SAAC provides student-athletes career and life skills for life after athletics

Being a leader and handling adversity with poise is vital to an athlete’s career. However, many athletes lack in that department due to not having the privilege of having an advisor or mentor that can provide the knowledge needed to be successful in their respective sport and also in life. Fortunately for Georgia State student-athletes, the Student-Athlete Advisory Council program equips them with the essentials to succeed in their desired career path.

There are currently 30 student-athletes involved with the SAAC program. Georgia State men’s basketball combo guard, Devin Mitchell is one that has fully reaped the benefits of being a part of such a prolific organization.

Mitchell was aware that SAAC was not thriving when he first became familiar with the program. This, in turn, inspired him to make a difference.

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“I think last year we didn’t do a very good job with [SAAC], so we kind of wanted to take a first-hand approach with it this year,” Mitchell said.

SAAC though the athlete’s eyes

Mitchell showed signs of being a leader by taking the program to new heights this year, and it has helped him thrive as a student. Not to mention, Mitchell said that being a part of SAAC is somewhat similar to how he and his teammates bond in practice. It’s no coincidence that his fellow teammate Jeff Thomas is also a member of the SAAC program.

“Just kind of working with other teams,” Mitchell said in regards to the skills he has learned by being apart of the program. “It’s really the same as [basketball] practice. It’s boys and girls, so we have a pretty good mix. We can hear people’s viewpoints on things that people are doing and all the programs and each sport. So, it just keeps everybody connected.”

Mitchell describes the program as a tight-knit group, even going as far as to say family. SAAC not only allows the student-athletes to develop as individuals but also as teams. All of the members involved with the program are in tune with one another.

“I think that it just helps all the athletes stay connected with each team. We know when certain people’s games are, so we can go to their games and stuff like that,” Mitchell said. “It’s really just about the camaraderie.”

As for applying the skills learned in the program to everyday life, SAAC gets assistance from athletic director Charlie Cobb.

“Our athletic director Charlie does a good job when he comes to speak to us, giving us some life lessons and some things that we’ll definitely be able to use in the future,” Mitchell said. “I think that’s the main plus that I get from it really. Being able to first-hand talk to Charlie and see his viewpoints and learn a little bit about his journey.”

Outside of Cobb providing intel to the members involved with SAAC, Mitchell mentioned assistant athletic director, Michael Stovall, who works in the career services and life skills department.

“Mike is the head man of it, so I’m really close to Mike,” Mitchell said. “He is the one that starts all the meetings.”

Michael Stovall: Life skills coach

Stovall plays a crucial role in helping these student-athletes develop into intellectual students with promising futures. Not only does he have a unique way of guiding them in the right direction, but he also says that helping them cope with the challenges of being a student-athlete is vital in how successful they will be during their collegiate career.

“First thing is, we’re able to guide them from their freshman year all the way to their senior year and even into graduate school,” Stovall said. “So we’re able to start them off and give them an idea through resume workshops and through constant conversations. [By] just talking to them to see, [we see] what they really want to do. They may come in with one thought of what they may want to do after student athletics.”

“But then once we get to narrow it down, they’re able to graduate with a better idea of where they are gonna go in the next 15, 20 years.”

As for the life skills Stovall provides for the athletes, he says that teaching them how to transition from an adolescent to an adult is the most significant aspect of the program.

“We teach them things through character ed: how to act, how to dress, how to bring themselves into adulthood,” Stovall said.

As if adulting isn’t a challenge itself, Stovall also mentioned that a great deal of student-athletes are not accustomed to the challenges of being a collegiate athlete.

“The adulthood piece is huge, but that’s one of the things we teach them when we get them on campus. We teach them how to grow up and how to be a student-athlete.”

Stovall recalls not having these same opportunities when he was in college, being that he had to face the same challenges as the student-athletes he currently assists. Nonetheless, he enjoys being able to provide knowledge to the students that will undoubtedly lead them in the right direction.

“I think it’s just great,” Stovall said. “I was a collegiate athlete, and I wish I had someone to tell me what I needed to do post-graduation. Life skills are fairly new in athletics altogether. There are not a lot of programs that have a designated life skills person in place.”

Stovall takes pride in being a leader at Georgia State that can teach student-athletes the skills they need to achieve when playing sports is no longer an option.

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