Every four years, athletic administrations across the country conduct student-athlete exit interviews. It’s a time where student-athletes can reflect on their athletic achievements and make comments like how a pineapple-lemonade soda machine would have been helpful in the student-athlete lounge or a Swedish masseuse would have been nice during their training. They hand it in, administration pats themselves on the back noting that the student-athlete didn’t make any “realistic” comments on problems that they could have fixed and then the paper is quickly crumpled and discarded in the nearest receptacle.
The problem with these exit interviews is that they provide little opportunity for improvement. First, the feedback is not asked in real time. Do you really want to wait four years to fix a problem that could have been addressed at the end of the first semester?
Second, the questions are never specific or thought provoking … it’s usually a formality put into place so that management can have a safety net to fall back on, claiming after a problem surfaces that they did their due diligence and asked for comments year after year, “how was I suppose to know that our cafeteria wasn’t open past our last practice time? I asked for general comments every year.”
Lastly, asking for general comments only ensures you of one thing: general, non-specific comments in return (read: vanilla). If you are serious about making change, then your questions will reflect this. Asking specific questions regarding the hours of operation of your facility and if it meets the needs of your student-athletes will evoke a much different response then simply asking for comments about the Athletic Training Room or Strength and Conditioning Room in general. Basically, specific questions generate qualified comments.
I once heard a story of a department that placed a suggestion box out for their customers to leave comments in. They didn’t read them of course; but having customers leave suggestions made them feel as if they had a voice, they said. Talk about a lost opportunity to tap into your customer base.
Is your exit process an interview or does it provide opportunity?
Art Horne is the Coordinator of Care and Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Men’s Basketball Team at Northeastern University, Boston MA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.