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Here Are The 5 Ways Athletic Administrators Can L.E.A.D.

Written by Tara Michael, Director of University Relations at Global Players

According to a recent CNBC article, 96% of women in C-suite positions played sports.

To name a few, Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett-Packard, was captain of the high school swim team and played varsity lacrosse, tennis, and basketball. At Princeton, she played NCAA squash and lacrosse.

According to a @CNBC article, 96% of women in C-suite positions played sports.

Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, played cricket in college.

Lynn Elsenhans, CEO of Sunoco, played on Rice University's first women's basketball team.

Irene Rosenfeld, CEO of Mondelez, played four varsity sports in high school and NCAA basketball at Cornell.

And let’s not forget the guys.

Walter Robb, former CEO of Whole Foods, was captain of Stanford’s Soccer Team.

Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America, played rugby at Brown.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, was a high school fencing star.

And Kevin Plank, CEO of Under Armour, and Phil Knight, former CEO of Nike, were football and track athletes respectively.

Sports build character, encourage teamwork, require time management, and prioritize goal-setting, so it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that athletic backgrounds enable athletes to pursue excellence in the boardroom.

It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that athletic backgrounds enable athletes to pursue excellence in the boardroom.

But what else do these CEOs have in common?

They have built global companies, run by global teams. Their teams nowadays are comprised of engineers from China, India, Germany, and Ghana, with marketing execs from the UK, Poland, Brazil, or Australia to name a few. And running global teams requires global competence.

As college coaches are recruiting more international athletes to U.S. institutions and American students are applying to study and intern abroad in droves, now more than ever, is the time to harness the power of global opportunities available on campus for the betterment of athletics and academia alike.


Here are 5 reasons to L.E.A.D., or Leverage Education Abroad for Development of students and staff.


1. Increase Student Athlete Stats

Students who study abroad have higher GPAs, higher graduation rates, and are twice as likely to land career-related jobs sooner with higher starting salaries according to What Statistics Show About Study Abroad. In testimonials, teams also report higher degrees of chemistry and communication after NCAA Foreign Tours. Yet only 10% of Division I and II student-athletes have/will participate in a study abroad program. Thirty-three percent of Division I student-athletes and 22 percent of Division II student-athletes say they would like to participate, but cannot because of their athletic commitments (NCAA GOALS Study of the Student-Athlete Experience).

Students who study abroad have higher GPAs, higher graduation rates & 2x as likely to land jobs sooner with higher starting salaries


2. Decrease Athletic Staff Turnover

In 2015 alone there were 50 Athletic Director changes at the Division I level, a turnover of more than 15% according to Forbes. Employee turnover within college athletics is high due to lateral moves, low compensation, and burnout. Employees, in every industry, are looking for more opportunities than just the Thursday happy hour to develop themselves personally and professionally. Creating a working environment which affords faculty and staff the opportunity to travel overseas or experience staff retreats abroad could greatly increase job satisfaction and stability - and be an incentive to get (and stay) onboard - in this mobile, global world (High Turnover Costs Way More Than You Think).


3. Maximize Alumni Contributions

Traditions are a significant factor in alumni loyalty and giving. Schools such as Dartmouth and Mary Washington have created semester abroad traditions; in a similar vein, Davidson College encourages NCAA Foreign Tours for all its teams. These traditions keep younger alumni engaged in the exciting trends of their alma maters, in some cases even going abroad with the team! Allocating donor gifts to experiences beyond facilities, fields, and fans are gifts that keep on giving and allow donations to directly benefit both student-athlete and staff development. And when these athletes are alumni, out-earning their peers with no international experience, they are apt to give more.


4. Utilize New Funding

There is more funding available than ever before for education abroad enrollment. The international office on campus, Department of Education, NCAA, and various diversity and inclusion initiatives offer resources such as the Gilman Scholarship and AASP grants. Student-athletes are considered diverse groups in study abroad and often tick more boxes as well - the chance of successful scholarship applications is high - go for it!


5. Align Strategic Goals

Perhaps most importantly, leveraging education abroad for development of student-athletes and staff is a surefire way to align the Athletic Department with their respective Institutional Missions. More than 1,100 American colleges and universities responded to a survey conducted by the American Council on Education’s Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement in 2016. About half of institutions (49%) refer to internationalization or related activities in their mission statements or list them among the top five priorities in their strategic plans reported Higher Ed in  The State of Campus Internationalization.

Institutions big and small, from Columbus to Carroll, are taking the L.E.A.D. to leverage education abroad for development and bridging the gap across campus for the betterment of students and staff. A once discouraged experience is now a growing trend and could be the difference in getting that top Gen Z recruit. After all, when they graduate they will leave the stadium and weight room behind and need to be prepared for a global world with global teams.

Winning championships and building facilities aside, leveraging education abroad is the bridge to prepare athletic departments and future CEOs for a global playing field.

Learn How To L.E.A.D.


Tara Michael holds an MBA degree from the Amsterdam Business School and graduated with honors from the American University in Washington D.C. with a multidisciplinary degree in Communications, Legal Systems, Economics, and Government. Michael received the Patriot League Scholar Athlete of the Year award in 2004 for her efforts in the classroom as well as First Team honors in 2003 and 2004 for her success on the lacrosse field. Michael studied abroad in Namibia and South Africa in college after tearing her ACL and went on to play Lacrosse in Australia, England, Germany, and the Czech Republic before settling in the Netherlands and coaching the Dutch U19 and Senior Women's National Teams. In 2008, Michael co-founded Global Players, a study abroad program designed for student-athletes, by student-athletes.