Life Skills Program A Huge Success
Student-athletes learn more than what’s offered in the classroom.
Jan. 19, 2000
by Alan Wasielewski
What started out as vision has turned into areality that has exceeded everyone’s expectations. TheNotre Dame Life Skills Program, in its third year of existence, wasdeveloped by the Department of Athletics to provide student-athletes withthe necessary support to obtain their potential in five areas: academics,athletics, career development, community service and personal development.So far, the program has done all that and much more as it enters the nextphase of development.
The program puts emphasis on supplementing a Notre Dame educationand providing the student-athlete with the necessary tools and skills tosucceed on the playing field as well as in the classroom, the community andthe workplace. Life Skills is not meant to replace existing studentservices on campus, instead it is an extension of the other programs at theUniversity. Student-athletes are referred, encouraged and expected toutilize campus support services whenever possible.
The focus of Life Skills is to put programs in place such asseminars, workshops and community service which comprise all five of thecomponents to the program. Within this framework, programs are implementedwhich support the mission of each component and give student-athletesdifferent opportunities for participation depending on their interests andneeds.
The most important of the five components is academics. Working inconjunction with the Office of Academic Services for Student-Athletes, theLife Skills Program assists student-athletes in their pursuit of academicgoals. Assistance is provided in identifying and meeting the academicchallenges of Notre Dame through workshops such as Maximizing AcademicPerformance and Time Management. An Academic Honors Program has beenestablished to identify and honor those student-athletes who haveexperienced high academic achievement. And for those students planning toattend graduate school, the program provides contacts with those who canassist in making the transition from undergraduate to graduate schoolsmoother.
Under the umbrella of the athletic component, the Life SkillsProgram covers such topics as performance enhancement, leadership,nutrition, agents, contracts and sportsmanship.
The career development component, which has received positivefeedback from the student-athletes, offers each semester a mentor dinnerwith Notre Dame alumni. This is but one of the ways in which individualslearn more about the professional work and develop key business contacts.It also gives the student-athlete exposure to the Notre Dame alumninetwork. In addition to the dinner, Life Skills also offers workshops onresume writing, interviewing and career placement. The office alsocompiles and distributes the Junior & Senior Student-Athlete Workbook,which features the resumes of junior and senior level students.
The terms “Notre Dame” and “community service” go hand-in-hand. Itis a natural progression for a majority of the students because of theirinclination to get involved in the community. The Life Skills Programbring together individual student athletes and entire teams with variousorganizations in the surrounding communities.
The personal development component of the Life Skills covers a widevariety of areas including personal health, financial planning, ethics,integrity, leadership, decision making and time management. Also, throughthe Life After Notre Dame Athletics series, discussions are held throughoutthe year to address the challenges of transitioning from college to career,and the realization of no longer participating in sports.
And recently, Life Skills has expanded to cyberspace. In October, anew Life Skills web site was launched at www.nd.edu/~skills/. It has becomethe best source for up-to-date information on the program and is alsodesigned as a possible start-up page for Notre Dame student-athletessurfing the web. Eric Guerra, the Assistant Coordinator of Life Skills whoplayed a large part in designing the site, knows it provides a great chanceto reach each student-athlete.
“It is an opportunity to stay in touch on a ‘hip’ level,” Guerrasaid. “The site allows a student to get a lot of things done.”The site contains a community calendar, NCAA and local news,weather information on cities athletes will travel to, information on whatis available to do during an athlete’s off-time, an opportunity tocommunicate with Guerra every day, and many other links, resources andinformation.
“I am really excited about the web site,” Guerra said. “I havereceived some positive feedback on it already. I want it to be more thanjust a life skills destination. It should be a resource that everystudent-athlete will want to use.”
The Life Skills Program also celebrated its annual Christmas partyon December 8, in the Monogram Room at the Joyce Center. The Christmasparty has grown into the largest function the program organizes during theyear.
“The feedback we have received from this years Christmas party isreally wonderful,” Guerra said. “We had over 200 student-athletes at theparty this year. It enabled us to really give each child and family theattention they deserved.”
The children invited to the party were from the pediatrics wing ofa local hospital. The high number of Notre Dame student-athletes at thefunction enabled a group of students to spend all their time with one childand their family.
“It was a great experience because an illness affects the entirefamily,” Guerra said. “Each student was able to dedicate all their time toone family and make their time with them all the more special.”The Life Skills program has grown since its inception in August of1996 and has developed a strong mission statement. It puts emphasis onsupplementing a Notre Dame education and providing the student-athlete withthe necessary tools and skills to succeed on the playing field, as well asin the classroom, the community and the workplace.
“Involvement in the program puts a new value on every-day life forthe student-athlete,” Guerra said. “It gives a student the opportunity tohelp someone else reach their goals. It also provides a new perspective,something that might be difficult to learn in a classroom.”