Achieving success

Building the NCAA model for the student-athlete experience

Olivia Lehman dive

SUMMARY: The student-athlete experience is a broad, diverse and unique collection of opportunities for our student-athletes and something that sets JMU apart from other institutions.

from the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of Madison

As the second diver in program history to reach the NCAA Championships, senior Olivia Lehman has experienced the pinnacle of athletic excellence. She is a four-year NCAA Zone qualifier, the 2016 Colonial Athletic Association Diver of the Year and the first athlete in program history to win an event in the Zone meet with a 1-meter dive title last year.

With all that success in competition, Lehman is quick to identify the diverse experiences offered to all student-athletes at James Madison as a defining element of her intercollegiate career.

“JMU does a really great job of providing us opportunities,” Lehman commented. “Getting involved in other things, whether that be campus related or sponsored through athletics, has been the biggest key to my personal development. We have so many things available to us that help us prepare to start thinking about our future goals.”

Lehman embodies the student-athlete experience envisioned by JMU Athletics. As a senior, she serves as vice president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, is involved with Fellowship of Christian Athletes and is a consistent attendee of JMU’s student-athlete mentorship events, where she has had the opportunity to network with alumni and learn how her character traits as a student-athlete could make her more marketable in her future profession.

Olivia Lehman and teammates
Olivia Lehman (middle) and teammates encourage other members of the JMU swimming and diving team at a meet.

“The student-athlete experience is a broad, diverse and unique collection of opportunities for our student-athletes and something that sets JMU apart from other institutions,” notes Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne. “It is multifaceted to include the quality of our coaches and their concern for our student-athletes as individuals, the opportunity to optimize academic achievement, the ability to excel in competition, the ability to grow socially and the means to prepare for successful professional careers upon graduation.

“We’ve been able to hire coaches and administrators who share that vision,” Bourne continued. “They come to work every day and work extremely hard to make sure this broad experience is conveyed to our student-athletes.”

Coach Lauren Steinbrecher huddles with her volleyball team
Coach Lauren Steinbrecher huddles with her team to discuss strategy during a home match against Hofstra.

Volleyball’s Lauren Steinbrecher is one of those coaches committed to cultivating the student-athlete experience. “We’re looking at each individual player and how can we help them reach their full potential,” she said. “We have a culture as a university, but especially within athletics, of growing people to be successful when they graduate.”

Steinbrecher’s squad was recognized in 2016 as the department’s community service award recipient. Her team performed well in the classroom, and her student-athletes currently occupy two of the 10 SAAC executive positions. Volleyball was also one of the first teams to jump on board with JMU’s evolving Integrated Health and Sports Performance program, an innovative approach to maximizing health and wellness through collaboration across multiple areas of expertise.

Coincidentally, those purposeful growth opportunities off the court under Steinbrecher’s leadership culminated in the Dukes winning the 2016 CAA Championship, the program’s first since 2000, proving that growth off the court can lead to success on it.

“When you talk about winning, you need academics, leadership and more to be successful on the court. Everything we do off the court carries over to what we are doing on the court,” Steinbrecher said. “Most importantly, when they graduate, we really want them to win and be successful in their jobs, personal relationships and families. To me, you can’t separate the skill on the court and the person from what they are learning in the classroom and through their other opportunities.”

Anita Hyink, Alicia Cooperman and Olivia Lehman sitting at table
(From right) Olivia Lehman, Alicia Cooperman and Anita Hyink ('79) participate in a 2016 mentoring event, part of JMU's Student-Athlete Leadership Development Program.

Published: Thursday, April 6, 2017

Last Updated: Friday, May 18, 2018

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