Win. Loss. Win
How to Help a Student Leader Recover from a Loss.
Trill or Not Trill?


One of the toughest tasks as an advisor, educator and student affairs professional is keeping a student who took an L to stay motivated. We often encourage but have to also know how to help them recover. As my New York Football Giants defeated the Washington Redskins, I thought about their 3rd string QB Robert Griffin. Washington and the head coach has handled this terribly.  The once heralded and potential filled quarterback was now toiling away on the bench. It brought me back to a few students, I’ve worked with who were in similar predicaments.

I encouraged a student to apply to become an RA. I saw great potential in her. She proceeded to bomb her group interview and didn’t make it to the next round. She followed that up by not talking to me for the rest of the semester. She made it a point to avoid myself and all my other colleagues. Our office sent her a letter offering to speak on it and we got nothing.

I sent the young lady a last ditch email informing her that the hiring process was approaching and if she wanted to learn how to improve on her previous interview I’d be more than willing to help. She surprisingly replied and scheduled a meeting. We had a great talk about being embarrassed and feeling like a failure. After pointing out some fixable issues, she decided to apply again. Of course, she killed it and went on to become a great RA. I think that student currently works in student affairs today.

I had to fire this student from being an orientation leader. She was a dynamic leader who’d I worked with before. She ended up missing training day after training day without explanation. I’d see her randomly on campus during the orientation and I got nothing but the illest side eyes. My hellos were met with the literal version of SMH.

I reached out to one her peers and asked them to set up a meeting with me. She agreed and I asked her what happened we go to the root of why she missed training. She had to suddenly start babysitting a sibling because her mom got sick. I reassured this student that communication was the key. I also reminded her that her being fired isn’t an indictment on her leadership but it is policy. She went on to becoming an orientation leader the following year and completely rocked it as we knew she would.

I pushed this one student to run for a position in Student Government. They refused initially but my persuasive ways convinced them to give it a go. They got blown out in the election and were furious with me for putting them in that position. The student didn’t want to speak to me at all.

I was finally able to convince this student to have a sit down with me. We honestly laughed at how poorly he had done in the election. After the chuckle came the real. The discussion turned to all the mishaps that led to loss. We talked about the lack of campaigning and the nervousness exhibited during the debates. We spoke about other options and this student decided to keep moving forward as a leader in a different capacity. They used their skills and was selected to a diversity advisory board and became an integral part bringing diverse faculty and staff onto campus. The elected Student Government position was for them but leadership sure was.

There was this amazing quarterback in the NFL who put up record breaking numbers his rookie season. In one year he became the face of the franchise and hero in the city. He got hurt in a playoff game and the coaches insisted he go back in and play when everyone watching could see how badly he looked. That QB went back and suffered a more serious injury.

RG3 hasn’t been the same since. They rushed him back and he got hurt again. A new coach came in and continually made mention of other unproven quarterbacks on the roster being a better fit to start. The pressure increases because not only is he trying to reprieve greatness but the support from the coaches isn’t really there. (That’s not a proven fact, but I know SuckaMC behavior when I see it.) So, sure RG3 was given a shot to start but those coaches were just waiting for the moment to pull him and of course and sadly Griffin got hurt.

In all of these situations, the most painful part is seeing potential and spirit being dimmed. I’ve learned that working with those students outside of the role you initially them is essential. One must have an advisor that will push those students to succeed one way or the other. That could mean applying for that position again. You can help them see that losing an election doesn’t mean you’ll lose the next one. It could mean helping them focus on their areas of struggle as well. Sometimes it’s recognizing their limits and articulating that in a manner that is constructive.

The Redskins failed miserably in the handling of Robert Griffin III. They could have forced him to sit out until his injury was fully healed. They could have hired a coach that was built to help him succeed as a pocket passer. The Redskins could have even just traded Griffin or cut him from the team along with their losses. Instead they left him out there still injured all while taking subliminal shots at Griffin’s ability. Then they hired a head coach who has been nothing but critical of RG3. It almost seems personal. There was little consistency as mixed messages were coming from various voices in the organization.

I never blamed those young leaders for their behavior after taking that L. I just knew that the same potential I saw in them had just changed directions either momentarily or towards something else. As advisors, we must consistently cultivate. Be clear with the student and don’t be afraid to confront them and discuss the letdown. If they won’t hear you at first, give them some time, then use your leadership and counseling skills to assist with the process.

I read that Robert Griffin was practicing with safeties on defense. At this point I’d rather see him on the defensive side of the ball then on the bench as a 3rd string quarterback.


Stay trill, folks.