The newly implemented RISE program, established for all student-athletes, recently made its debut at Vassar. Founded by women’s soccer coach Corey Holton and women’s basketball coach Candice Brown, the program aims to provide knowledge and support to individuals in varying subjects, such as mental health, nutrition, leadership and life after Vassar.
In order to determine the facets that these individuals wanted to prioritize, Holton and Brown reached out to Vassar. “In the spring of 2016, we did a needs assessment survey with both student-athletes and staff. The results of which were used to guide the development of the RISE programming,” Holton said.
The primary portion of the program incorporated speaker Lynn Kachmarik, who gave a presentation on Sept. 18 highlighting the responsibilities and privileges of leadership to all of the members of each team at Vassar. Kachmarik was chosen out of three potential speakers to be included in Vassar’s new program. “After identifying the three speakers and researching their areas of expertise, a group of student-athletes as well as coaches were asked to weigh in and the majority were in favor of choosing Lynn,” Holton noted.
Throughout the session, students participated in activities that emphasized leadership roles, including those that incorporated manipulating the direction of a partner’s conversation, following small actions performed by a leader and competing in a group.
Many of the student-athletes learned that the definition of a teammate incorporates more than just athletic components. “If you’re someone’s teammate, rather than just a friend, you have a higher responsibility towards them,” freshman lacrosse player Grace Goodwin-Boyd said. “It’s in the best interest of the team and each individual for everyone to be looking out for one another.”
Kachmarik successfully accentuated this support system between players of a team both on and off the field. “I thought she was engaging and had a lot of useful information regarding leadership,” Holton conveyed about the speaker. “She helped our student-athletes see the importance of character traits, including resilience, grit and care.”
“The PowerPoint slides and dynamic activities that the student-athletes were asked to participate in helped the students to understand leadership development,” sophomore basketball player Stephen Palecki commented. “The main thing I took away from Lynn’s presentation is the importance of connecting with my teammates everyday in more meaningful ways. These lessons inspired me to try and become a better leader for the younger players on my team and to help my current team leaders to perform their job in the best way possible.”
Freshman attendance was mandatory at a subsequent portion of the RISE program, in which fabricated, but realistic, situations were conceived and students devised possible solutions. It underlined the role of teammates in detecting issues with other players on their team and getting the necessary help for those players. Individuals were asked to hold up yellow or red cards for each situation; yellow representing an issue that players thought they could personally help a friend with and red signifying a situation that would require seeking help elsewhere on campus. Discussion followed concerning why the chosen card was held up and resources were given for where an individual could receive that help.
Kachmarik described the available counseling services and response centers at Vassar to the student-athletes attending, some of whom may not know about these outlets. “Freshmen are most likely to be unaware of the resources that are on campus, and are also more likely to experience a situation they’ve never had to deal with before,” explained Goodwin-Boyd. “This meeting reinforced that there are several places on campus that are capable of providing support for any number of problems that one may have and it was helpful in distinguishing where one could go for different types of problems.”
While she elucidated the reason behind freshmen attending this portion of the program, her freshman teammate Adele MacEwen explained why this information benefits freshman athletes particularly. “Athletes are frequently under a lot of pressure between academics and sports. It’s essential to provide proper resources so that athletes have somewhere to go when their stress is no longer manageable. At some point or another, everyone needs help. It’s important to provide the resources early on, as well as make individuals aware of them.”
The RISE program is beneficial to students, not only in terms of leadership and mental health, but also in preparing students for life after Vassar. In RISE, student-athletes have the opportunity to turn in a draft of their resume to overseers, who will revise and return it with suggestions for improvement. “I think that an important aspect of being a student-athlete at Vassar is using the academic resources that we are so lucky to have here. I was able to get feedback on formatting norms and ways to convey my activities and achievements strongly,” sophomore soccer player Tyler Gilmore expressed.
With proficient help creating, modifying and formatting resumes, student-athletes are able to set themselves up for future success.
Between encouraging leadership and support between team members, identifying campus resources for dilemmas and setting students up for occupational achievement, RISE contributes to the success of student-athletes in all forms.