International college athlete development -- The schools that get it, get it.
The University of Cincinnati is one of those institutions.
Last week, we were on UC’s campus participating in the International Extravaganza! Hosted by UC’s Student-Athlete Academy, the International Extravaganza is an annual event dedicated to celebrating the international college athlete (ICA) community. There are currently 28 international athletes from 24 different countries studying and competing at UC.
In addition to celebration and fine dining, there was also structured time for education. Staff from the compliance office, international student services, and nutrition all came to share pertinent information relevant to ICA’s experience in U.S. higher education. One of my favorite moments came from the nutrition staff who shared the names and locations of international markets in the greater Cincinnati area for athletes to buy food native to their home countries -- shoutout Jungle Jim's!
As the final speaker for the event, we got to close the night and set the tone for the rest of the academic year. Our message was six words: we are glad you are.
“Welcome, welcome, welcome!” That’s all international athletes hear during their transition to the United States. Welcome to our institution! Welcome to our athletic department! Welcome to our community! At what point do we acknowledge their existence as more than just an introductory greeting?
We are glad you are here.
ICAs will learn all about the United States while they are college athletes at their respective institutions. They will be introduced to tailgating, U.S. American card games, and might even be confused about holidays celebrated in this country (e.g. Labor Day). As college athletes, there is also a lot we will learn from them and their experiences related to cultural norms, societal expectations, and purpose of sport. But the greatest learning will happen alongside each other – learning that would not be possible if it weren't for ICAs desire and courage to travel to the U.S. to compete as NCAA athletes.
New NCAA data revealed that international college athlete participation has increased 20% over the last couple of years. Unfortunately, this phenomenon has not been met with increased attention and support for this student population – don’t worry, we will be addressing this very very soon.
ICA development is longer optional, it’s essential.
UC Student-Athlete Academy is leading the way.
Huge shoutout for UC for facilitating such an important event for international college athlete development. Thank you Chad and Liz for the invite to participate. We look forward to working with y’all in additional capacities in the future.
UC gets it. I’m hopeful more schools will follow their lead and jump on board sooner than later.
Bearcats go Big! Big 12 Bearcats! We’re walking!