With a one time payout from the NCAA, the Manhattan College athletic department has started its inaugural year of the Jasper Jumpstart Program.
The idea behind the program, whose purpose is to enhance the student-athlete experience at the college, began over a year ago and was submitted to the NCAA this past summer.
All colleges and universities who are members of the national athletic association had the ability to apply for the monetary payout, but each school received a different lump sum that was directly related to the amount of scholarship dollars used by the institution during the 2013-2014 academic year.
While the funds could have been simply used to buy new athletic equipment or modify facilities, the athletic department recognized a need to enrich the overall life of a student athlete.
“Realistically the majority of our student athletes aren’t going to go and play professionally,” Will Aloia, assistant athletic director for compliance and life skills, said. “I think the majority understand that and realize that and so we need to prepare them to enter the workforce and to one day be able to buy a home– stuff like that is important.”
The Jasper Jumpstart program has three essential focus areas including academic, life skills and health and wellness.
Academic support has been in place for student athletes before, but as roster sizes continue to grow a strain has been put on the resources available. Rory Redmond and Cristian Ramos are the only two athletic academic advisors for over 400 student athletes.
“There are very busy times in these offices where it’s like a revolving door of people just in and out,” Redmond said.
As a part of the academic initiative under the Jumpstart program, a graduate assistant has been hired to help lighten the load for the two advisors.
“It’s been a huge relief I would say just so that we can have the opportunity to be a little bit more intentional with the work that we’re doing, be able to see more students,” Ramos said.
Along with the new staff, the center has been able to extend the hours of study hall for student athletes by keeping the office open on Sundays and adding hours during the weekdays. The center has also been able to provide additional tutoring services, more programming, and added new technology such as laptops for student athlete use.
The newest program that Redmond and Ramos want to get off the ground under the Jasper Jumpstart plan is peer programming, which would assign all freshman a upperclass peer mentor that they can turn two when they have questions or need someone to talk to if a problem arises.
“It’s just someone else looking out for for them,” Redmond said. Ramos and Redmond hope to start the program during the 2018-2019 school year.
The second focus area of the Jasper Jumpstart program is dedicated to life skills. This includes bringing in guest speakers to talk to the student athletes as well as working with the career development center at the college to provide opportunities for resume building, job applications, and interview skills.
Two major goals for the athletic department when it comes to advancing life skills is to bring back alumni to talk about their experiences and to hold another career fair in the spring semester.
“There’s a lot going on in the world outside of your sport, outside of your class, and we want to get other people in front of the student athletes to have those dialogues,” Aloia said.
The third prong to the Jumpstart program is dedicated to health and wellness. Currently the athletic department does not have any experts in sports psychology or nutrition on staff, but with these new funds they will be able to source out to experts when an athlete comes forward with an issue.
“There is a need nationally for sport psychologists, nutritionists, and for experts in that field,” Aloia said. “Unfortunately for us on campus we don’t have the luxury like at bigger schools to have a sports psychologists dedicated to our student athletes, but we want to be able provide the support they may need.”
The Jasper Jumpstart program is timelined for three to five years, and after that the athletic department will turn to the college to provide the funds to keep these resources alive.
“Our goal is to be able to show the college that it was valuable and there was a need for it so that the college will pick up the tab and continue the programming with institutional dollars,” Aloia said. “These are all things that we should be doing that we don’t do.”