Jason Henderson, Lamar athletic director, and Helene Thill, assistant athletic director, support players who need assistance inside and outside of the classroom.
Henderson said his first concern is making sure every student athlete walks out with a degree.
“I have to practice what I preach so if that means me being an accounting tutor for an hour and a half two times a week then so be it,” he said.
When former women’s basketball star Kalis Lloyd was in need of a tutor for an accounting class, Henderson saw it as an opportunity to go beyond his job description and serve a member of the Lamar Athletics family in need. Henderson tutored Lloyd for more than a month. She passed the class, went on to graduate, and is currently playing professional basketball in France.
“It’s always good to see our student athletes successful, whether it’s in the classroom or on the field,” Henderson said. “My ultimate goal is to see them walk across the stage, so that’s what I’m always looking forward to — and I have seen Kalis walk across the stage.
“I want to do everything in my power, and within the rules and regulations, to make sure that the student-athletes are successful. There is a sense of accomplishment, but I’m happier for them when they receive that, than anything I can get from it.”
Henderson sees his job as a proactive leader and he sets meetings during the week with his staff and the president predicated on what is going on with the student athletes.
Henderson said it is important student athletes learn to be adaptable.
“I have learned that it’s an ever-changing world,” he said. “How people communicate, how people want to get information on a daily basis, how student-athletes study, and how students study in general is changing. The mode in which they get their information, and how they want to receive that information has changed. We have to be agile and be able to adapt to those types of things.
“A lot of it is just being ready for whatever comes up, and being adaptable and making sure that we’re still doing things the right way — but we’re looking at new and inventive ways to do it.”
Henderson believes that it’s imperative that he get players and coaches to abide by NCAA rules.
“It’s not worth winning if you’re not doing it correctly. We want to do things morally and ethically correct, and abide by the rules and regulation of the Conference, NCAA, TSUS, and Lamar University. It’s above upmost importance, probably as much or more as anybody else around. I take that very personally. I take that to heart making sure we do that the right way.”
Thill was a student-athlete at UNLV. She was inspired to be an academic advisor because of her swim coach, who was also her academic advisor.
“My swim coach kind of took me under her wing a little bit, and not only was she coaching me as the little kid, but then she also helped me in college — so I kind of got into it that way by just working with the advisors at UNLV, where I went to school, and then just worked my way into that field,” she said. “I understand what student-athletes go through I was one myself.”
After 11 years of working together, Thill said she and Henderson have gravitated towards the same philosophy.
“I think over the years, we’ve made adjustments, both of us,” she said. “At the beginning, he was the compliance coordinator. Both of our jobs really have kind of transitioned and changed. I think our philosophies have definitely run together more, and I think we build off of each other. He’s definitely, as a leader, grown, and I think that’s helped with the development of our department.”
Thill holds weekly meetings with the student-athletes individually to check their academic status.
“We go from at risk student-athletes first and then we move up,” she said. “So, if a student-athlete is taking care of their business, they are that 3.0-4.0 student most likely, we don’t need to meet with them weekly, most of the time they are okay. But the ones that are struggling a little bit or just need that little push, monitoring or tutoring, those are the ones that you’re trying to help — it’s just to touch base.
“It could just be a meeting of, ‘How are you doing?’ It might two minutes, and then it might be a tutoring session. So it’s whoever walks in your office with those things.”
Thill says the bond that is created during a student athlete’s tenure at Lamar lasts well beyond the years it takes to earn a degree. She said she relishes the moments that she gets to interact with student athletes.
“It is a positive experience for both sides,” she said. “It’s challenging, but completely worth it in comparison to the relationships that are formed.
“In our business, student athletes come first, so time management is key. I often clock in overtime on the weekends in order to give the student athletes the time that may help them to be successful.”
Henderson said he believes that it’s imperative that players and coaches abide by NCAA rules.
“It’s not worth winning if you’re not doing it correctly,” he said. “We want to do things morally and ethically correct, and abide by the rules and regulation of the (Southland) Conference, NCAA, TSUS, and Lamar University. It’s of utmost importance. I take that very personally. I take that to heart making sure we do that the right way.”
Henderson said that Lamar is a unique place.
“I love the local community, interaction with student athletes is friendly, and I am constantly developing personal relationships, I wouldn’t have in any other place,” he said