6 Tips for Athletic Departments to Engage Athletes
Signal Vine employee and former student-athlete Sara Vigen shares tips for athletic departments to engage athletes by communicating with them via text message.
I have played soccer since I was three years old. I’d always dreamed of playing soccer in college. The day that dream became a reality will be one that I’ll never forget. Now, I am a retired student-athlete who works for a company with a dynamic engagement platform. Since I began working at Signal Vine, I've reflected on how much I wish I would've received texts during my time as a student-athlete.
Across the National Collegiate Athletic Associations’ (NCAA) divisions I, II, and III, there are more than 460,000 student-athletes. That number shows there are more student-athletes than ever in history. These student-athletes compete in 24 sports a year. On average, student-athletes will spend more than 25 hours per week on sports-related activities other than games. This could include practice, workouts, team meets, film, training room appointments, and travel.
But being a student-athlete is much more than just the athlete part. First and foremost, we are there to be students. And in 2018, Division I athletes had an 88% graduation rate, a record high. Beyond the athletic events student-athletes have to participate in, there are also the academic advising and tutoring appointments, career and networking events, study hall, compliance forms and meetings, athletic department events or speakers, and more.
With all of these activities, only having 24 hours in a day to get everything done, and with smartphone owners aged 18-24 sending around 2000 text messages per month, it makes sense to text student-athletes to get them through their crazy, busy days and keep them on track. With that said, I'll discuss tips for athletic departments to engage athletes.
Texts I wish I’d received as a student-athlete
My alma mater is one of my favorite places in the world. I would not have changed my time there for anything. However, there are types of texts that I wish I’d received from my athletic department. These texts would have served as great reminders in order to help me stay on track with the various tasks that we always had on our plates.
With Signal Vine, staff members can craft a message with a specific goal that can target students who meet certain criteria. If staff want to send a text to only the student-athletes with a certain GPA to remind them about attending study hall, this can be done using the platform’s profile fields. This can save staff time, as they can draft a single message to send personalized messages to students.
Below, I’ll discuss the ways that staff can use texting to reach out to student-athletes.
1. Connect current student-athletes with alumni and career events
I remember being in school and going through the job application process. If I saw someone had my alma mater on their LinkedIn, I was more inclined to reach out to them. However, if I saw that they were also a student-athlete at my alma mater, I was even more inclined to reach out. This was true even if I just wanted to get advice from someone who was already out in the workforce.
I would have loved to have received a text letting me know about student-athlete alumni who were willing to connect to current students to discuss life after being a student-athlete. Further, it can be hard to attend all the career and networking events that are hosted on-campus, given our schedules. A text would have been an awesome reminder for the events. It would have been even greater if the texts noted when former student-athletes were coming back to campus. With Signal Vine, coaches can segment alumni and career event texts so they are relevant to recipients.
2. Reach out about academic advising or tutoring appointments
We were lucky to have great academic advisors and access to helpful tutors. They always went out of their way to help us do well. The only complaint is that there are so many student-athletes and only a handful of advisors and tutors. Instead of having to go to the advising office to ask a simple question, it would have been so valuable to text my question and get a quick response. This is possible using Signal Vine’s AI-powered platform and Virtual Advisor. Advisors and tutors could set up FAQs on the Signal Vine platform. Then, when student-athletes text frequently asked questions, the AI-powered Virtual Advisor could reply to the student, thus saving staff members the time to respond to other students with more complex questions.
3. Schedule or remind about training room appointments
If you make it through college athletics without ever seeing any type of injury, you are one lucky person. I remember being best friends with my athletic trainer. I felt like I lived in the training room with all the rehab for injuries I had to do. One thing I do wish that I could have done would be to text when I wanted to schedule my appointment. Further, trainers could set up a text to send to athletes to remind them to schedule their training room appointments. Trainers could send this text to multiple athletes at once, but it would feel personalized to each athlete. The trainer could add in a congrats about their win last night, ask them how their injury is feeling, and so much more.
4. Remind students to fill out compliance forms and other paperwork
Every student-athlete is extremely familiar with the compliance office. More specifically, they are familiar with all of the paperwork from the compliance office. Staff members in this office are also used to having to remind student-athletes to log into their emails to fill out the forms. But when you remind them with an email to log in to their email, it is not very effective. If I had received a text reminding me to fill out my compliance forms, I know I would have responded much quicker. This channel of communication could also allow student-athletes to text in any questions that they may have regarding paperwork.
5. Announce scholarship opportunities
Contrary to popular belief, not every student-athlete attends college on a full-ride scholarship. Some athletes don't even have scholarship money. In fact, some schools are not even allowed to give out athletic scholarships...and college is expensive. It would have been amazing to receive texts about scholarships that I could have applied for to help me pay for college. There are so many scholarships out there, both athletic and non-athletic, that would have benefited me. Further, I remember at my college, there were specific scholarships for athletes in different schools of the college. For instance, there was a business school scholarship that was specifically for student-athletes in the business school. Texting would increase the visibility of scholarships to student-athletes. In turn, this helps them take worrying about paying for college off of their to-do list.
6. Send general reminders about sleep, nutrition, and other important aspects of being a student-athlete
Finally, as I have discussed, so much goes into being a student-athlete. If you are not getting enough sleep or not eating the right foods, you are not going to perform your best on the field or in the classroom. Even time and money management tips or relaxation exercises could be helpful to send athletes. Is your student-athlete about to compete in a conference championship? Why not send them a good luck text? There are endless ways for staff to reach student-athletes to not only provide them with helpful and useful information, but to also let them know you are there to support them.
While student-athletes may be extremely busy, engaging them is important. Further, they are never too busy to check a text. It can be easy to lose focus of your goals, both in the classroom and on the field, when your attention is being pulled in multiple directions.
Signal Vine’s partners have proven that texting to engage students works. It makes students feel more connected to their school and helps remind them of the steps they need to take to stay on track. Texting and engaging student-athletes can help to strengthen the relationship with them by communicating with them in a way that they prefer.
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