Rethinking Spring Training for Increased Success

Most of you are already in the process of (or will be) training your student leaders for the spring semester. Spring training offers the chance to re-establish the mission, vision, and values of your department (or student organization) as well as revisit important expectations and goals.

Unfortunately, I have encountered departments and student organizations across the country that give little credence to spring training and do not do it or simply see it as another task to accomplish rather than an opportunity to reconnect with team members to plan for a more productive semester.

Here are some strategies to use when re-thinking your spring training:

  • Purposely Build in “Fluidity” into Training –  Outside of the announcing the days and times that everyone needs to be there, do not set your agenda in stone. If you are receiving feedback during the course of your spring training that something could be added, changed, or deleted, do it! Mentally evaluate or “check-in” with everyone to see how they think things are going. You could get feedback that other skills need to be covered that are not on the schedule or that something could be eliminated because it is simply not needed.
  • Dust Off Previous Staff Evaluations – Your training should be tweaked based upon previous feedback you have received from your team members. Many great topic ideas and areas needed for improvement can be found by looking at evaluations from previous training sessions. If you have team members remaining who gave this feedback, meet with them to further pick their brain about how you can improve spring training.
  • Do Not Add Something Simply because it is Tradition – If a topic or session does not add value to the team’s skill set, eliminate it. Training takes a lot of time and work so do not include something because of a “that’s-the-way-it’s-always-been-done” attitude. Get feedback from your team members ahead of time about a tentative schedule of topics so you can delete items they feel are not necessary.
  • Dictate the Agenda for those Who Come to Speak – One excellent piece of advice I learned years ago from a colleague is to make sure that invited speakers (especially from your own campus) are teaching what you need them to teach. Through campus politics, some departments can find their way onto your schedule to meet their own needs. Training should NOT be glorified commercials for campus departments. So if you are told that someone from outside of your organization is coming to speak, meet with them to set the session content and objectives so that your team members are actually receiving useful information to utilize in their position.
  • Treat Your “Returners” with Reverance – As I stated in a previous post entitled “How to Avoid Creating Resident Assistant Boot Camp,” 2nd year and subsequent year returners going through the same process every year can be torture. Mix it up for them; get them involved in helping to teach or develop advanced topics for them. You could also bring them back a day or two after all the new team members have already covered the basic topics.

Make the most out of your spring training sessions. Do something new, do something innovative, and most importantly, teach information and skills that add value to your team.

What are some new strategies that are a departure from your normal spring training routine? What have you added and / or eliminated from your schedule and why?

All of those who share an example as a comment will enter into a raffle to win a Discussion Cards activity through the mail from Student Life Consultants. The raffle will occur on 01/20/12 at 8pm (EST) and the winner will be announced via Twitter @studentlifeguru and through this post’s comments. 

5 thoughts on “Rethinking Spring Training for Increased Success

  1. Jeff Stafford

    Shift you focus from “training” to facilitation. Here is where dialogue and content move from lecture-based-must-knows to co-creation and engagement. To do this you must be clear in you objectives, as to facilitate the conversation towards your intended outcomes.

    1. studentlifeguru

      Thanks Jeff! You make an interesting point here. Your suggestion is also great for getting more “buy-in” from team members to participate in the process and being more active in their own learning. Unfortunately many student affairs folks do not have an instructional design background, but should take note of your suggestion and attempt to engage their staffers and team members in a more “organic” and “engagement-oriented” fashion. As I once heard, people take a part in what they help to create.

    1. studentlifeguru

      Thank you for your kind word! Blogging can take a lot of work dependent upon how much content you want to develop and write, particularly if you want to keep your readers interested. As I’ve heard some blogging experts say, you have to “feed the machine” when you decide to blog. However, you can simply blog for fun and keep it updated as much or as little as you like. I have read that one to three posts per week are usually good.

      There are many excellent resources on blogging on the internet. I highly recommend Jeff Bullas ( and Neil Patel ( for some of the best blogging advice around.

      Thanks for reading my blog!


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