Mentoring Freshmen

November 9, 2018

In its inaugural year, the University of North Georgia Athletics Department has rolled out the HawkEm 101 Student-Athlete Mentor Program. HawkEm 101 gives incoming freshman and transfer student-athletes the opportunity to engage and learn from fellow UNG student-athletes during his/her first semester here on campus. Mentors are purposefully matched with mentees from different teams to create more comradery within the student-athletes.

"Not only is HawkEm 101 in place to help promote education on responsible alcohol usage and overall student-athlete wellbeing, but to also encourage cross team collaboration and foster authentic relationships between the student-athletes," said athletic administration graduate assistant Ashley Beaton.  "Shayna (Lawrence), Derrick (Pickvet) and Steven (Bower) have had such a positive impact on this program and they are a big reason why HawkEm 101 has been such a success in its first year. Also, the support from our administration has propelled us to take this initiative and run with it. I really do believe that this program will help enhance the student-athlete experience here at UNG and add to the championship culture we have, not only in athletics but in life."

The idea to start a student-athlete mentor program emerged after a group of UNG student-athletes and administrators attended the Division II APPLE Training Institute in September 2017 in Reston, Va.

"After having the opportunity to go to the Apple Conference with Sydney (Sprague), Derrick, and Shayna, I realized how much more information there was about drugs and alcohol than we knew about," stated baseball player Steven Bower. "HawkEm 101 was more than just relaying information, and we wanted to develop more of a family in between all the athletic teams. With this being my fourth year at this school, I can easily say this year has had the most student athlete interactions with one another. It is not just the interactions with one another that stands out, it is the amount of people who have been showing up to each other's games and supporting their fellow Nighthawks."
 
The intent is that the program will not only help educate our new student-athletes about life as a UNG student-athlete, but also foster relationships across all teams and student-athletes.

"Being given the opportunity to attend the Apple Conference was very rewarding to me as a student-athlete because it opened my eyes to so much more than I thought I knew about drugs and alcohol, and the statistics behind consuming them for athletes," stated former women's basketball student-athlete Shayna Lawrence. "The recovery time alone from the time it enters your body, until the time your body is asymptomatic is really eye opening.  This program is more than informational as North Georgia students should all know about our campus, but it's developed a family within the athletic department and formed relationships that may have never happened.   Taking a step back from being a student-athlete and looking in from an angle as a facilitator of this program, I've noticed that we have truly formed something memorable and rewarding."
 
During the past year, the student-athletes and administration planned the curriculum of the program including a mentor handbook with resources and guidelines.  Based off of Lindenwood's Athlete Mentor Program (AMP), HawkEm 101 has a main focus in educating new UNG student-athletes about personal health and wellness along with alcohol and drug policies here at UNG. The mentor and mentees meet five times during the first semester, with each meeting geared towards a different topic. All the mentors completed a comprehensive training, with multiple experts to prepare them to have meaningful, deliberate conversations regarding the specific themes of each topic.

Matt Daniel, Head Athletic Trainer, and Frances Gilbert, Assistant Athletic Trainer, trained the mentors on the drug and alcohol policies at UNG, as well as, the athletic department policies. Simon Cordery, Director of Student Counseling, Katie Lamberson, Assistant Professor in the Counseling Department, and Michelle Lima, Assistant Athletic Trainer, facilitated a session on mental health and specific student-athletes' concerns. Richard Pruett, Director of Sports Performance led the final tier of training that including information on healthy eating habits and nutrition for student-athletes.
 
After the training, student-athlete mentors reached out to their assigned mentees through email or text as an initial contact and introduction to the program. At the first meeting, the mentors got to know their mentees while discussing campus resources and the campus map. During the second meeting mentors acclimated mentees to UNG and the athletic department's drug and alcohol policy, including the Amnesty Policy. Meri-Leigh Smith, UNG Health Educator, facilitated the third meeting. This interactive alcohol education workshop featured hands-on activities to further educate 100 mentors and mentees on alcohol usage and healthy habits. The remainder of the semester will be spent discussing sleep, nutrition, mental health, and how to prepare for finals. 

"HawkEm 101 to me is a tool to bring our UNG family closer together, and safer, through friendships and education, stated baseball player Derrick Pickvet. "We established the importance of involving first-year athletes early on in their time with UNG because they are the future and they will be the ones leading our school to championships in the next few years, so it is up to us to make sure they understand what being a Nighthawk is all about."
 
UNG Student-Athlete Mentor Program Mission Statement
The mission of the HawkEm 101 Program is to assist in the transition of freshman and transfer student-athletes by developing positive mentor and mentee relationships; educating student-athletes on institutional policies; and increasing awareness and education on topics that will help student-athletes to promote personal health and wellness.

From New World Of Coaching
Most sports teams have help from a variety of support staff beyond assistant coaches. For coaches fortunate enough to have athletic training coverage, this is one relationship that’s certainly worth investing time in.
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