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Set for Life

Adulting 101 classes provide crash course in everyday skill sets

Chris Herron and volleyball team at Hy-Vee

From The Ichabod - Winter 2021

The opportunities to bump and spike may have been limited this season, but when it comes to life lessons college students aren’t typically taught, the Washburn University volleyball team is now set.

Rather than sitting idle or trying out new hobbies when the NCAA Division II fall sports schedule was canceled, Coach Chris Herron provided his team an experience they can look back on for years to come.

Along with Assistant Coach Haley Kindall, Herron organized a series of Adulting 101 classes that covered practical topics ranging from financial advice and insurance coverage to eating healthy and using
good manners.

“Years ago, there was a coach back East who taught classes about common-sense type of things, and I tucked that idea away,” said Herron, who is now in his 19th year as Washburn’s coach. “When this stuff happened, I thought, ‘Let’s pull some of these out.’”

One of the first ideas that came to mind was a tutorial on changing tires. Herron walked through the entire process, then the team repeated each step themselves while braving the August heat on a campus parking lot.

“I drove by and saw someone with a flat tire on the side of the highway and thought, ‘This is something essential for people to know how to do,’” Herron said.

For other lessons, Herron called on experts to provide instruction. David Sollars, dean of the Washburn University School of Business, explained effective ways to save money and pay taxes; an insurance agent talked about renters and homeowners policies; a nutritionist at Hy-Vee provided nutritious meal plans and a tour of the store; and city and Washburn police shared how to access their services when needed.

“We had to be as creative as we could to take our minds off the fact that we’re not playing,” said Herron, whose weekly practice schedule was cut from 20 hours to just eight because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Some team members saw the educational environment Herron created and ran with it. Junior Emma Palasak asked her mom to give the Ichabods a comprehensive etiquette lesson. Bonnie Palasak, a Georgia-born teacher, was happy to share the lessons she ingrained in Emma growing up.

“She’s deep-rooted in Southern tradition, and she raised us to have good manners,” said Emma, whose family moved from Atlanta to Arkansas when she was 4. “She taught the team how to greet people, how to talk politely on the phone and use proper place settings when eating. Everyone had always seen her as ‘Fun Miss Bonnie,’ so having her as a teacher was fun. The team was super tuned in.”

Palasak, the social media manager for Washburn’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, and teammate Kelsey Gordon, the council’s president, used the team gatherings as an opportunity to explain the importance of voting and ensure everyone was registered, which helped SAAC move closer to its goal of 100% participation among student-athletes in the 2020 election.

“With it being an election year, we know how important it is for our voices to be heard,” said Gordon, a junior from Emporia. “There’s a big national push to get youth and Gen Z registered to vote because a lot of us don’t recognize the power of our votes.”

Kindall set up a Zoom meeting with the Kansas League of Women Voters, who helped volleyball team members register in either their home state or Kansas. SAAC hung fliers across campus with links to bipartisan information on voter registration and candidate platforms.

“We’re so young, sometimes it feels like our voices don’t matter,” Palasak said. “Voting is the one true way to make sure our voices are heard and speak for ourselves. It doesn’t matter what you believe in, as long as you’re represented.”
As important as the voting initiative was to the two SAAC board members, each had a different answer when asked about their favorite Adulting 101 topic.

“No offense to my mom,” Palasak said, “but I really liked learning about finances because that’s something that’s always been my biggest worry, not knowing how to handle money and what to invest in.”

The highlight for Gordon was learning to change tires from Herron, who provided instruction in an unfamiliar arena during a year when adaptability may be the most important trait of all.

“We usually see him in a volleyball setting, so it was cool for him to coach us in something that’s different,” Gordon said. “It’s empowering to know if I ever blow a tire on the highway, I can do these things myself.”

Spring 2022 The Ichabod cover. Sculpture on the lawn north of Memorial Union

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