West Texas A&M, Evolution Labs Add Tech to Promote Student Athlete College Success

Posted By Eliana Osborn on March 17, 2016 at 9:43 am
West Texas A&M, Evolution Labs Add Tech to Promote Student Athlete College Success

NCAA athletes have a college experience different from most students, whether they’re on the football team or gymnastics squad. A 2010 survey found division I football players spending more than 43 hours a week on athletics during the season. Even division II or III athletes, male and female, report around 30 hours a week on their sport.

They are also missing class sessions because of travel, ranging widely depending on level of play. In division III sports, the average is missing 5% of classes; in division I that grows to 15%. That means any program for athlete success needs to be available for students on the road, not just on campus.

No wonder then that schools across the country are trying different ways of helping student-athletes balance their commitments and still find success. And, that’s part of the draw for a new partnership between West Texas A&M University and Evolution Labs student-athlete interface SA360.

West Texas A&M University, Evolution Labs use tech for student athletes

West Texas A&M University has partnered with Evolution Labs to offer a digital platform for athletes to use to manage all aspects of their busy lives. SA360 combines tips for academic success with NCAA rule reminders, learning videos, and more. There are four areas of focus: Citizen, Athlete, Self, Student. Topics include community service, fan relationships, mental health, study skills, to name a few.

“SA360 will play a key role in our initiatives to equip student-athletes with skills and competencies essential for them to thrive inside and outside of the classroom,” says Michael McBroom, Director of Athletics at West Texas A&M. The move fits within a larger trend in college athletics that is increasingly realizing that these different sides of a student athlete’s life must be in balance for him or her to have a successful experience.

Time and life management skills key for student-athlete success

Time spent on academics is also high for these athletes, ranging from 30 to 45 hours a week on average across all sports in all divisions. In some sports, those hours are increasing since 2006. “Several sport groups reported a slight shift toward time spent on athletics when academics and athletics were viewed as competing time commitments,” particularly among basketball players.

A lot of what the public hears about college athletes isn’t positive. Run-ins with police, cheating scandals, issues with eligibility and money, and worries about injuries capture much of the media attention. Though, few recognize the pressure and work load of getting an education and competing in a sport at a high level. SA360 provides support for today and the future—including things like career planning. Other schools using the system include Brigham Young University in division I and Montclair State University in division III.

Atlantic 10, Big 12 Conferences focus on graduating, community service and economic support for student athletes

The Atlantic 10 Conference focuses a lot on getting student-athletes involved with their communities. Keeping perspective about things that may be more important than sports can help students stay grounded and focused on the big picture. There’s the student-run soup kitchen in Virginia, Read Across America projects in elementary schools, and even individual support for chronically ill young people.  The Student Athletic Advisory Committee features someone from each campus, coming together to share community ideas.  The focus—of being an ambassador for your college—is an important one. The A-10 has gone so far as to make community service competitive across different sports and schools, adding a bragging rights incentive to programs.

The Big Twelve Conference announced initiatives to protect student athletes so they can complete their full college education. Starting in 2015, athletic scholarships will cover the full costs of attendance rather than just tuition and fees. Those who leave without graduating will have opportunities to return as well. These moves are in response to charges that the NCAA takes advantage of student-athletes, earning money from their performance while not paying them. They may be small steps but these bylaw changes are a help in making sure student athletes are able to progress toward a degree.

Today’s colleges and universities are better understanding their responsibilities to their student athletes. Treating sports like a job, especially for students on scholarships, makes sense. The additional travel demands and year-round training, not just during the season, mean these students need additional support and advisement. Add in the attention these athletes are given from staff and fellow students, and it is clear they can use whatever help is available. Integrated digital solutions like Evolution Lab’s SA360 may be one strategy to build up these young people during their college careers.

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate English professor at Arizona Western College, with degrees from Brigham Young University and Northern Arizona University. She’s published widely in forums such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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