Kristy Belden, The Reality of Athletics

“Here today.  Gone tomorrow”

Today you are a key part of an athletics department staff.  Your cell phone doesn’t stop ringing. Your inbox is forever full.  To put it simply, you are getting things done and the program can’t run successfully without you.  In a blink of an eye, you have been replaced.  And just like that, your student-athletes are depending on someone else and you’re left questioning, what just happened?!?  This, my friends is the reality of athletics.  As professionals in this ever-changing field, we are often the ones preaching to our student-athletes to get their degrees because their athletic careers won’t last forever; to select a school based on everything BUT the coach because we know all too well that those change like the wind.  Yet, here we are in the same boat having to take our own advice.

“The reality of athletics is that often change comes swiftly with lots of collateral damage”

The nature of athletics is that EVERYONE is replaceable, from the Athletic Director, to the Coaches, to the Staff, the Graduate Assistants, the Student-Athletes, and EVERYONE in between.  In many cases, change in athletics often is a trickle down effect and has little to do with YOU (or your résumé, your accolades, and how long you’ve been at Athletic University College).  The reality of athletics is that often change comes swiftly with lots of collateral damage.  In the high-profile sport of football alone, a head coaching change can immediately effect upwards of 100 lives, when you add in support staff, spouses and children.

The business side of athletics encourages change in many regards.  The myth is that a shiny new coach fixes everything…the “boo bird” fans are excited again, donations start rolling back in, there’s a ton of media coverage.  It’s a win-win for everyone except the old staff.  In many, many cases, any and everyone associated with the previous regime is let go.  It’s not personal, and you’re fooling yourself if you think it is.  Why do you think turnover in athletics is as high as it is?  People try to move up, move out before they end up unemployed when the writing is on the wall that change is inevitable. Nowadays, spending more than five years with the same program is an anomaly.  An old coach once told me, “if you haven’t been fired, you haven’t been in coaching long enough.”  As the pressure to win gets higher and unreasonably higher, the reality is that you will be fired.  Just as our current student-athletes get replaced by the latest 5-star stud, the sad truth is you will be replaced at some point in your career as well.   You can pout about it or you can be prepared.

” You will not be the Senior Associate of ABC’s at Athletic University College forever”

If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a thousand times…”it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”  This too is the reality of athletics.  The best advice I can offer is to stay connected with as many professionals (coaches, administrators, support staff, etc) as you can on multiple levels (high school, collegiate, professional). You never know when your guy knows a gal who knows a guy that might need a gal like you.  And just as we teach our student-athletes to not be tied to their identity as a student-athlete, we must take heed to that advice as well.  You will not be the Senior Associate of ABC’s at Athletic University College forever.  The blunt truth is that if you plan to have a long, successful career in sports, then you must understand that change is the Reality of Athletics.  Embrace it and enjoy the ride for as long as it lasts.

“Kristy Belden is currently the Dean of Students at Bishop Moore Catholic High School and spent 5 years as the Director of Player Development with the UCF Football program.  She was one of the first female full-time player development directors for a NCAA Division IA football program.  Prior to that role, Belden spent 9 years as the Associate Director for Multicultural and Academic Support Services, and Academic Services for Student-Athletes at the University of Central Florida.  She is a former collegiate track athlete and has her Masters degree in Educational Psychology-Sport Psychology.  

Follow Kristy on twitter @KristyBelden

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