When Mike West, head women’s basketball coach, returned from the NCAA Division II (D-II) Identity Workshop last summer, one of the things he brought back to campus was the opportunity for Chestnut Hill to participate in the NCAA D-II Campus Retreat Program.
Each year, NCAA D-II gives away 10 of these retreats to colleges and universities, allowing them to customize their retreat based on the school’s needs. Thanks to West and Lynn Tubman, director of athletics, the College was chosen for the program. In early November, the retreat team arrived on campus to, in the words of NCAA representative, Jill Willson, “Bring the party.”
“Our goal is to help schools like Chestnut Hill put together a retreat program and share resources that we as Division II have to offer as well as collect experiences and best practices that we can share with other schools,” says Willson.
One of these best practices comes from Jean Faustman, SSJ, CHC’s Faculty Athletic Representative (FAR). Prior to every game, each team gets an email wishing them luck and then again, after every game, they get another one, congratulating them on a win or telling them how well they represented the College and how proud the community was, even after a loss.
“I’ve never heard another FAR do that. I love that,” says Willson. “I’m definitely going to brag about her.”
The retreat opened with a tailgate in the Piazza, welcoming students, faculty and staff to meet the NCAA representatives and enjoy a burger before the women’s volleyball game, a 3-1 win over Wilmington University. The retreat programs began the next day, and touched on numerous topics related to NCAA D-II athletics including scholarships, student-athlete retention and graduation, recruiting, student activities, creating a quality game environment and the NCAA D-II model, which urges student-athletes to “Make It Yours.” While the event was a certainly a huge undertaking and involved the collaborative effort of athletics, admissions, student life, campus ministry and more, the impact on the campus community was immeasurable.
“The NCAA Retreat was a great opportunity to engage not only our student-athletes, but our campus community as a whole,” West says. “Jill Willson’s energy and passion for the D-II model was infectious and impacted everyone she encountered. Personally, I approached the event with an open mind, absorbing all the information I could from the presenters with the goal to transfer that to coaching and my day-to-day work in the athletics department.”
One of the most important aspects of the retreat was the one-on-one student attention that the athletes had with the NCAA representatives. In addition to the programs run for the athletes, including one on social media, Willson and her staff took time to have lunch with the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) board and get to know the student behind the athlete. Willson also encouraged SAAC and the other athletes to be cognizant of the rest of the student body and to be leaders in finding ways to improve communication and the overall relationship between athletes and non-athletes on campus.
As senior president of SAAC, this was something Andrew Hildebrand found especially impactful.
“I have seen great strides made since my freshman year to improve relations between student-athletes and non-athletes, and with SAAC and the Student Government Organization planning a meeting for the spring semester, communication between the two major student organizations will only improve,” says Hildebrand.
With all of the skills learned at the retreat, the entire College community has the tools required to be productive members not only on the field of play, but also as students and in the local community.
“To have Jill Willson and other representatives from our NCAA membership provide programming for the entire campus was invaluable,” says Tubman. “It reinforced the core values of collegiate athletics on our campus, while also providing ideas that will enhance our efforts to build a stronger community at CHC. It was truly an awesome three days!”
Read more about the retreat here.
— Marilee Gallagher ’14
— Rob Kirk, Athletic Communications Intern