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Duke brings in new student athlete liason

Men's basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski called the spring the "most trying time" he has seen in his time at Duke.

This fall, the Department of Athletics is trying to ensure it never has to go through that again. The program is attempting to address the issues that have been brought up because of the controversy stemming from charges against members of the men's lacrosse team.

Among a number pf initiatives this year aimed at accomplishing this goal is an increase in the attention paid toward student-athlete development. To head up this effort, the Department of Athletics has hired a new "life skills coordinator"--also known as the director of student athlete development.

Leslie Barnes, who had previously served as life skills coordinator at Ohio State, joined the athletics department staff this summer to fill Duke's position. Director of Athletics Joe Alleva said Barnes was not hired specifically because of the lacrosse scandal, but the job had been vacant for four years.

In her new role, Barnes will have a variety of different responsibilities, including coordinating drug and alcohol education, student athlete educational programming and community service.

"I've become almost a liaison to the student affairs side of things," Barnes said. "I always say that life skills or student athlete development can be referred to as student affairs on an athletic department's schedule."

Coming to Durham while Duke-specifically the athletic department--is still under intense scrutiny, Barnes said she welcomes the challenges presented to her.

"I've worked in college athletics long enough to know that it could have been on any campus," she said. "It's not an issue specific only to Duke, specific only to lacrosse or specific only to college athletics-it's a societal issue.... It's going to be publicized, especially at a university like Duke that's very prestigious and well-recognized."

In her six short weeks so far at Duke, Barnes has already made an impression. She ran drug and alcohol educational seminars for several teams, and she has begun to coordinate community service efforts, among other things.

The response has been positive from those within the athletics community.

"She can help us in a lot of different areas," said women's soccer head coach Robbie Church. "She's tying a lot of things together.... She's a huge help for the program."

Both Church and men's soccer head coach John Rennie said their teams would likely spend more time working with Barnes once their fall seasons are over.

"She'll help our athletes get out into the community in Durham," Church said. "I'm excited to find out what it's all about."

Barnes graduated from Nebraska-Wesleyan, where she played tennis, in 1996. As an undergraduate she studied psychology, and she received a masters of education in counseling and psychological services from Springfield College in 1998.

Since then, she has worked in student-athlete development and life skills coordination at Nebraska-Lincoln, Arizona State and Utah State, before serving at Ohio State for the past three years.

As someone who has been involved with athletics for the majority of her life, Barnes said she is excited about the opportunity to counsel athletes at Duke.

"You have to have a personality and the passion for working with students," Barnes said. "That's where I get my energy from."

With that drive to help the student athletes at Duke, Barnes said she is aware the job will often mean long hours. She said she is prepared to work with Duke's 600-plus athletes on their schedules and help them in facets of life that are important while they are in school-and beyond.

"Any college student goes through the whole transition out of college," she said. "For athletes, it can tend to be a little bit more difficult because of the time demands placed on them in their sports. So a lot of times they haven't had the time to extend beyond sports environments.

"I see it as an opportunity to come and and collaborate with campus offices to do some proactive, preventive-type programs and get to know some students and offer them additional resources and connect them to opportunities that are out there."

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