Athletics Case Studies & Success Stories
National Football League (NFL)
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New York Giants
The University of Alabama Athletic Department
In an interview with Kevin Almond, the Senior Associate Athletic Director at Alabama, he revealed:
“Like many other Division 1 college athletic programs, the University of Alabama began to see the impact of a new generation of student athletes. While they were stellar competitors in their sport, many of them arrived on campus with poor communication skills, a general lack of maturity, and struggled to balance athletic priorities, academic commitments, and an active social life. We noticed a need in a number of our student athletes to help them develop in these areas of life, such as choosing a major, developing a long-term career plan, understanding their life purpose, and handling complex social interactions.”Kevin Almond describes how Growing Leaders helped provide solutions in the following two ways:
“First, Dr. Tim Elmore spoke to our athletic department staff and helped us better understand how to engage and connect with Generation iY® student-athletes. This led to the creation of the University of Alabama Emerging Tide Leaders Program. For the past five years, we’ve used the Habitudes curriculum from Growing Leaders to help our student-athletes implement essential leadership principles. Our evaluations of the program’s impact from both students and their coaches has been positive.” “Second, we revamped a new Freshman Orientation Class for incoming student-athletes. Our goal of this course is to help equip each student with the confidence and basic life skills necessary to finish their degree and find professional development. TheHabitudes books and teaching materials from Growing Leaders are part of our course syllabus. A new course for the sophomore class called Life Calling and Leadership Discovery was created. This course also uses the Habitudes books and other leadership materials to help student-athletes improve their leadership skills and investigate their personal strengths.”Kevin Almond summarized that after incorporating the Habitudes curriculum into their athletic department, their student-athletes reported the following results:
- Sharper focus on top priorities in spite of distractions.
- Deeper team chemistry from appreciating each other’s strengths and differences.
- Increased levels of trust between the players and coaches.
- Wiser decisions in their social life that keep them in competition, not sidelined by bad choices.
Kennesaw State University Athletic Department
An interview with Sterling Brown, Director of Character Development:What problems were you facing before Habitudes?
We’ve been lucky to have some pretty great athletes at Kennesaw State. So when we wanted to start focusing on character development (and, as a result, began usingHabitudes), it wasn’t because of major issues like violence, bad grades, or illegal activities. We were dealing with the normal challenges any athletic environment faces, such as team chemistry, attitudes, distractions common to the college environment, time management, resiliency, developing leaders and role models, etc.How did Habitudes help you meet this challenge?
We started to focus on character and leadership development because our athletic department is committed to investing in our athletes — not only in their sport, but also in them as valuable individuals. We know that athletes are leaders on campus, in the community and in the culture. We know that students will go on to be the future leaders of society. And we believe that helping an individual understand what it means to be a person of character, and live and lead by principles of character, are vital to that individual’s success in sport and in life. Habitudes has been a tremendous tool to help us demonstrate that commitment to the athletes and their families of how much we value each student as a person.Over the last several years of using Habitudes, we’ve found it to be customizable in terms of delivery and topics. I work with coaches and teams on the specific goals or issues they are facing each season. Then I choose a set of Habitudes that would help facilitate conversations that are usually difficult for coaches and athletes to initiate (or at least be effective).If I didn’t have Habitudes, I would have needed to create curriculum for 15 different teams. With the breadth of images Growing Leaders provides, I can select which ones are most applicable for the specific situation.Habitudes has also given coaches a conversation anchor to refer back to during practice and competition.What results did Habitudes help create?
We’ve found Habitudes to be universally applicable to any athlete in understanding leadership principles and taking efforts to improve. Since implementing the program, we’ve seen a number of positive outcomes. Specifically, Habitudes has helped us:
- Form a common language and platform for dialogue between players, coaches, and administrative staff
- Build healthy team culture based on trust
- Improve the relationships between players
- Equip athletes to be more effective role models
- Develop athletes who live by a set of values that were chosen by each individual
- Allow any athlete to recognize and grow in their leadership potential, even the quiet ones and those who don’t naturally step up and lead
- Address tough issues through simple conversations that stick with athletes
Yes… actually, three stories come to mind:Recently, I met with a coach to discuss a specific issue with his team. The players were having difficulty giving and receiving constructive criticism. And of course, I said, “There’s a Habitude for that!” I shared the image “Lightning Rods,” which helped facilitate that conversation around criticism and helped the team practice giving and receiving it in a non-threatening environment.In a past season, one of our women’s teams faced a challenge of having players who weren’t confident, wouldn’t hold each other accountable, and wouldn’t speak up when something was wrong. Through the image “Thermostat and Thermometer,” we were able to discuss the importance that each athlete plays in setting the climate for a team, as well as what it means to develop principles and values for one’s life. Out of this conversation, each of the players started the process of deciding what values she wanted to live her life by and this also helped start a conversation for our team to be able to identify their own team values. Within a few weeks, the coach said that he not only appreciated those conversations, but that he was already seeing what was discussed in the locker room being transferred into their practice and competition.Finally, one of my favorite stories is about one team that historically had a great team culture, but after taking a look at Habitudes, they knew they wanted to commit to it. For three years straight, they’ve had all 80 players in a room discussing Habitudes each week. And three years in a row, they’ve won their conference championship. That alone is a big deal! But this year, being able to work with a select group of student leaders, train them to facilitate a Habitudes session, and seeing those team leaders step up, bring their own creativity, leadership, stories and energy to teach the Habitudes lessons each week was a real treat!Those are just a few stories of change I’ve seen since implementing Habitudes at Kennesaw State. I’m a big fan of this curriculum, and I look forward to seeing how many more athletes’ lives we can impact by focusing on character development through the power of Habitudes.To learn how to create this kind of experience for your student athletes, click here.
Lancaster Bible College Athletic Department
An interview with Josh Beers, Sr. Vice President of Student Experience:What problems or challenges led to the need for Habitudes for Athletes?
Before Habitudes I remember that all of our coaches had this shared desire to help our athletes become the best men and women they could be—both within their sport and outside their sport. The problem was, all of our coaches were creating their own cultures and doing their own thing to make that happen. This led to our athletes feeling overloaded with different messages—from both the coaches and the rest of the world. Sadly, we noticed that most of the time the right messages weren’t getting through. In a world where there are so many voices, we realized that we had just become additional voices. Instead, we wanted to present a voice that gave our students a clearer roadmap.We didn’t want a student athlete to come through our athletic program and the classroom that sports offer and not have been taught the life lessons that go along with it. Habitudes was a perfect complement to what we were trying to do. It tangibly gave us succinct ways to express what we were all about in the first place.Our goal was to be “better together” and create a unifying program that focused on personal development and collaborative team development.How do you use Habitudes for Athletes?
We focus on one Habitude per month and all of the coaches teach and emphasize that particular Habitude throughout the month as they see fit. Coaches typically set aside 30-45 minutes each month in a team meeting to teach the Habitude—before or after a practice, on a road trip, etc.How has Habitudes for Athletes helped your athletes and campus?
The best answer I can give to that question is that our culture has changed for the better. Habitudes helped us become a unified athletic program. And with that cultural change, we have more institution-wide support. From the president down, the campus staff is seeing the value of athletics in a deeper way because of the quality of the lives of our student athletes—not just the quality of how well we compete. Now athletes are using a language that has led to life transformation as they’ve implemented these Habitudes into their day to day lives.As we’ve used Habitudes for Athletes, there have been several by-products that we didn’t initially set out to accomplish that I’d love to highlight:
- Habitudes has helped us get more funding for athletics because we are watching more of our student athletes become student leaders on campus. People outside the athletic community are noticing our student athletes more than previously, which has led to more support.
- We have seen an upturn in student athlete engagement in leadership responsibilities across our campus. The non-athletic components of the college (residency systems, student government, etc.) have increased student athlete representation in the last three years. It’s up 10-20%.
- One of our greatest challenges in the past has been holding athletes accountable in the off-season. Because we can do Habitudes year round, our athletes and coaches can connect and continue in accountability discussions during the off season.
- We have also had far less daily disciplinary instances with athletes.
- Coaches have expressed to our athletic director that Habitudes has increased and encouraged unity over self- centeredness. It has infused itself into almost every team, helping them deal with internal team issues in a much more proactive way.
If you asked our coaches, they would also say that Habitudes saves them time from creating their own curriculum or program, and it lets them do what they say is most important—instilling leaderships principles that help athletes succeed on and off the field. It has allowed the intangibles, which often lead to winning, to be strengthened. While winning wasn’t our goal for starting Habitudes, it has certainly led to more on-field and on-court success.Are there any stories that came out of using Habitudes for Athletes?
I think one of my favorite ones this year was with our basketball team. We were 19-0 and the whole community was paying attention. We were beating every team in our community for the first time. Towards the end of the season, we played a game that we were supposed to win, but we were struggling to do so. Late in the game we found a way to win, but we just didn’t play well.After the game I went up to our head coach and assistant coach and both of them said, “Hey . . . way to find a way. It’s never easy.” And then both of them shouted out the same Habitude to me that they utilized—Gorillas in Hawaii, which represented resiliency. Immediately after that—in the postgame meeting—the conference player of the year quoted the same Habitude. It was incredible to see the head coach, assistant coach, and our top player all mention the same Habitude they had covered in the previous week together—all within 10 minutes of each other.There are also two guys that I thought of immediately—one in soccer and one in volleyball. Both of those young men came to us, let’s say . . . directionless. Habitudes gave them the language to understand, “This is what leadership looks like and how leadership works through a given situation.” Now they have exploded into very solid leaders on our campus—both in their sport and in other roles on campus. It has been incredible to watch each of them go from a student who’s trying to find his way to a significant leader on campus.I could list example after example of how Habitudes has contributed to our athletic program. It’s an important piece of what we are doing and we’re excited to continue using Habitudes for Athletes.To learn how to create this kind of experience for your student athletes, click here.