Dr. Karen Kassebaum
With 10 years of experience in higher education at a Division I institution as a Director of Recruitment, and as a doctoral candidate at the University of Nebraska in Educational Administration with an emphasis in diversity and student athlete leadership, I have all too often witnessed the transitional challenges that many first generation, international, and transfer student-athletes experience.
Several coaches have commented that mentoring just happens and “our seniors will lead and take care of our young guys”. My position in a bystander role fueled me to take a closer look at the transition experiences of all incoming students-athletes and to create curriculum and assessments tools that would demonstrate whether incoming student-athletes’ transition needs we’re indeed being met.
I contacted every Division I Big Ten institution to inquire whether mentoring services and or mentor training related to transition services were offered to their student-athletes. I discovered that most Division I institutions do indeed have mentoring programs, but the majority of them only focus on specific groups of student-athletes. Two examples include only mentoring honor student athletes and racially diverse student-athletes. Most, also offer tutoring, media training, career planning & development, life skills programming, academic mentoring, strength & conditioning, athletic medicine & physical therapy, sports psychology & mental health counseling, sports nutrition, chiropractic medicine, and massage therapy.
These responses formed the initial impetus for Athlete2Athlete, a unique, comprehensive initiative aimed specifically to address transition experiences. After securing an internship with the University of Nebraska Track & Field/Cross Country teams, Coach Matt Martin, Da’Nelle Earl, and coach Kris Grimes (at Texas A&M) gave me the opportunity to pilot my mentorship training and leadership development program, now known as Athlete2Athlete, with their Life Skills leaders.