Forward Progress: The Journey to Student-Athlete Success

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As athletic administrators, our key focus is the success of the student-athletic teams we serve.

Making the Grade

Progress: the onward movement toward a destination.

Throughout the course of our lives, we are faced with many obstacles that sometimes slow or seemingly halt our advancement altogether. Still, we press forward knowing that the most rewarding part of the process is continually making progress. This is seldom, if ever, accomplished on your own. In fact, sport is predicated on the value of teamwork, and absent a team that works with and for you, your chances at success will be marginal at best.

As athletic administrators, our key focus is the success of the student-athletic teams we serve. But what is the true essence of student-athlete success? Is it graduating? Playing on the team? Getting a scholarship? Finding a supportive social network? Acquiring life-skills? Winning? If you were to put the nation’s leading athletic directors to the test, you would find them darkening the choice furthest to the right indicating:

“All of the above.”

Last month in the nation’s capital, the Atlantic 10 Conference hosted its first Student-Athlete Leadership Summit featuring 28 men’s and women’s basketball student-athletes, representing each of the 14 conference member institutions. This two-day event featured professional speakers and seminars focusing on developing leadership skills, personal brand identities, networking skills, and life after college, and was all about assisting these young men and women on their journey to student-athlete success.

The A-10 tabbed none other than Forward Progress Athletics Consulting to lead this inaugural seminar.

Founded in 2013 by two former NCAA student-athletes, John and Maricela Shukie ultimately took their talents to the NCAA national office and established themselves as experts in their respective fields. With a desire to have an even greater impact on student-athletes, the Shukies set out to create an organization that assisted colleges in navigating core NCAA academic processes — specifically the Academic Progress Rate (APR).

As a refresher, the APR is a team-based metric that holds institutions accountable for the academic progress and retention of its student-athletes. A lack of accountability with respect to this measure can result in dire consequences such as post-season bans among other penalties. In short, for athletic departments that fail to uphold academic standards, this three letter acronym can quickly transform into the equivalent of what the IRS is to the general public.

Onward & [Forward]

At the inception of the company, the mission of Forward Progress centered on being the “national leader in academic performance.” Under this premise, the staff focused its attention on assisting its partner institutions with creating programs that helped student-athletes graduate and meet NCAA academic standards. However, over the past four years, John and Maricela have transformed the company’s sole focus on academics into a comprehensive set of services geared toward positively impacting the student-athlete experience.

After establishing an indelible footprint in the academic consulting space, Kelly Brooks, a former NCAA Director, was asked to join the team. Brooks brought a national reputation and years of experience as a respected coach, academic advisor, and administrator. With Kelly’s assistance, Forward Progress was able to diversify its offerings to reflect a more holistic approach ranging from supporting prospective student-athletes in navigating initial eligibility processes, to conducting leadership and development workshops across the country.

Valuing Academic Virtue

With respect to the advent of the all-new Values-Based Revenue Distribution (VBRD) model, it is obvious that Forward Progress was engaged in some forward thinking years ago. The VBRD initiative was made possible through the NCAA’s new multimedia rights contract with CBS/Turner.

In scope, a portion of Division I revenue will be distributed to member schools based on the academic achievement of student-athletes. The change, approved by both the Division I Board of Directors and the NCAA Board of Governors, will begin with the 2019–20 academic year. With some schools’ projected annual earnings coming in at over $500,000 through this channel, the focus on academics has never been greater. With this in mind, Forward Progress is perfectly positioned to help institutions and conferences meet the newly-established distribution benchmarks. Nevertheless, this is but the tip of the iceberg for the long-term vision of Forward Progress.

Fueled by their passion and purpose, John, Maricela and team continue to focus on ensuring student-athletes make the mark in college and life thereafter. While their early success and impact has been duly rewarding, their team continues to look Forward to the future. In their view, there is still much Progress to be made.

About Forward Progress Athletics Consulting: Forward Progress is the industry leader in providing academic and leadership consulting to NCAA institutions and conferences. Discover more at

Maricela Shukie, Vice President of Operations, Forward Progress

For more information contact: Maricela Shukie, V.P. Operations, (303) 681–2210;

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