How is Human You? - By Katie Scanlon, Syracuse University
College athletics, especially in today’s environment, can feel all-consuming. From traditional elements of the profession such as scheduling, recruiting, travel logistics, fundraising, practice planning, and game day work to dealing with newer elements like the transfer portal, Name Image and Likeness, and conference realignment, the work truly never ends.
And in that list I just gave, one of the central elements of why many people got into coaching or college sports is completely missing: we want to positively impact the lives of young people through the sport we love. When we sit back to consider all that has shaped the students on our teams, we start to see a generation of students who truly need us to focus on them as whole individuals. One of my favorite questions to ask my students is, “How is human you?” In the whirlwind of our to-do lists, we can give in to the desire to check off boxes: I asked my student how their classes are going, gave them the feedback they need from last week’s game, told them what to consider for this weekend, and now I need to send them on their way so I can do these fifteen other things.
But is that really what our students need? When we ask how human them is doing, it can be fascinating to see what their answers are and we can start to see them for the whole human beings that they are. They may reveal things that you would never have thought of. The things that they share might be at the core of why they did what they did in the game last week or it might help you to better understand what they need to take care of (outside of athletics) so that they can focus on what you need them to do this week. If you know what those things are, you can likely point them in better directions for how to handle all they are dealing with.
By the time students come to college to play, their skills are already relatively elite. They may need to be honed a bit more, their speed and agility might need to be enhanced, or they may need some coaching on decision making in a game. But to really be the best athletes they can for you, they probably also need advice on life. They need help figuring out how to shut out the clutter of everything else coming at them and focus on one thing at a time. If we aren’t able to coach those human aspects of who they are, we will never truly get to coach the pure athlete because we will always be working with someone whose mind is in other places. So how are we also doing this with ourselves?
As we approach the mid-point of the fall semester on many college campuses, I challenge us all to take the time to evaluate how we are doing with this humanistic approach. Not just for our students, but for ourselves and our staff. Are we taking care of our families at the level we want to? Doing our jobs the way we want to? Engaging in self-care practices the way we should? If we are, great! If not, how do we adjust to better manage and balance all of these different components of our lives? Are there things we can let go of? We don’t have to wait for a set break in the calendar to make small adjustments. If we are not balancing and managing these things well ourselves, we likely won’t be the best coach we can be or the best model for our students. It’s possible that the most radical new coaching trick you can try is to just rest. Go a whole day without texting, emailing, or thinking about your team. Rest is part of the growth process. Take care of yourself.
So, coach, how is human you?
Katie Scanlon Bio
Katie is the Director of Academic Support in athletics at Syracuse University. She joined SU as an academic coordinator in 2011 after holding similar positions at the University of New Mexico and University of Dayton. She became the director in 2017. Katie was a student-athlete at Canisius College where she completed her bachelor’s degree in physical education. She went on to complete her master’s degree in Higher Education from the University of Dayton and her PhD in Higher Education from Syracuse University. When not supporting SU athletes on and off the field, she enjoys spending time with family, kayaking and hiking, doing home improvement projects and reading.