Athletes engage in special classes for life skills

Athletes engage in special classes for life skills

By Amye Ellsworth, Senior Reporter


The NCAA requires that college campuses offer a life skills course for freshmen and transfer athletes.

Jim Fitzgerald, the academic coordinator for the athletic department, teaches the life skills class on Eastern’s campus. It is a three-credit course taught during the fall and spring quarters with the goal of helping incoming students adjust to college life.

“Because they’re student athletes, they’re trying to balance academics and athletics, and they’re freshmen,” Fitzgerald said. “We bring in a lot of guest speakers and a lot of resources to help get them through their freshman year.”

The class structure is primarily based upon guest speakers from different departments at EWU. This includes career services, the campus officers and counseling and psychological services. Frequently, former student athletes will also return as guest speakers, allowing current student athletes to better relate to the class.

“I think the [students] get a little more out of the class if they hear it from [guest speakers],” Fitzgerald said. “A lot of alumni want to come give back to the university. This is a way of bringing back some former athletes to talk to some current student athletes.”

Fitzgerald also brings in employees from outside of campus as well, including sports broadcasters to help students learn to deal with the media and appropriate ways of presenting themselves on Facebook and Twitter.

Although major declaration does not generally occur until at least their sophomore year, Fitzgerald helps his students start thinking about it early.

“We do a couple sessions on public speaking because, regardless of the major you go into, you have to get up in front of a class,” Fitzgerald said. “We also bring in upperclassmen to talk to the class.”

Freshman golfer Maddie Dodge took Fitzgerald’s class during fall quarter. She said that the primary skills she took away from the class included leadership, work ethic, nutrition and teamwork.

Outside the classroom, Dodge currently stands at 11 over par for her 21 rounds of golf this spring season.

“The class was really about being a good student athlete, [and] really focusing on improving ourselves in school, which would help lead to our success with our sport,” she said.

Dodge also said that the class helped her realize the ways in which students athletes are all the same, regardless of the sport they play.

“I think what I took away from this class is that no matter what sport you play, each athlete has to work and study hard to achieve their final goals,” Dodge said. “Everyone needs help along the way.”

Although the NCAA requires a life skills class be taught at each participating college, they are not clear on what the exact requirements for the course must include. According to Eastern’s athletic website,, the only criteria for the course are that it shows commitment to areas of academic growth, personal development, community service, career development and athletics.

Dodge stated that she benefited from the guest speakers the class had to offer on a variety of topics, but she wished the course had more class discussion. She said this would allow students to reflect and share what they had taken away from the individual speakers. Overall, Dodge thinks that Eastern is very committed to the success of its athletes.

“I was able to discover just how much Eastern is focused on getting their athletes to succeed in not only their sport but also in the academic careers,” she said.