Improving the Student-Athletes
Sept. 30, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. -
NC State's athletic department also is in the expansion mode. Not just to get bigger, but to get better.
Committed to strengthening support for its 500-plus athletes and dozens of coaches, the school hired Sharard Clinkscales to fill the newly created position of Associate AD for Administration and Student Services.
A Purdue graduate and former minor league baseball pitcher, Clinkscales’ myriad of duties include overseeing sports medicine and the strength-and-conditioning programs, serving as a liaison to academic support and supervising men’s and women’s soccer, wrestling and baseball.
Given all that, it seems he’d be scrambling like a frantic investment broker trying to figure out the fickle stock market.
“It’s a lot to do, but we can do it," said Clinkscales, who is experienced in multi-tasking. “We want to make sure all things are working to better the student athlete. We have the experts. My job is to advocate for their needs and make sure they have the tools to help our teams be successful."
Professional in style and personable in manner, Clinkscales exudes enthusiasm when talking about future plans. End of the day, he says, it's about getting State back on top of the ACC, winning national championships, earning degrees and preparing athletes to be successful in life.
FIT & STRONG
With the arrival of former major league trainer Bob Alejo as head strength and conditioning coach, Clinkscales expects the Pack to peak in the pivotal physical fitness area.
He envisions more sport specific conditioning, along with some cross training. For example, the staff might study methods in football and determine if they apply to athletes in basketball or other sports.
Overall, workouts will include “advanced” conditioning techniques that Alejo brings, plus providing athletes with more healthy nutrients.
Upgrading the weight room in Reynolds and Weisiger-Brown by installing new equipment, adding motivational signage and generally creating a brighter workout environment is on the agenda as well.
Securing a full-time nutritionist in 2012 is another assignment on Clinkscales’ to-do list. He’s seeking a professional on the cutting edge, one who can deal with eating disorders and diet deficiencies in addition to providing astute menu planning.
“My job is to hire someone who is more than (just) capable," Clinkscales said. “We want a person who will know where we need to be five, 10, 15 years from now. A visionary."
State contracted Jennifer Brunneli, a former All-America and record-setting swimmer at South Carolina, to orchestrate dining this year with football graduate assistant Charles Hewitt in a support role.
“The top 25 schools have a nutritionists on staff full time," Clinkscales pointed out.
Amid the shuffling and realignment, State also is searching for a successor to long-time Sports Medicine director Charlie Rozanski, who recently left for another job.
“Charlie was a solid director; unfortunately he has moved on," Clinkscales said, adding that the new director will be able to concentrate solely on sports medicine, treatment and preventive measures. “We need to review policies and hire someone who knows what is congruent with what’s going on now (in that field).”
BEYOND THE GAMES
Clinkscales calls student services his “wheelhouse” -- or expertise.
At age 41, married and the father of two children, he can still empathize with college athletes.
Clinkscales pitched collegiately at Purdue, skillfully enough to become a first-round draft choice. His resume also includes playing in the minor league, serving as a Big League scout for nine years, working in the Tampa Bay Rays front office three years, and toiling three seasons as an assistant baseball coach at Notre Dame.
Additionally, Clinkscales has seen college athletics through the eyes of the NCAA, having directed several championship sports and supervised 35 employees while working in Indianapolis.
At State his desire is to help athletes become more well rounded, integrate with the general student body, guard against social dangers, and prepare them early for life after the cheers have faded into distant echoes.
“It’s about life, preparing them to handle life," said Clinkscales, who praised Associate AD for Academics Carrie Leger and her staff for keeping Pack athletes on a strong graduation path.
“When I finished playing pro baseball at 23, I said: “Ok, where am I going from here?" Clinkscales recalled. “Thankfully, people were there to steer me. It’s not about getting a job. It’s about building a career, networking and doing it early on.
“It’s important athletes are exposed to other parts of the university, are interfacing with other groups. Talk to their professors,'' Clinkscales stressed. "We have a women’s advocacy group as well as an emerging leadership group that Student Services would like to steer them towards."
Providing instruction about social media is another Student Service emphasis, teaching what -- and what not -- to post on face book and twitter.
“One of the first thing companies do now is talk about branding, see how you represent yourself," Clinkscales said. “Say the wrong thing and it can stay with you.”
Clinkscales applauds Wolfpack athletes for their commitment to local service projects, thanks inpart to the leadership of Tonya Washington, an assistant AD for student development and community relations.
Along with that, he wants them to broaden their overall experience -- while winning championships -- and the Student Services staff is prepared to help.
“Serving the student athletes and coaches; that’s our goal," Clinkscales said. ”It’s about insuring that student athletes will have success -- not just on the court, but whatever they pursue in life.”
By A.J. Carr - email@example.com