Three Mindsets to Build in Students and Athletes: Podcast #47

Today, I’m excited to share with you a conversation with Joe Castiglione. Castiglione is currently the Athletic Director at the University of Oklahoma and the Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletic Programs. In 2009, Joe Castiglione was named National Athletic Director of the Year by the Sports Business Journal. Here are some highlights from our conversation.

Tim Elmore: Today, the umbrella that we are going to put all of these questions under is really 21st century sports management. How do we manage a department, like what you have at the University of Oklahoma, in this new day when the athletes come in with smart phones but maybe not the smarts that they need? So let’s talk first about academic preparedness. Would you talk about some of your concerns with student-athletes and their academic stamina?

Joe Castiglione: Candidly, Tim, it probably is a concern that we see across all students, not just those students that are participating in athletics. Therein lies one of the most important points—that we are engaging students who want to participate in athletics and helping them balance all the things that they are facing as they transition into a whole new era of their lives. It is not just academics and their athletic role, but growing as a person and engaging what the college experience is all about. I am not a research specialist, but what I do read is that college is really at a crossroads because of what is happening in common ed. This could be a direct result of states underfunding education and teachers not having the resources they want to have. Or, it could simply be the issue of parents/guardians influencing their kids’ education, rather than allowing them to embrace the responsibility themselves. Whatever it is, they come to campus with a distorted expectation. Now let me say, we get some terrific students. However, we see more and more that are not totally prepared. That is why we have been very intentional about orientation from the moment they step foot on campus.

Tim: I think you guys do a great job with that, where you really talk to them about “this is why you’re here.” You ask them to wrestle with embodying the values that are going to build great citizens when they are done.

Joe: We do have a commitment to core values and that includes something we call, Sooner M.A.G.I.C.— Masterful, Accountable, Gracious, Inclusive, Competitive. This is not just something that we put on a paper that sounds good. It is something we live and it is the essence of everything we do. We hold ourselves to those values and we expect the student-athletes to embrace them just as much as any of the staff or coaches here.

Tim: I love that and I do think you are doing just that. I want to make an observation real quick. One of the things I have noticed about today’s athletes is that they really are holistic in their thinking. Many of them are saying to us, “If you treat me like a person and you care for me like a human being, I am much more apt to give you everything I’ve got because I know you love me.” I say that only because I know it is very easy for coaches to categorize themselves saying, “I am just their coach,” or “I’m not their counselor,” or “I’m not their dad.” But in many ways, you may have to be a surrogate dad for five minutes. Would you just talk about that?

: Tim, I want to put some of the light back on you because I’ve learned this from you. Our student-athletes of today, we’re calling them Millennials or Gen Z, have grown up in a different world. When I grew up, there was more of an authoritative culture. We didn’t really challenge authority. I don’t want to make it sound like student-athletes are rebelling today, because they are not. But you can’t just tell them, “This is what you do, now do it.” You have to tell them why. They want to know why and when they understand why, even if they don’t agree with it, they are better equipped to embrace it and buy in.

Tim: I do want to focus on one phrase that you used, “student before athlete.” That adjective student-athlete should always be first and foremost. I think that if we are going to live that out as coaches, executives, directors in athletics, we’re going to have to build a mindset in those students that’s a little different than what they come in with. Here are my three thoughts on how to build this mindset:

  1. We need to help student athletes think long-term. This includes way beyond the days they are going to play sports. You and I both know that even if they went pro, which 1% do, it is still going to end in their thirties.
  2. We need to help them think big-picture. This is about becoming a good person, not just good with a racket, or a ball or a bat. So big-picture means I am seeing a whole different world than perhaps the world I saw when I came in or maybe got recruited to play at this program.
  3. We need to help them think high-road. They need to think, “I am here to give, not just to get. I’m here to contribute, not just to consume.” Thinking high-road also means I am going to err on the side of generosity.

I hope you take time during your commute to listen to the whole conversation. Click below to listen to the full discussion.

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Three Mindsets to Build in Students and Athletes: Podcast #47