One of Steve Wilson’s goals when he was named Director of Athletics at Kansas Wesleyan in 2019 didn’t involve what transpires on the fields or courts of competition.
The setting is a classroom.
“One of my chief objectives here is to raise the academic profile of the athletic department,” he said. “Our job is to get them into the graduation line.”
Finding someone within the athletic department to take the lead was the next step and Wilson’s confident he’s done that in promoting Ryan Showman to the newly created position of Assistant Athletics Director for Student Experience.
Showman will continue to coach the women’s basketball team as he has for nine seasons.
“If you look at what Ryan has done with the women’s basketball program that’s one you point to that you say, ‘I want 25 GPAs (grade point averages) like the women’s basketball program.'” Wilson said. “It’s a natural decision in that regard.
“He’s got the respect of everyone one of these coaches, he’s been here longer than any other coach. They go to him for advice – how do you run study hall; how do you guys keep doing this? The talents matched.”
Wilson said the position was born after discussions between himself, KWU President Dr. Matt Thompson and Provost Dr. Damon Kraft.
Showman’s new duties won’t be all that foreign. He’s currently in charge of the student-athlete mentoring program and is the liaison for the NAIA’s Champions of Character initiative in which KWU has reached the Gold Standard each of the last three years.
He’ll work closely with Kraft.
“I think we have a strong tradition of success overall on the playing field and I think we can just as successful off the field and in the classroom,” Showman said. “I feel like we’re really close to having a high academic profile and I want to be able to strengthen that.
“Dr. Kraft has been that champion of academics, retention and persistence at the administrative level. I’m going to be that person for him in the athletic department and I’m excited to work with him.”
Wilson said Showman has demonstrated the ability to lead student-athletes who are successful on the court and in the classroom.
“(Students) are our consumers, our clients, they’re who we’re here to serve and it’s our duty to make sure that they persist and that we retain them, so they are successful and go out and do great things in the world,” he said. “We were looking for a solution and way that we can really beef up what we do, and I think we found it.”
Showman said he’s not looking to overhaul anything but wants to be a resource other coaches can go to on academic matters.
“We have varying levels of experience in this department from brand new coaches to coaches who have been around,” he said. “They all do things differently in their programs and it’s not going to be cookie cutter, one-stop-shop. Helping develop a consistent study hall model, helping put in some structures for success for incoming students and while they’re here.
“I want to help them grow what they’re doing in terms of academics and just be a check-in point and offer support if I need to or just another resource for them to give them a chance to be successful.”
It’s a challenge Showman is ready to tackle.
“I love this place, I bleed purple, and I want to see it keep getting better every year,” he said. “I’m excited to do something a little bit different. It’s going to get out of my comfort zone a little bit in terms of responsibilities and not just focus on the coaching piece. I’m appreciative of the opportunity and thankful and ready to start working.”