NCAA Life Skills: The Quiet Contributor to Student-Athlete Success

By Dan Freeman, @DanTheInternMan

The NCAA Life Skills Program helps prepare student-athletes for life after college. Photo via the NCAA

The NCAA Life Skills Program helps prepare student-athletes for life after college. Photo via the NCAA

With the hectic schedule that NCAA student-athletes endure on a daily basis, the NCAA Life Skills program was created to help maintain a balance for student-athletes. It gives them the necessary tools to succeed in the realm of professional, mental and social development.

To get a better feel for the NCAA Life Skills program and the impact it is making, we spoke with Cornell Sneed, Senior Academic Advisor for Tulane Men’s Basketball and a Life Skills Coordinator with the athletics department, and JP Abercrumbie, Life Skills Coordinator at Mississippi State University.

Want more great content like this? Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter

According to Sneed, The NCAA Life Skills program is an endeavor that NCAA colleges and universities take part in to ensure the natural development of the person behind the student-athlete moniker.

Coaches spend time developing the athlete’s body to get him or her in peak shape, and professors and tutors spend time helping the student grow mentally by providing him or her with the tools to succeed academically.

In their roles, Sneed and Abercrumbie bridge the gap by helping the student-athlete succeed in life during their playing days in college and, more importantly, when preparing for life after college.

Abercrumbie believes that the NCAA Life Skills program is a way for member institutions to conceptualize and actualize plans for student-athletes’ holistic development. In addition to championing academic and athletic excellence, the program incorporates things like personal and leadership development, professional and postgraduate preparation, and the ability to pay it forward through community outreach and engagement.

The Life Skills program supports student-athletes as they transition in, through, and out of a collegiate environment and the collegiate student-athlete experience.
— JP Abercrumbie

Student-athletes are given all of the tools to help them succeed athletically, but as we all know, “most NCAA athletes go pro in something other than sports.” 

Sneed preaches to his student-athletes that you need to learn how to be a professional, manage a budget and how to work a room full of potential employers.

Keeping student-athletes engaged in the Life Skills program is one of the toughest pieces of the job for both Abercrumbie and Sneed.

They have to be exceptionally creative when formulating their ideas that will keep the attention of student-athletes for almost an hour.

Sneed spoke about his “Athletic Identity Workshop" that he put on for the incoming freshman football student-athletes last summer. He emphasized how great it was to see their responses when he broke the news to them, that life is more than just football.

An impactful program that Abercrumbie has pioneered at Mississippi State, has been the creation and implementation of the Clanga Cup.

A rewarding piece from the Clanga Cup has been seeing and hearing her coaches brag about their standings and challenge each other to earn more. She looks at this as one of the ultimate bridges in the understanding that student-athletes have multiple identities and need to have access to a comprehensive set of opportunities to maximize all that a collegiate student-athlete experience affords.

One of the biggest reasons why both Sneed and Abercrumbie love their job is because of the feedback they get from their student-athletes. 

The first time Sneed really felt the power of what Life Skills can do was when he had a volleyball student-athlete write an article about him and the great work he was doing in the school newspaper.

Sneed still keeps a copy in his office to remind him to always give his students everything that he has.

It’s not the praise that Sneed receives from being mentioned in a speech at the end of the year student-athlete banquet or the article written about him in the university newspaper. It is about the sense of pride he feels when his students show those kinds of appreciation. To him, it means they valued what he taught them so much so, that they wanted to share that information with others…in hopes that they, too, will be able to learn and development as well.

I want to thank Cornell Sneed and JP Abercrumbie for educating those reading on how vital of a role Life Skills plays during the career of an NCAA student-athlete. You can follow Cornell on Twitter and LinkedIn and JP on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Why the Daily Grind is Essential in Sports: A Conversation with Zach Sprunger

Rich Keep Getting Richer: The Growing Divide between Powerhouse Football Programs and their Counterparts