By Carmen O’Callaghan
This blog post was organized in collaboration with the Advising CoP within CACUSS and the NACADA Canada Advising Community
The notion of providing academic advising support for special populations has been around for many years. Students have been divided by program, by year of study, by whether they are at-risk or high achieving in an effort to provide the best services possible. Many universities offer services specific to international students, indigenous students, LGTBQ students and students with accessibility concerns – so why should the student-athlete special population be different? The answer is, that according to the research, they probably shouldn’t be and constitute their own special population.
What constitutes effective advising for “special” populations does not differ markedly from effective advising practices for all students (Strommer, 1995, p 28), but that often resources are not available to provide the services to traditional students that are recommended for special populations. In his research on issues in advising student-athletes and whether they constitute a special population, Gordon (1986) states that:
Academic advisors working with student-athletes need to be aware of the special characteristics they bring to the advising relationship and the critical issues affecting the advising process. Four of these issues and their implications for advising include:
- the relationship between athletic participation and the academic performance;
- individual differences among student-athletes;
- the possible conflict in the roles of the student and athlete; and,
- the debate over the need for special programs for student athletes. (p 81)
Gruber (2003) takes the considerations of rules governing student-athletes a step further, and provides a list of questions that advisors should ask during initial meetings with student-athletes to facilitate a more effective advising relationship:
- What are the participation expectations of these students?
- How do these expectations differ from out of-season expectations?
- What are the practice times, and how do these affect class schedules?
- What training outside of practice (e.g., weights, running, etc.) is expected, and are these workouts to be conducted at nonscheduled times?
- How many home and away games are scheduled during the season or year?
- What kind of time and travel commitments must the student make, and how do these affect the student’s ability to attend classes?
- Does the institution have a policy that allows for students who represent the school in an official capacity to be given make-up exams?
- Do particular academic majors require exhaustive time commitments from students and conflict with their commitments as student athletes?
- What are the eligibility rules for participation (conference/NCAA [U Sports])?
- How is full-time status and normal progress defined?
- What institutional support services are available to the student athlete based on his or her time constraints and commitments?
- Does the institution offer academic support services specifically for student athletes? If they do, what are their mission and scope? What services are provided? What is their formal and informal relationship to the advising office? (p 48)
Developing academic goals, determining academic strengths and weaknesses, and envisioning potential career options are all areas in which the advisor may be quite helpful to the athlete (Gruber, 2003, p 47).
Strommer (1995) states that what constitutes effective advising for “special” populations does not differ markedly from effective advising practices for all students (p 28), but that often resources are not available to provide the services to traditional students that are recommended for special populations. Strommer (1995) also notes that:
Advising special populations of students calls for structure and intrusiveness, contact with individuals, or, preferably, small groups made routine by weekly, biweekly, or monthly meetings. Encounters should not be left to chance or the demands of registration. Advisers and advisees need to plan the content of these advising sessions and need to develop precise goals and tasks to achieve them to meet the students’ needs at particular times in the undergraduate years. (p 28)
Advisors can champion collaboration among campus support departments and initiatives, to ensure that student-athletes have the necessary resources given their time limitations outside of their athletic commitments (Rubin, 2015). Having advisors with the knowledge and understanding of student-athlete specific issues and the desire to facilitate communication between faculty, campus support departments and the team managing athletics can only help to lessen the pressures felt by student-athletes as they complete their university degrees while competing on a national stage for their institution.
Gordon, R. L. (1986). Issues in Advising Student-Athletes. NACADA Journal, 6 (1), 81-86.
Gruber, C. A. (2003). What Every Academic Advisor Should Know About Advising Student Athletes. NACADA Journal, 23(1-2), 44-49.
Rubin, L.M., (2015). Advising student athletes. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources, http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View- Articles/Advising-Student-Athletes.aspx
Strommer, D. W. (1995). Advising special populations of students. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 1995: 25-34.