They normally let their game do the talking, but on Thursday, Oct. 30, the rules change for nine West Virginia University student-athletes enrolled in a unique speech class thats a little bit about diction and a lot about personal direction.
The students, who all wear the gold and blue on various Mountaineer sports teams, will deliver five-minute motivational speeches before their coaches and others from 1-2 p.m. in the Jerry West Mountaineer Room of the WVU Coliseum.
Yes, thats public speakingin all its sweaty-palmed, dry-throat gloryand its all part of Carolyn AtkinsSpeaking to Communitiescourse in the College of Human Resources and Education.
Atkins, a speech pathology and audiology professor, first began talking about the course in 1990. Back then, WVU was emerging as a major player in college sports, which meant national coverage and postgame interviews.
Lots of postgame interviews.
The courses original aim was to do a slam-dunk, end-around on all those verbal fillerstheumsandyou knowsthat permeate everyday speech while especially making themselves known to the notebooks and microphones of reporters after the game.
Since athletes are among the most visible members of the student body, Atkins said, they should also be among the most articulate.
An amazing thing happened along the way. The athletes began sharing their personal stories. They talked about the rough times and the coaches and other mentors who inspired direction not just to Division I competition, but to a college education.
Theyve been really honest, and theyve given of themselves and their experience,Atkins said.Theyve really put it all out there, and I couldnt be more proud.
The professor was so proud, in fact, that she turned her class into a lesson plan for middle schools across the Mountain State.
A six-DVD set featuring Atkinsformer students discussing character-education issues was distributed last year to every middle school in West Virginia. The project is known asStudent Athletes Speak Outor SASO , as inSay So.
An additional three-DVD set will hit those classrooms in the next few weeks, and the SASO Character Education Project also includes a Web site ( http://saso.wvu.edu ), which offers a teachers guide to accompany each topic.
The whole exercise, from the class to the DVD packages, collectively makes for a good lesson, Atkins said. After all, she said, theflying WVmakes spirits soar all across West Virginia.
Our athletes are role models,Atkins said,and people do want to listen to what they say and how they say it.
This semesters students and their topics:
Darryl Bryant,The Greatest Role Model
Naja Johnson,Is �€~Easya Reward?
Kona Dennis,�€~Impossibleis Meaningless
Devin Ebanks,One of the Lucky Ones
Adam Mills,Be True to Yourself
Ray Gaddis,Choices to be Made
Dorrell Jalloh,The �€~Motherof Leadership
Atkins in 2005 was named West Virginia Professor of the Year by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
The selection was based on her work with upper-division speech honors students and her Speaking to Communities course for student-athletes.