Student-Development Staff "Learns The Game"

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM Senior Associate AD for Academic Support took a shot on goal during the recent Student Development Advance.
Senior Associate AD for Academic Support took a shot on goal during the recent Student Development Advance.
Aug. 5, 2014

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OXFORD, Miss. – The Ole Miss Student Development staff put a twist on the conventional retreat and recently took to the same courts, fields and ranges as their student-athletes to get a feel of what the student-athletes do on a daily basis. In keeping with athletic director Ross Bjork’s idea of advances to further things, as opposed to retreats, which look backwards, the student-development staff “advanced” things by learning a few valuable lessons through sports.

The Student-Development team, which consists of staff members from the FedEx Student-Athlete Success Center comprising both the academic and life skills areas, took “lessons” in several sports throughout the day.  Staffers learned how to play defense from the Ole Miss men’s basketball staff, took lessons in striking a soccer ball from the women’s soccer staff, learned the ins and outs of rifle from the rifle coaches and perfected their putting with the women’s golf staff.

The team closed the day with a trip to Memphis to visit with the think tank at FedEx Inspire@Emerge who shared some of their thoughts and philosophies on human resources practices as well as culture and collaboration.

Senior Associate AD for Academic Support Derek Cowherd, who came up with the unique day of professional development, looked at the advance as a way for the student-athlete development team a way to gain perspective on their student-athletes while also applying some of those lessons and ideas to the way that they work with the Ole Miss student athletes.

“I want to personally thank the FedEx professionals (Dottie, Greg, Gabe and Donna) who took us through some live scenarios at FedEx Inspire@Emerge and the coaches who gave of their time to run us through some of their most basic drills,” said Cowherd. “This experience provided our staff a much needed reminder of why it takes a special person to compete at the highest levels of competition in the SEC as well as the ultra-competitive classroom environment at Ole Miss.”

Executive Associate AD Lynnette Johnson joined the group for the session at FedEx in Memphis and enjoyed the collaborative spirit of the group.

“The opportunity to spend the afternoon with our academic and student development staff and watch their collaboration was a great experience,” said Johnson. “They are working tirelessly to make their unit and services for our student-athletes the best in country.  I look forward to seeing what they help our student-athletes accomplish in the coming years.”

The experience also gave newly-hired Assistant AD of Student Development Jennifer Saxon a chance to see more of the inner workings of the Ole Miss Student Development team.

“The student development advance was a great opportunity for the staff to get together and interact with coaches and other staff members to find out what it’s like to be a student athlete for a day and how those lessons translate into what we do when we’re with them,” said Saxon. “It was also great to spend some time with the FedEx team and learn about some of their hiring practices and team work. All of those are transferable skills that we can teach our student athletes moving forward.”

Saxon wasn’t alone in her thoughts on the day of teambuilding as many members of the academic team echoed her sentiments.

Academic counselor, Angela Mirabito, who works with the football and volleyball student athletes, thought the day was a great inspiration as we head into the fall semester.

“It was a perfect day of fun, bonding, improving, and great food,” said Mirabito. “We are now inspired to best support our student-athletes through collaborative efforts, new ideas, and lessons learned throughout the advance. I think the fall 2014 semester will be our best yet!” 

Sheila Padgett, who works with the Rebel baseball and softball student athletes, thought it was quite beneficial to get the group in a different setting.

“It was great getting to see everyone in a different setting,” said Padgett. “Although we may have been out of our comfort zones in some situations, it was nice to know everyone was there supporting each other with words of encouragement.  It was a great event.”

Maulies Pettaway, who works with the football and rifle programs, thought the interaction between the staff was a valuable experience.

“It was a great learning experience, said Pettaway. “I loved the interaction with the entire staff doing something outside of the norm. It was a great for us and will be very beneficial for our students.”

Head rifle coach Valerie Boothe, was thrilled to be participating in such a unique event.

“We had a great time sharing our sport,” said Boothe. It’s always nice to get an audience interested in learning the sport of rifle. They asked some great questions and I’m glad we had the opportunity to increase our fan base.” 

Justin Light, who works with football and men’s golf thought the inside look at what the student-athletes do on a regular basis was eye opening.

“It was a good bonding experience for the staff and it gave us a chance to experience a very small piece of what our student-athletes go through on a daily basis,” said Light. “It is not easy to break down film or learn a new skill on the court or field and then be asked to go write a big paper or study for an exam afterward. Most people probably never look at it in that point-of-view, but it takes a talented individual to be successful.”

As the University and the Ole Miss Athletic Department gear up for the start of the school year, you can be sure the student development team will take its lessons learned on the field to inspire and motivate Ole Miss student athletes to success.

Ole Miss Student Development Mission
The mission of Ole Miss’ Student Development program is to challenge student-athletes to be lifelong learners while pursuing continuous improvement academically, relationally, socially, personally, and professionally during and beyond their careers as student-athletes.

Student Development is the hub for a wide range of Ole Miss Athletics sponsored programs designed to meet the needs of student-athletes and their families. It is divided into six areas: Student-Athlete Assistance Services, Career Development, Continuing Education, Community Outreach, Financial Education and Career Transition.

Visit Student Development for more information on Ole Miss’ Student Development program. 

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