Life preserver (noun)
- a floating device that is designed to save you from drowning
- a device (as a life jacket or life buoy) designed to save a person from drowning by providing buoyancy in water
Every Friday football recruits arrive on campus with their family members to visit campus, meet with current student-athletes, faculty members, athletic administrators, and the coaching staff. Each prospective student-athlete is on campus trying to decide whether our campus is the right “fit” for them as both a student and an athlete. These visits are begin with an introduction to the college and football program by the head coach. Following his impressively engaging talk, Coach introduces the football staff; myself included.
Each coach has a brief moment to describe themselves, their accolades, and their role at the college. When it’s my turn, I talk about my experiences as a former student-athlete, my history working in Athletic Academic Advising, and the ways in which I support our student-athletes as they navigate through their academic experiences at the college. Following my short introduction Coach always comments on how I am a “life preserver.” He candidly shares a story about one of our student-athletes who was deeply struggling with his purpose; he had little direction with his academic and career goals, was having difficulty finding belonging as a first-year student, and as Coach describes it, “he was drowning.” One day Coach walked this student down to my office and left his future in my hands.
That day was a turning point in this student’s life. When he left my office that day, he left with purpose, he left with direction, and most of all he left knowing that he was meant to be here on this campus and knew that he was supported through his academic and personal pursuits.
It’s strange to think of myself as a life preserver, but that’s exactly what I did that day for this particular student, and it’s what I continue to do every day of my career. It is what many Student Affairs professionals do on a daily basis. We save students from drowning in their figurative water. We provide support, guidance, and hope to our students. We see something in them which they do not see in themselves.
What fascinates me is that Coach, when describing what happened in my office that day, glorifies the situation. When in reality all I did was listen. I heard what this student was trying to say. I didn’t tell him what he should or shouldn’t do. He came up with his solutions on his own. I saw in him what he did not see in himself, and I empowered him to explore his academic, social, and personal desires and gave him a pathway to achievement.
In some ways I guess I am like a life preserver, providing buoyancy in the rough college waters.
Originally Published At The Life of a Student-Athlete Development Professional