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A balance of mind, body and spirit

Georgia Institute Of Technology : 12 December, 2000  (New Product)
From national titles to Olympic medals, Georgia Tech's nationally renowned athletics program has produced many champions. But more importantly, as a result of the Total Person Program, Tech is developing well-rounded student athletes who go on to winning performances on both the playing field and in the classroom. The brainchild of retired Athletic Director Homer Rice, the Total Person Program prepares student athletes for career and personal challenges by providing academic support, career placement services and teaching life skills.
'I never dreamed that the Total Person Program would reach such heights,' said Dr. Homer Rice. 'Today, 179 schools from across the country participate in the program. And, I still receive at least six letters a week about it. At Tech, students earn a great degree and then go on to get good jobs. However, many students have told me that the Total Person Program has made all the difference--it provides balance in their lives and encourages them to become the kind of person they want to be.'

Since Rice started the Total Person Program in 1980, it has developed into the most comprehensive student athlete support system in the country. Rice's model has been adopted nationwide as the foundation for the NCAA's Life Skills Program. Because of its success Georgia Tech was awarded the National Excellence Award by the Division I Athletic Director's Association in the fall of 1999.

Current Director of Athletics Dave Braine has built upon the foundation laid by Rice with a continued emphasis on all aspects of the student athlete's life. 'The concerns of the student athlete must always come first,' said Braine. 'I want to make sure that all student athletes have the opportunity to graduate. It is always our goal to give back a better person than we brought in.'

The Total Person Program, under the direction of Larry New, focuses on the following components:

Former tennis player, Matt Kozad said, 'There is life outside of athletics. The program helps you grow as a person and get better at certain aspects of life that you may not thought of as important before.'

Every freshman student athlete is required to participate in a one hour a week workshop entitled, The ASPIRE Program (Athletes' Successful Planning in Reaching Excellence). The theory behind this program is to help educate, counsel and develop healthy habits from the very start of the athlete's career at Tech. This program is an interactive workshop that challenges student athletes to live up to their potential in every area. It provides training and discussion on choices, habits, life mission and goals.

Georgia Tech offers one of the most comprehensive academic support programs in the country, giving every student athlete the best possible opportunity to earn a degree that will open doors for a lifetime. Tutoring is available in a wide range of subjects, and a highly-qualified staff of academic advisors monitor academic progress. Once this year-long program is completed, the staff is available for regular follow-up sessions to ensure that every opportunity is provided for success in all three areas of the total person (mind, body, and spirit).

'I had a good foundation from my high school, but I did have a good deal to learn,' said Donehew. 'I learned that here. I actually had to study. The professors were not going to spoon-feed me information that I had to regurgitate back to them. The tutors have been a really helpful tool that I wear on my tool belt. They have really helped me make the most of my time. The entire academic staff has helped guide me in the right direction since day one.'

Academic support does not end when a student athlete's playing career is over. The degree completion program focuses on student athletes who have completed their eligibility and provides a means for returning to school and completing any remaining course work in order to earn a degree.

Lynn Houston, 1999 Total Person Award winner, women's track all-American and graduate student said, 'When you do well in school, it makes going out on the athletic field more fun. You don't have to carry the stress of the classroom with you. The Total Person Program helps you with all of this. It helps you manage your time, it provides tutors, and it makes everything so much easier.'

'Career development really helped me a lot,' said Kozad. 'As a freshman, I had no idea that in four years I'd be going out into the workplace. It helped me because I learned how to interview; I learned how to write a resume; it helped me prepare for my future.'

The academic challenges at Georgia Tech are great, but so are the rewards. To capitalize on these awards, the career planning and placement program provides guidance well before the student athlete's graduating semester.

Programs are offered in resume writing, interviewing skills, and dressing for success. Students also meet local business leaders through networking luncheons. The pursuit of summer employment opportunities is also stressed so that meaningful work experience will help students prepare for the challenges of a competitive workplace.

The wellness program addresses a student athlete's physical, mental emotional and spiritual needs. Each year athletes visit the nutrition center to assess their current diet patterns and biochemistry. As part of the yearly physical, a complete blood profile is run, screening for risk factors such as high cholesterol, out of range iron or calcium, and any number of other health-risk indicators. Every effort is made to modify the athlete's diet so that performance is maximized and patterns are set to secure good long-term health.

A performance and wellness counselor is also on staff to assist coaches and student athletes in everything from team building and personal mental training to substance abuse programs and clinical counseling.

The student athletes have the opportunity to develop leadership skills through the Student Athlete Advisory Council, a group of representatives from each team that meets with athletic department administrators to help shape policies and address issues of concern.

The SAAC has five standing committees: Community Outreach, Campus Relations, Team Support, Life Skills and Career Development, and Academic Services.

Student athletes are recognized through various awards. Those who excel in both academics and athletics are encouraged to pursue postgraduate scholarship awards. Through the annual Total Person Awards, two seniors are honored based on outstanding athletic achievement, scholarship and character.

'We get more benefits out if it (community service) than the people we are trying to help. It's a feeling that you get, you know that you are making a difference,' said Donehew.

Kozad added, 'My favorite memory is the Scottish Rite trip to see the children. Some of the children weren't receptive, some were a little nervous. But, there were several children who just lit up like a Christmas tree when we came into the room.'

Student athletes are encouraged to give back to the community through a variety of service projects. For example, athletes become tutors/mentors for at-risk middle school students. 'What kids see you for is that you're older; and you play a sport. They look at you as a role model,' said Donehew. 'But, you look at them and realize that you were once just like them. You can see where you come from, and it makes you more thankful. It makes you thankful because you are giving back'

Middle schools are targeted because students are old enough to grasp the critical principles they need to be living by, yet young enough for a collegiate student athlete to make an impact. The students' also participate in walk-a-thons, the Special Olympics, Junior Golf, and make regular visits to children's hospitals.

Curtis Holloman, former football player, said, 'It gets you ready for the real world, because you are trying to help people, yet you are helping yourself at the same time. You gain a lot of knowledge through that.'

He continued, 'It makes you more well-rounded. You actually learn useful skills. Some people get out of college and don't even know how to balance a checkbook. The Total Person Program gets you involved in the community and makes you a total person.'

'The Total Person Program is a combination of three things,' said Donehew. 'It balances the physical, the mental and the spiritual aspects of life. For me, the program has helped me to understand how to reach my dreams and to never settle for less than my best. The harder I work, the luckier I'll get.'
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