In my student affairs career I have been lucky to work with a diverse population of students. My career began working as an Academic Coordinator for Division 1 Athletic teams competing at the highest of levels while managing a full time load of coursework. Engaging student-athletes in both the athletic and academic sides of their responsibilities often required creative thinking when it came to difficult conversations. As such, I began to learn the benefits of metaphoric thinking between sports and academics.
When I was growing up, my father used the phrase often, “Even Tiger Woods had a swing coach” when I was resistant to utilizing help or considered my method the best way. The well-timed reminder that the world’s best golf player needed someone to provide him coaching and support in a sense gave me permission to ask for, and receive help, and loosed up any fears I had about being perceived as weak. I have called upon this metaphor from my father many times during my own journey, but it was not until faced with a student in my office who was uncertain about being a member of our success coaching cohort, did I begin to realize this important parallel in student affairs and the useful of sports metaphors in not only developing rapport but promoting change.
What parallels can we make between culture or sports that may provide excellent developmental examples for our students? I’ve often called mid-semester grades or midterm meetings between advisors and students a “half time” chat, drawing upon the idea that at halftime sports teams re-group, discuss what is going well and what may need to be tweaked in order to get the desired result. In doing so, I have normalized and given students a point of reference for the purpose of our meeting. I’ve called upon sports again when working with students who are struggling with developing an action plan to reach a long term goal by referencing the idea that one cannot run a marathon overnight just because they plan to “try harder.”
If we must seek to meet students where they are, what other parallels can we help students draw between their academic life and the life they are engaged with outside of school to increase motivation? What unique resources may our students carry with them in conversations that can easily be alluded to as we seek to reach them developmentally and holistically in conversation?
> BONUS <
Podcast With Sue Caulfield on “Suedles”, Creativity, & Learning Styles