The day started with an early-morning run through campus and concluded with remarks from Bucknell University President John Bravman. In between, Dr. Christine Copper, Dr. Jessica Mohler and Dr. Joe Thomas from the Student-Leader Seminar guided the Bison student-athletes through the three main concepts of the program: Alignment, Vision and Execution.
The “Alignment” concept considers loyalty to peers and loyalty to Bucknell, and how these loyalties can cause conflicts. It discusses how to negotiate conflicts by recognizing the difference between true ethical dilemmas and more simple moral dilemmas in which one is tempted to do what is known to be wrong. “Vision” challenges leaders to have a clear vision of what they desire their team to accomplish both on and off the field of play, and to define the necessary standards that will support this vision. “Execution” provides concrete advice on the actions leaders can take to effectively execute their responsibilities, to include creating a vision, communicating the vision, establishing relationships with key stakeholders, and maintaining accountability.
These very concepts are molded from a curriculum developed at the U.S. Naval Academy based on leadership training delivered to senior captains of the Midshipmen varsity athletics programs. In fact, Dr. Copper is a professor of chemistry and the institutional Faculty Athletics Representative at the Naval Academy; Dr. Mohler is a clinical and sport psychologist at USNA; and Dr. Thomas is a retired U.S. Marine who has studied and taught leadership and ethics all over the world in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East. His teaching stops include the Naval Academy, University of Notre Dame, University of Maryland and the National Outdoor Leadership School.
Each 90-minute module consisted of instruction from the Student-Leader Seminar faculty, as well as small-group breakout sessions where the student-athletes were asked to apply the concepts learned into actual situations and team concepts. For example, during the “Execution” segment, student-athletes were asked to formulate both a vision and a “mantra” that could be used for a Bucknell team.
Another interesting part of the agenda was an outdoor experiential activity led by Andy Mahoney, assistant professor of military science with the Bison Battalion ROTC. In this exercise, the student-athletes were directed to transfer one bucket of “hazardous liquid” into an empty bucket located about 25 yards away, but only using a provided array of equipment consisting of various-sized ropes, a bungee cord and a caribiner. To make the task more difficult, both buckets were placed in no-entry zones, and some team members were assigned handicaps such as blindness. Student-athletes worked in small groups to accomplish the task, and it proved to be an interesting lesson in planning, teamwork and leadership.
“Our annual Bucknell Bison Leadership Academy kickoff event was a great success, and I want to thank Christine, Jessica and Joe from the Student-Leader Seminar for their involvement and expertise,” said Maisha Kelly, senior associate director of athletics and the coordinator of the Bucknell Bison Leadership Academy. “Our staff facilitators did an outstanding job, and the feedback from our student-athletes has been tremendous. We are very eager to enter our fourth year of the Leadership Academy. We have an exciting curriculum planned for 2014-15.”
In addition to Kelly, Bucknell staff facilitators included head field hockey coach Jeremy Cook, head women’s soccer coach Ben Landis, head women’s basketball coach Aaron Roussell, head wrestling coach Dan Wirnsberger, associate head men’s basketball coach Dane Fischer, assistant water polo coach Kyle Gorham, assistant strength and conditioning coach Cassandra Baier, assistant director of recreation services Laurel Kopecki and assistant director of athletics development Terry Conrad.
“Both the Naval Academy and Bucknell have a very similar student-athlete, so it was an absolute pleasure to open up a conversation between Bucknell and the Academy because of those similarities,” said Dr. Thomas. They are very talented, very motivated, just quality men and women. They are going to be not just better players as a result of participating in Bucknell University’s Leadership Academy, but they are going to be better, more effective people. Frankly, the conversations we had across the span of a day left me in no doubt that these young men and women are going to be tremendously successful beyond the court, beyond the playing fields, and in life beyond Bucknell. Just a very impressive group, there is no question about that.”
Next up for the Bucknell Bison Leadership Academy is a late-September session where student-athletes will undergo assessments of their leadership and personality styles.