by Benny Benton
WILSON, N.C. – Mandi Lelkes, an athletic trainer at Barton College since 2014, will take on additional responsibilities as life skills coordinator for the athletic program, the school announced Thursday.
In her new role, Lelkes will work with campus personnel and Barton’s nearly 300 student-athletes in developing programs that provide training and experience in a wide range of “real-life” areas, with the ultimate goal to “better the student-athlete as a well-rounded person.”
“At this point, we want to use this so that the student-athletes are ready for life after athletics,” Lelkes said. “While they are here, this will help us really connect them to our four C’s of emphasis – campus, community, competition and classroom. And once they leave, it will give them the skills to succeed in life as they move away from being an athlete.”
Lelkes said that some of the topics currently being addressed by the NCAA and its member institutions include financial planning, etiquette, interviewing skills and resume writing, mental health issues, and drug and alcohol concerns.
“’It’s all of those things right down to (the skill of) just having a conversation,” she said. “Communication is now primarily done through social media, phone and e-mail. So just teaching them to have a proper conversation is important, because sometimes now that gets lost. That’s just not how they were raised. We want to bring those things to light, so that when they get out in the ‘real world,’ they know how to handle them.”
With so many possible directions for the program, Lelkes said “we’re still in the growing process, trying to decide exactly what life skills means for Barton College.”
While the long-term plans are being developed, Lelkes will start this semester by addressing the “C” of community. With the assistance of team leaders from Barton’s Leadership Academy and some new technology, Lelkes will track each team’s community service efforts, both to recognize the great work already being done and to pinpoint areas where more can be done. A little competition between teams will be thrown into the mix to spur more involvement.
“We know they’re going out into the community and doing a lot of work, but being able to give them credit for that and positively reinforcing what they’re doing will help them build confidence and encourage them to continue to do it,” she said. “Long-term with that, we hope to create a team-versus-team competition here at Barton … In doing that, they gain something out of it besides just the real-life experience. It’s a positive way to get them out into the community and show them how they are helping others while doing so.”
Lelkes said she took on this additional role because it will tie in with the work she’s already doing as an athletic trainer and with her own interests.
“It has a lot to do with sports psychology, which is a personal interest of mine,” she said. “Someday down the road I do plan to get my doctorate in it. I do think it plays a big role, not only with how an athlete might deal with an injury, but also how they deal with conflict in their daily life. To be able to connect with these athletes mentally and help them with what they want to achieve, that’s really my goal with this.”