The Athletics Advantage: How Division III Sports Boost Recruitment and Retention at Elmira College

The Athletics Advantage: How Division III Sports Boost Recruitment and Retention at Elmira College
by
Shelby Moquin
on
June 14, 2024
Student Recruitment
Enrollment Marketing

About the Blog

On another insightful episode of Visionary Voices, the college president's playbook, host Bryan Gross dove into the crucial role that college athletics play in enhancing recruitment and retention, especially at Division III institutions. Guests include President Chuck Lindsay of Elmira College and Dennis Kelly, VP of Enrollment Management. This discussion is fueled by findings from the Chronicle of Higher Education's paper, "The Athletics Advantage," which highlights how intercollegiate sports can rejuvenate Division III colleges.

The Vital Role of Division III Athletics

President Chuck Lindsay underscores the increasing importance of Division III athletics at Elmira College. The rise in the number of students eager to participate in collegiate sports has significantly enriched campus life. Lindsay likens the camaraderie and solidarity among athletes to the positive aspects of the Greek system, emphasizing that athletes are more likely to be retained and excel academically. He passionately believes that Division III athletics offers a win-win scenario for institutions like Elmira, fostering a strong sense of community and engagement.

Leveraging Athletics in Recruitment

Dennis Kelly, with his extensive experience in enrollment management, shares how Elmira leverages its athletic success in recruitment strategies. He highlights the outstanding achievements of various teams, such as the women’s wrestling team, which ranks highly even against Division I competitors. This success not only attracts new students but also helps grow athletic rosters. Kelly notes that winning teams and strong athletic programs significantly ease the recruitment process, attracting students eager to join successful programs.

Balancing Winning and Student Experience

A crucial aspect of integrating athletics with academic life is managing the balance between striving for success and ensuring a fulfilling student experience. President Lindsay recounts how he was initially surprised by the question of whether it was acceptable to pursue winning as a goal. He emphasizes that while pursuing success is essential, it’s equally important to maintain opportunities for all players, ensuring that students remain engaged even if they aren't the star athletes. This balance is crucial to maintaining a positive and inclusive campus atmosphere.

The Art and Science of Roster Management

Bryan introduces the concept of roster management, an essential component of balancing recruitment and retention. Kelly elaborates on the strategic discussions held with coaches to determine ideal roster sizes and the need for additional support, such as JV teams or clubs. This strategic approach ensures that students receive adequate coaching and playing opportunities, which is vital for maintaining a high-quality athletic and academic experience. The collaboration between enrollment management and athletic departments is crucial for setting realistic recruitment and retention goals.

Enhancing Diversity and Inclusion

Elmira College has taken significant steps to align athletic recruitment with the institution’s goals for diversity and inclusion. President Lindsay shares the impact of establishing an Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), which plays a critical role in retaining students from various backgrounds. By fostering a sense of belonging and understanding among students, Elmira ensures that all students, including athletes, feel integrated into the campus community. This focus on inclusion is a testament to the college’s commitment to providing a holistic educational experience.

Overcoming Challenges and Embracing Innovations

The conversation also touches on the current challenges facing Elmira’s athletic programs. From the competitive landscape of their conference to demographic shifts and financial constraints, there are numerous hurdles to navigate. However, innovative initiatives like pet-friendly residence halls and new facilities, such as an artificial turf field, are steps towards enhancing student life and retention. These initiatives show Elmira’s proactive approach to addressing student needs and creating a vibrant campus environment.

Looking to the Future of Division III Athletics

Both Lindsay and Kelly express optimism about the future of Division III athletics. They see sports continuing to play a dominant role in college life, albeit with careful management to ensure it doesn't overshadow other aspects of the student experience. Kelly even envisions creative partnerships and innovative programs that could reshape the landscape of college athletics. The emphasis remains on creating an environment where athletics complement the academic mission and contribute to a dynamic, engaging campus life.

Listen + Learn More

For more insights and to hear the full discussion, tune in to the complete episode of Visionary Voices. Don’t miss out on the valuable perspectives shared by President Chuck Lindsay and Dennis Kelly as they navigate the evolving landscape of college athletics and its impact on higher education. Explore more episodes of Visionary Voices to stay informed and inspired by the dynamic world of college leadership.

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