COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – In an effort to better impact the overall lives and well-being of NCHC student-athletes, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) has established a Student-Athlete Well-Being Task Force, which has added or revised policy and created new educational opportunities to be implemented during the 2019-20 season. The announcement comes on the first day of the NCAA’s second-annual week-long Diversity and Inclusion Social Media campaign.
The Student-Athlete Well-Being Task Force discussed ways for student-athletes to become better informed and enlightened on topics such as sportsmanship and conduct, diversity and inclusion, sexual assault, mental health and more. Initiatives included updating the conference’s Policies & Procedures and Student-Athlete Code of Conduct, as well as establishing educational programming and requirements for the NCHC member schools and the conference office.
The Task Force was formed out of NCHC Annual Meetings this past spring and held three calls throughout the summer, initially focusing on sportsmanship and conduct, along with diversity and inclusion. The group consists of two athletic directors (Colorado College’s Lesley Irvine and St. Cloud State’s Heather Weems), two coaches (North Dakota head coach Brad Berry and Colorado College assistant Leon Hayward), two faculty athletics representatives (Western Michigan’s Lisa DeChano-Cook and Miami’s Ron Scott), and a President/Chancellor designee (St. Cloud State’s Judith Siminoe), with NCHC Commissioner Josh Fenton facilitating each of the three calls. The Task Force plans to add student-athletes to the group in the future.
“The general well-being of our student-athletes in today’s world of college athletics and campus life is of utmost importance,” Fenton said. “We believe the work produced by this Task Force now and into the future can better support the needs and challenges faced by student-athletes across the NCHC.”
Among the initiatives and changes already adopted, the Sportsmanship/Conduct section of the NCHC Policies & Procedures was revamped to include:
Several educational opportunities were created, starting with an annual pre-season meeting among men’s ice hockey student-athletes and the school’s athletic director. In the meeting, the NCHC’s new Sportsmanship Policy and revised Student-Athlete Code of Conduct were read. The NCHC Student-Athlete Code of Conduct was updated to include language stressing the NCHC’s commitment to fostering environments where diversity and inclusion are of the utmost importance. It also states NCHC student-athletes will do their best to abide by this same commitment in their daily lives.
In addition, each institution is required to conduct diversity and inclusion training for members of its men’s ice hockey program annually and document to the Commissioner that the appropriate training has occurred. Educational video vignettes filmed with Commissioner Fenton discussing various topics will be played for student-athletes and staff of each NCHC program throughout the season. The first video, highlighting the importance of diversity and inclusion, was already completed and provided to member institutions. Prior to each game, the NCHC’s Sportsmanship Policy will be read aloud and played on the arena’s videoboard. Videos were filmed at NCHC Media Day of head coaches, team captains and the Commissioner reading the Sportsmanship Policy.
“Our goal is to foster an environment across the conference that underscores and supports the value of every student athlete, administrator, staff member or coach on our campuses and throughout the conference. We believe and embrace the notion that diversity and inclusion improve the learning environment for all student-athletes and enhances excellence within the Conference,” said Scott, Miami’s FAR who serves on the Task Force. “As we move forward, we will work to promote, establish, and maintain an inclusive environment and culture, built on the pillars of sportsmanship for athletes, administrators and coaches that provides the best opportunity to participate in and experience fully the sport of hockey.”
Lastly, during NCHC officiating camps this past September, the NCHC Sportsmanship Policy was read to all NCHC referees and linesmen either in-person or through a pre-recorded video with Commissioner Fenton, stressing the NCHC’s commitment to sportsmanlike behavior along with the importance of diversity and inclusion being central components of our lives.
The Student-Athlete Well-Being Task Force will remain together and hold calls to discuss other topics, such as sexual assault and mental health, in the future, establishing initiatives to assist in each of those areas.