Mentoring in Action: Ashley Wechter

Ashley Wechter (’06)Ashley Wechter headshot

Assistant Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Development
Wake Forest Athletic Department

Tell us about your job role in Student-Athlete Development.

This area used to be called CHAMPS/Life Skills, and it did a really great job of allowing student-athletes to get involved in community service. Four years ago, (I had worked for the NCAA prior to coming here to Wake Forest) part of my mission was that I saw what other schools were doing, and I really thought our Athletic Department needed to advance that whole career component. I linked arms with Patrick Sullivan (Career Education & Coaching in the OPCD) and I am now actually a part of the Mentoring Resource Center Program Coordinator Council that meets every semester. Under my umbrella, we categorize it as the three C’s: Character, Community and Career.

How would you describe the mentoring relationships that you have with student-athletes?

I think that informal mentoring is 90% of my job. I love the ability to advise student-athletes, to listen, to hold them accountable and to get to know them. Sometimes as a coach, you’re a little more strict, but as a mentor, I think it’s that relational piece.

I also think that how I approach mentoring relationships depend on what stage they are going through. Whether they’re a freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior, I think that can be a different approach. Or whether they are injured or not, male or female, minority or not, I think everybody has to be individualized and you can’t just have this broad approach to mentoring. Also, I share my Wake Forest story about hitting a lot of adversity and injuries and whatnot, that I make them more comfortable and allow them to feel like they can really share. Overall, if it’s approached with love and they can tell it’s sincere, the outcome will be the same no matter what and we can gain a relationship.

What is unique about mentoring mentoring student-athletes?

The unique part of mentoring a student-athlete is really all of the time demands and the pulls they’re getting from all different directions. They’re going to one of the best institutions in the nation, they’re playing big-time ball in the ACC, and there’s a lot of pressure on them. I always talk to them about that pressure and how they react to it. I always tell them when they sign on the line to become a D-1 student-athlete, that automatically means they’ll have pressure on them that a lot of students won’t.

I think the mentoring piece with them comes from a place of “I’ve been there and I’ve done that” and I think being able to say I’ve been in your shoes helps that relationship. For those who have never been a student-athlete, it’s hard to understand. But I think now that I am removed (from being a student), I want to help them enjoy the process of being a student-athlete, thrive on a campus like Wake Forest and help them utilize the resources available to them. Many of them so badly want to be a part of the greater Wake Forest community, not just athletics. So I just try to mentor them through how they can do that, but also helping them through the day-to-day demands and pulls that come from every different direction.

How has your perspective changed from being a collegiate athlete yourself to now working with them?

When I was  a student-athlete, I definitely felt like I couldn’t do one more thing, but what I realized over time was that your capacity stretches as you grow, and you’re not going to be given more than you can handle. The way you approach things changes too. My perspective has changed, and maturity levels change. You start to understand what’s important and what’s not, and I know this sounds cliche, but don’t sweat the small stuff. I try to give them some perspective that if they don’t get an A on a test, it’s not the end of the world. I think a lot of students come to Wake Forest being very smart, so for a student-athlete, myself included, coming here from being one of the top in your high school class to getting your first C, you might not know what to do with yourself. That perspective of just letting them know that an A or a C isn’t going to define them as people or as athletes and that they’ll likely still make it and graduate from a top institution.

How do you see Wake Forest continuing to embrace the practice of mentoring?

I think the more that folks on campus can be trained in mentoring, the better mentors we’ll have throughout the entire Wake Forest campus. As Dr. Hatch says, this is a deeply personal place and I know that Pro Humanitate runs through the blood of our campus and our athletic department. The more people that we can train as mentors and mentees, the better our entire campus will be. Everyone needs a mentor, no matter what level you’re at. You need someone that can hold you accountable and help you get better and hopefully share some wisdom with you.