a seasoned administrator,” he believes the KNPE class will offer an exclusive peek inside college athletics operations: “This is what it took to get to Game Day, this is how it continues to evolve during Game Day, and this is what happens after Game Day.”

Some students might realize their career paths lies elsewhere, he adds, but others are equally as likely to grow even hungrier to follow his footsteps. Frazier knows he would have had he been provided a similar opportunity during his undergraduate days at the University of Alabama.

“Had I someone who was a sitting A.D. at any level come in and say, ‘You could do this. This could be an opportunity for you,’ I probably would’ve gotten into this earlier rather than stumbling backward into it,” says Frazier, who worked in health care and earned a master’s degree in social work to help people with substance abuse issues or developmental disabilities.

victor-e-huskieMcEvoy and Frazier are eager themselves to become students – of each other.

“I’m looking forward to understanding more about how Sean leads NIU Athletics,” McEvoy says, “and how some of the things we would pull out of a textbook, out of research or out of industry publications actually impacts NIU and other athletics departments on a daily basis.”

“Chad is a fascinating guy. I’ve learned a lot from him during our interactions,” Frazier adds. “I want to see how he articulates, communicates and runs a classroom of young people. In the future, that’s going to be something I want to pursue more. Sitting in the chair as A.D. is a passion but probably not a lifelong thing. I want to impart knowledge to the next generation.”