Think back to your first year in college. Exciting. Stressful. Confusing. Fun. All rolled into one. The first-year student-athletes here at the UW face all of that with the added ingredients of practices, team meetings and competitions. Then throw in media obligations, community service involvement and academic commitments. It can all be a bit much.
That’s where the Life Skills Academy comes in.
UW Athletics has, for several years, had a program called CHAMPS (Challenging Athletes’ Minds for Personal Success), whose goal is to enhance the student-athlete experience through personal development initiatives. That might mean alcohol education or learning about nutrition or diversity training.
But CHAMPS is undergoing a transformation of sorts. The new Life Skills Academy, run by Bridget Warren (Director of Inclusion and Life Skills Programming) and Kelli Richards (Career Development Coordinator and Advisor), will provide more structure and organization to the CHAMPS initiatives.
“The CHAMPS program provided more or less random presentations and topics,” Warren said. “This is a way to make it more structured and for us to touch all the students because it is mandatory.”
The current CHAMPS program is set up so that each student-athlete is required to get involved in two initiatives per year. The Life Skills Academy will move from that model to a more comprehensive and more organized program.
Here’s how it will work …
There are about 200 first-year student-athletes here at UW. They will all be involved in six meetings throughout the 2008-09 school year. During each of those meetings, they will be put into smaller groups of 13-15, each with two upperclass peer leaders. The large group will hear from one or more speakers about a general topic (nutrition, for example). They will then break into their smaller groups for further, more in-depth discussion. The Monday evening meetings will last a total of about 1.5 hours.
Peer leaders are a key component to the Life Skills Academy. They will be upperclassmen who will facilitate the small group activities, serve as role models and provide expertise when appropriate. Peer leaders have, to a degree, “been there, done that,” so they can help guide the younger student-athletes in ways only another student-athlete could.
This year the program will center on first-year student-athletes only. Next year, it will involve the first-year-student athletes, along with this year’s group (who will be sophomores). Over time, the Life Skills Academy will become a four and/or five-year program.