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A playbook for life

Drake’s student athletes are some of the young adults who are going to change the world — in business, education, non-profits, medicine, or any other field where the students’ hearts reside. And guiding them along the way is a responsibility that Drake’s head coaches and Athletic Director Sandy Hatfield Clubb take seriously.

“Student-athletes motivate their teammates, resolve and manage conflict, identify strengths and weaknesses, cope with loss and celebrate success,” she says. “Lessons learned from sports are as valuable off the playing field as they are on it.”

Hatfield Clubb, together with Drake President David Maxwell, has been guiding a strategic plan for Drake athletics that calls for providing leadership-based experiences for student-athletes. Two years into the plan, results are evident. Drake has a new concentration in leadership, coursework that equips student-athletes to take the leadership message into middle school classrooms, and an array of experiential offerings — such as a May 2011 trip to Tanzania for football, community projects and a soul-stirring climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Athletic leadership is one of the many programs on campus helping Drake achieve its vision to be — and be recognized as — one of the very best institutions of higher education in the United States. Individuals like Bill, JO’66, and Jean Riemenschneider, have shown their support for this goal and for developing students’ leadership skills through contributions to distinctlyDrake. These gifts have played a large part in laying the foundation for and developing athletic leadership programming.

Bill and Jean have been long-time supporters of Drake athletics, and giving to the leadership program through distinctlyDrake was a perfect way for them to express their dedication to Drake student-athletes’ futures. The Riemenschneider’s first heard about the program in its beginning stages and were immediately interested. They see their gifts as an investment in the future of Drake’s students.

“We are so impressed with the kids as athletes and as good students,” Bill says. “It’s a great atmosphere at Drake and athletic leadership is an opportunity for these young people to grow personally and become great citizens.”

Plan for the future

Drake Athletics’ Strategic Plan hinges on two key goals, to be demonstrated by 2014: to establish a measurable culture of excellence as well as a sustainable business model. Actions include securing needed resources through distinctlyDrake, building the student athlete experience through exceptional coaching and education, and nurturing a culture in which excellence, character and collaboration reign.

When complete, the plan promises to serve as a progressive new model for intercollegiate sport.

“Leadership learning through sport is not new,” says Hatfield Clubb. “But what we’re doing is using sport as an experiential learning program for leadership rather than simply learning about leadership alongside of taking part in sports. We are building sport into the core of our academic offerings — that’s new.”

New curriculum for student-athletes

So far, two classes have been developed as part of the new curriculum for student-athletes. Bulldog Foundations, launched in spring 2012, is being offered to all incoming Bulldog athletes. The course delves into study skills and goal setting, focusing on the development of the student-athlete as a whole.

In the second, community service-driven curricular component, Seeds of Success — created in cooperation with Drake-based nonprofit Character Counts in Iowa — student-athletes are being trained to take lessons from Drake’s Bulldog Playbook — habits of excellence, leadership and performance as well as core values, ethics, and moral and character development — into middle school classrooms. Students visited classrooms for three sessions each in April.

“We decided that we couldn’t do everything we wanted to accomplish just in our classroom visits,” says Hatfield Clubb. “We’re starting with the role model of the student athlete — the middle schoolers will likely remember that this was something cool. Our students will be planting a seed for teachers to continue to nurture and grow.”

First-year student Mitch McLaughlin, a guard on Drake’s basketball team who is triple majoring in finance, marketing and accounting, is finishing the learning phase of Seeds of Success as they prepare to take what they have learned into Des Moines middle school classrooms.

He is looking forward to imparting some of his core values to area students.

“A lot of leadership is doing the right thing when no one is looking,” says McLaughlin. “It’s so key to being successful, and will help you in academics, athletics and throughout the rest of your life.”

Next steps for success

Another piece of the Athletics Strategic Plan puzzle is the renovation of Drake’s field house. While it’s a separate variable, having this new space would go a long way toward addressing the “resources” part of the vision for athletics.

“The field house is still a critical element in our long term success,” says Hatfield Clubb. Ideally, we hope to gain momentum and raise funds through distinctlyDrake for this in the next two years.”

While significant progress has been made, some additional pieces need to fall into place for Drake athletics to reach the blue sky of its strategic vision. But according to Hatfield Clubb, it’s a vision that’s entirely within reach.

“We have a different culture here at Drake — we value student experience through sport,” says Hatfield Clubb. “This vision for athletics probably couldn’t happen anywhere but Drake.”