Sports Extra: Student-Athlete Development Program Proves Valuable in 2014-15

During the 2014-15 academic and athletic year, Wildcat student athletes kept busy with more than just their academics and sport.

Through K-State Athletics' Student-Athlete Development Program, student-athletes were given the opportunity to get into the community, grow as leaders and spend time having fun with their fellow Wildcats.

From the Career Cat Program where upperclassmen are given the opportunity to develop important professional skills to the new Student-Athlete Leadership Academy designed to help younger student-athletes in their journey to become team leaders, 2014-15 was filled to the brim with opportunity for each and every Wildcat.

"The 2014-15 school year was arguably our best year from a student-athlete development standpoint," said Cori Pinkett, Director of Student-Athlete Development. "Not only did we have consistent attendance at our events, but our participation numbers increased for service to the community, we implemented year-round career development programming and celebrated the inaugural year of the Student-Athlete Leadership Academy."

The Leadership Academy is a program designed specifically by Pinkett and K-State Director of Sport Psychology Ian Connole for student-athletes who were carefully selected by their coaches because of their leadership potential. This year's group was made up of 32 Wildcats who, throughout the course of the year, worked hard together to grow their individual leadership skills.

"I learned how to related things to others, how to use my strengths to help my team, and what other team leaders go through," said baseball sophomore Clayton Dalrymple. "It was fun to meet with and get to know leaders from every team here at K-State. There was a lot that I took away from it; it was a blessing to be a part of."

Along with the opportunity to grow personally through the Student-Athlete Development programs, student-athletes also spent time giving back. In 2014-2015, over 300 student-athletes participated in over 1,900 hours of community outreach. From reading to students in elementary schools to collecting canned goods for the Flint Hills Breadbasket to hosting their very own Special Olympics Clinic, the Wildcats stepped up and got involved in the community.

"It shows that K-State cares," said football junior Dante Barnett about the numerous opportunities to volunteer K-State Athletics offers. "We emphasize family all the time and it is one of the reasons we can say K-State has a great family. Any time you can go out and get involved in the community, it's just great."

This year K-State student-athletes bought and wrapped presents for families in need during the holiday season, they wrote letters to deployed soldiers, and they hosted the annual Tipoff for TP at a men's and women's basketball game to gather needed products for the Manhattan Emergency Shelter.

"We're given so much as student-athletes," said equestrian junior Nicholle Hatton. "We're given the opportunity to practice, travel and ride, so it's really cool to be able to give back to this community. They're the ones we do it for. We ultimately do it for the fans because it's great to see the fans come and support us. To know that we're able to give back to them and make that difference, that's been great."

A majority of the community outreach opportunities were planned and brought to life because of the team leaders involved in the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) - an elite leadership group that serves as a connection between teams, administration and the K-State community.

"SAAC was also impressive this year due largely in part to its restructuring," explained Pinkett. "SAAC was more invested this year, and, as a result, they facilitated and executed some great events such as Cats for Cans, which raised just under $11,000 and 5,000 pounds of food for the Flint Hills Breadbasket."

Along with SAAC's success with Cats for Cans, it also proved successful with Tipoff for TP, as it raised nearly $2,000 and collected 1,200 products for the Manhattan Emergency Shelter, and with the Special Olympics Clinic, where 100 Special Olympians from Northeastern Kansas showed up to spend the day with the 115 student-athlete volunteers.

Overall, 2014-15 was a success. Along with programs offering help to further grow student-athletes personally and professionally, the Student-Athlete Development Program also offered guest speakers, mentor programs and, as the year came to an end, celebrated together at the annual Powercat Choice Awards.

"Thanks to the buy-in from our students and coaches, we had great success throughout the year and it was great to see participation across the board," said Pinkett.

With an effective year in the review mirror, the K-State Student-Athlete Development Program is now looking forward to another exciting year filled with events and opportunity for student-athletes to grow in 2015-16.

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