University of Louisiana Athletic Department takes a holistic approach to student-athlete (and staff) development

By Mim Haigh, Sports Writer – Athlete Assessments

When you visit University of Louisiana’s campus and see the new athletic facilities, a testament to the University’s investment in recent years, you’d understandably be impressed with their focus on the physical side of development. But, you would be misled. What you quickly learn, when you dig a little deeper, is that they are committed to a holistic approach to development across the entire Athletic Department.

Investment in people and the change in culture it catalyzes impacts the way people communicate, the way they relate and the quality of their relationships, what they expect from others and themselves. Importantly, it will impact the things they do, the way they lead and the results they achieve. Investment in people significantly improves performance and when someone like Dr. Bryan Maggard, Director of Athletics at the University of Louisiana, makes that investment in their entire Athletic Department, exciting things are possible.

In February 2018, Bo Hanson of Athlete Assessments travelled to Lafayette to work with the University of Louisiana’s student-athletes, coaches and athletic administrators to further develop their communication, leadership and teamwork skills.

Louisiana Athletic DISC Assessment at Ear K. Long Gym. Photo by Brad Kemp

The Ragin’ Cajuns, as they’re formidably known on the sporting field, are members of the Sun Belt Conference and compete in the NCAA’s Division I, across 16 sports. They strive for success in competition and in the classroom, which is recognized through their achievement of having one of the highest student-athlete graduation rates within their Conference.

The purpose for Bo’s visit was to deliver a series of workshops where groups delved into self-awareness, teamwork, communication, and leadership styles. The aim of the workshops was to develop people skills so everyone can maximize the opportunities presented by working together to achieve common goals, on and off ‘the field’.

Understanding DISC styles and how to apply it was an essential part of the workshops. Prior to attending the workshop sessions, everyone had completed an Athlete Assessments DISC Profile – the student-athletes took the AthleteDISC Profile, the coaches and athletic trainers completed the CoachDISC Profile, and the administrators and management took the Sports ManagerDISC Profile.

Louisiana Athletic DISC Assessment at Ear K. Long Gym. Photo by Brad Kemp

During the workshops the focus was on understanding the commonalities between DISC styles and while every DISC Profile is unique, there are more effective ways to communicate, motivate and lead people with different behavioral styles. Of the workshops, Bo says, “from the moment of the first official session with the Sport Administration staff, it was clear that this is a University where everyone is striving to be connected to the same goals and common language associated with using DISC Profiling. Each staff member seemed genuinely interested in learning more about themselves and each other. They clearly valued relationships and being able to support each other in succeeding at their roles. I was immediately impressed and so happy to be working in this environment.”

Each student-athlete workshop was a mix of sports with whole teams attending the same workshop. This gave the student-athletes an opportunity to debrief as a group, learn from across sports and understand one another as a team. The football team, due to their size, had their own workshop.

Louisiana Athletic DISC Assessment at Ear K. Long Gym. Photo by Brad Kemp

Impressed by the student-athletes Bo says, “the level of engagement from the student-athletes is always something I pay close attention to. I was pleased to see them embrace performance improvement strategies that go beyond the physical. In my experience this focus on self-awareness and non-physical improvements shows a higher level of commitment to not just their sport but their life after sport. I sincerely hope that these student-athletes also use their AthleteDISC Profiles to enhance their skills and relationships within their teams, and in later years in their careers beyond.”

As co-advisor of the Geaux Cajuns Program at the University of Louisiana, Carleigh Collins is very aware of the value of people skills and endeavors to ensure that the principles of the program are part of student’s everyday life. The Geaux Cajuns Program is committed to inspiring, engaging and advancing student-athletes outside of the athletic arena and assisting them with their transition to life after intercollegiate athletics.

The main goal of the Geaux Cajuns Program is to empower student-athletes to begin the process of developing as professionals by building a professional skill set. It also provides student-athletes with the tools and techniques to achieve their goals in addition to the equipping them with the resources to overcome the challenges associated with change and transition.

Louisiana Athletic DISC Assessment at Ear K. Long Gym. Photo by Brad Kemp

Of the workshops delivered by Bo, Carleigh says, “first of all, let me just say THANK YOU! Athlete Assessments went above and beyond our expectations and I have heard nothing but positive feedback from our coaches, staff and student-athletes. I am so happy that many of our coaches took advantage of meeting with Bo one-on-one today and learning about the different ways they can apply these new skills moving forward with their teams.”

“Bo is very engaging and the student-athletes are responding to him very well. I am very pleased with our student-athletes’ attendance! We’ve already heard great feedback today!”

This program arose out of the work Athlete Assessments have been doing with Head Volleyball Coach Heather Mazeitis-Fontenot and her Volleyball program. Coach Mazeitis-Fontenot has been with the University of Louisiana for over a decade and in this most recent record-breaking season, she’s achieved a conference win-loss of 13-3. She currently holds the record for the most wins of all coaches in the school history at University of Louisiana.

Louisiana Athletic DISC Assessment at Ear K. Long Gym. Photo by Brad Kemp

In summary Bo says, “overall, my time spent at Lafayette was a wonderful experience. I connected again with the women’s volleyball team in person (rather than the usual video conferencing) and met each of the student-athletes in person and I always love to do this. Seeing Coach Heather again was great and meeting Miss Carleigh who did so much of the organizing and introducing me to each athlete group was most appreciated. It is clear to me that this is a University program that genuinely cares about people and the relationships that go with it. I would love to return and do it all again!!

In addition to the in-person workshops, Athlete Assessments will do a series of follow up sessions via video conference to ensure that the athletic department at the University of Louisiana takes full advantage of their investment and are able to extend on what was covered in the workshops.

Where to from here…

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