Published: May 3, 2024

When CU Boulder student athletes compete, they always bring their best, but an Athletic Department program is working to ensure they are set up for success outside of competition and even for the rest of their lives.  

The Crawford Family WHOLE Student-Athlete Program, which stands for Wellness Health Optimal Life Experience, uses a “WHOLE-istic” approach by emphasizing health and wellness within and across physical, psychological, academic, and career and leadership domains, all within a milieu of inclusion, belonging, diversity and equity. 

WHOLE student athlete life-course diagram

A flow chart of the student athlete life-course to life ready trajectory and a diagram illustrating the tenets of the new WHOLE Student-Athlete Program.

With its emphasis on developmental science as the backbone to sport science and analytics, WHOLE provides unparalleled support for student athletes that is innovative in collegiate athletics.    

“Beginning as early as their time as a recruit and through their time as a student athlete, the WHOLE Student-Athlete Program provides support services, programming and integrated care that also serves as a net,” said Theresa Hernández, director of Crawford Family WHOLE Student-Athlete. “This net is in position to not only catch student athletes when needed but also have enough elasticity to allow them to reposition and relaunch on a positive life-course trajectory.” 

Founded in 2021, the WHOLE Student-Athlete Program is unique because it brings the student athlete support services, resources and programming into one interconnected, embedded unit, which encourages collaboration and the utilization of information that is vital for overall student athlete health and wellness.  

“If, for example, a student athlete has an injury, it’s important to have a response system in place in the event their academic work is affected, not to mention their psychological health during the full recovery process,” said Hernández. “It is important that everyone is in the room and everyone’s knowledge is available to make sure the student athlete is getting the full array of support they need to optimize their success while at CU and beyond.” 

“Everything we do at CU Athletics is centered around optimizing the student athlete experience, and the Crawford Family WHOLE Student-Athlete Program is an important component of that overall mission,” added Athletic Director Rick George. “We want our student athletes to be champions in competition, in the classroom, and we want to set them up for success long after they’ve left Boulder. This innovative program sets them on that path.”

In addition to providing student-athletes with tools and information, one of WHOLE’s key responsibilities is providing support that student athletes need to perform their best in competition, in the classroom and in life.   

Jaylyn Sherrod on the court

Jaylyn Sherrod on the court

“You feel you are really cared about as a person,” said Jaylyn Sherrod, star point guard on the women’s basketball team and graduate student. “Knowing that you’re not just an athlete, it gives a sense of comfort and sense of safeness that you have options and you do have resources outside of your coaches and teammates to reach out to if you need help.”  

The utilization of developmental and sport sciences is another way that WHOLE is leading college athletics by using empirical data to chart individualized plans and make adjustments on the fly. This applied science approach opens the door for utilizing the best available evidence at the right time, in the right environment and for the right individual to improve student athlete performance and health. Student athletes also are provided programming through WHOLE about finance, nutrition and other skills they’ll use for the rest of their lives.  

“At Colorado, we are fortunate to have a wealth of resources and technologies that allow us to objectively identify the growth and development of our student athletes in all areas of health, wellness and performance,” said Tessa Mendoza, assistant director of developmental science data analytics. “This information allows our coaches and staff to work together and make informed decisions that best support our student athletes.”  

“WHOLE is using data that teams and departments are collecting and making it accessible and usable in real-time to reduce injuries, improve performance, improve physical and psychological health, as well as to optimize life-course trajectory,” said Hernández. 

While CU student athletes always bring their best, the WHOLE Student-Athlete Program ensures their best extends long after their athletic careers are over. 

WHOLE Student-Athlete Program mission statement

Enhancing the capability and capacity for the “WHOLE-istic” development of student athletes by facilitating data utilization, research and programming across intercollegiate athletics with the inclusion of all stakeholders (e.g., student athletes, staff, departments, coaches and leadership).