Edie Markman Photography
Edie Markman Photography

Bridging The Gap

Holy Cross Athletics   10-10-2016

By Jackie Hart
Special to GoHolyCross.com

The term student-athlete is one that’s heard a lot around the Holy Cross campus, as student-athletes make up one fourth of the student body. However, the challenge of balancing both of these titles is one that is sometimes overlooked by coaches and faculty members. In typical Holy Cross fashion to “ask more,” the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee hosted an event on Oct. 6 in the Hogan Ballroom where SAAC representatives invited their coaches and faculty members to join them for a meaningful discussion.

As assistant director of athletics for student-athlete development Armani Dawkins said at the beginning of the event, the purpose was to “foster greater communication and understanding between student-athletes and professors.” This event certainly seemed to exceed these goals, as students, coaches and professors from all different sports and departments gathered around tables with discussion prompts ranging from questions of “How can athletic staff members, coaches, and faculty more fully engage one another to help our student-athletes achieve success?” to “What would make academics and athletics a winning partnership?”

Photo Gallery (By Edie Markman)

Goals for the event were varied amongst the attendees. “I was interested in facilitating very productive, really healthy relationships between student, coach and professor,” said professor Anne Blaschke of the history department. “I think our table was really able to accomplish a lot of that. It was nice to hear everyone’s point of view.”

Junior field hockey player and SAAC secretary Maureen Connolly was thrilled with the event. “I think this conversation was a good stepping stone to bridging the gap between students and their professors and I think conversations like this just get the ball rolling and are able to make more positive changes.”

Conversations at the table ranged from the difficulty of athletics schedules changing in the middle of the semester, to professors being a resource for their student-athletes. One thing Professor Blaschke emphasized was her efforts to be a mentor to her students, for all of their health, physical and mental needs, whether it was referring them to a counselor or suggesting they take a dance class to de-stress.

This was a sentiment head football coach Tom Gilmore echoed by saying that one of the reasons students come to Holy Cross is for the small class sizes and he and his coaches encourage their players to develop relationships with their professors.

Sophomore women’s soccer player Lily Puccia agreed with this statement. “Our coaches really enforce the idea of all of us making a point to introduce ourselves to our professors on the first day of class and letting them know that we are on the soccer team. It was nice to hear how appreciated that was to my professors. The effort we make goes a long way and doing the little things, such as stopping by during office hours, is not something that goes unnoticed.”

Bridging the gap was a common theme throughout the event, being able to connect different parties who don’t normally have the ability to talk about these issues in the classroom or on the field. Similarly, sophomore football player Jack McCabe felt this conversation was necessary in helping students and professors see the perspective from the other side. “My goal coming into today was opening up conversations between young student-athletes and professors, and building a bridge to bind the two communities on this campus. It is good for professors to understand everything student-athletes go through, but also for us to understand the expectations of a student here at Holy Cross.” Connolly agreed. “The professors had a lot of good insight of what they expect out of a student-athlete so hearing them made me think how I can make their lives easier.”

The event was certainly a learning experience for everyone involved. “I learned a couple of things that have given me a different perspective on the situation that student-athletes are in,” said religious studies professor Virginia Ryan. “I never knew that coaches could not reach out to faculty members. I learned that today and I wish I had known that before.”

Professor Blaschke emphasized this point. “The conversation enlightened me to the way that student-athletes’ schedules shift over the course of any given semester. That made me realize that as my own workload on students increases, it is probably coinciding with the way the coaches feel in doing that too, and the ones in the middle of that are the student-athletes.”

Being that middle person is a role senior cross country captain and SAAC president G.Matthew Greco said student-athletes should embrace. “I realize that the professors actually want to get to know us. They want to be invited to games or discussions. Even though sometimes they may say no, inviting them really means a lot and you’re making an effort for them to get to know you on a better level.”

This event definitely opened many doors and sparked conversations that will continue around campus and transform the student-athlete to professor to coach dynamic. Professor Ryan hopes events like this will take place again. “I definitely would like to see more conversations like this, and I think the more conversations we have the more people will feel that they can actually talk about the stresses they have as athletes. I think student-athletes experience it, but I don't think they always feel comfortable talking about that.”

Greco knows this conversation is the first of many. “I think these events are very constructive and it would be great each time we can get new faculty to attend. Maybe it is good to have faculty that don’t follow athletics to attend so we can start to come to a better understanding of each other and become more transparent.” This transparency, is the first step to bridging the gap and rising together.

Go here to learn more about the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee

To support amazing student-athletes, please consider making a gift to the Crusader Athletics Fund by going here. 

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