For the first time in 2017-18, the Bucknell Athletics Leadership Institute is recognizing Leaders of the Month. Candidates for Leaders of the Month are nominated by coaches based on leadership qualities demonsrated on and off the field. The May 2018 honorees are record-setting distance runner and recent Bucknell graduate Christine Bendzinski, along with rising junior Tyler Wincig from the Bison baseball squad.  

Each of the recipients was asked for their thoughts on various elements of leadership.

CHRISTINE BENDZINSKI, Cross Country/Track & Field (Principal Leader)

Christine Bendzinski will go down as arguably the greatest woman distance runner in Bucknell history. She graduated with 14 Patriot League gold medals, eight school records, NCAA appearances in cross country and track, and four Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year citations. Last month she earned the Christy Mathewson Award as the top athlete in her class. 

What is your favorite part about being a leader? What is the toughest? 

My favorite thing about being a leader is the elevated way I am able to impact others. While I know that doing things the right way and doing them well does not go unnoticed, as a leader these things are magnified. This makes it easier for me to have an effect on other people. They are more likely to follow what I do or what I say, just because of that title. With that comes tremendous responsibility, as a job that is on 24/7, but I have enjoyed the challenges that come with taking it on. 

What was the most important leadership moment on your team this year and why? 

On the track and in the field, our team has enjoyed a lot of success, winning a "triple crown" last year, and we were definitely looking to do that again. At the outdoor championship we saw the fiercest competition that we have seen in awhile, and we were simply not the best team out there. Navy bested us by a pretty big margin that day. It may not have been the most glamorous moment for our team and our leaders, but it was probably the most important, looking ahead to the future of the program. Mostly, I was proud of the way we handled our second place (still an impressive feat) with grace and really showed our sportsmanship. We also focused on still being the best version of ourselves right to the very end of the meet, knowing we were not going to be this year's victors. 

What "gets you up in the morning?" 

What gets me up in the morning is probably a balance between my inner motivation to be my best, and also the people who rely on me or hold me accountable. I’d like to think that it’s not completely based on what others expect of me, and that the world would be totally fine if I slept in forever (so to speak). I do have this pull to do eventually put out good in the world, and so that makes me excited to get up and accomplish things. But I also have people looking after me who I never want to disappoint.

What advice do you have for other student-athlete leaders? 

My main advice would be to take deep breaths often, and note that yes, it may be tempting to say “this is not what I signed up for”, but embrace the issues and challenges and know that handling these is all part of the reward. Leading is never an easy job, but handling things with grace will not only have a positive effect on those you lead, but will affect your own self just as much, if not more. This role is causing you to grow more than you even thought it would, and looking back, I think you will notice that.

TYLER WINCIG, Baseball (Aspiring Leader)

Tyler Wincig enjoyed an outstanding sophomore year for the Bison baseball team in 2018, taking on a variety of roles. He played first base and right field, and also pitched in seven games. He hit .277 on the season and ranked fifth in the Patriot League with a .431 on-base percentage. An accounting and financial management major, Tyler was named to the Academic All-Patriot League Team at season's end.        

What are the elements of leadership that you are working hardest on?

I am working hard to continue to discover my authentic self and leadership style. I need to continue to develop a better understanding of myself as an athlete and person in order to become the best leader possible. For me, the most important thing when it comes to leading others is being authentic through my own actions and words. If I am going to continue leading by example, I need to ensure that the example that I do set is authentic. I am not going to change myself because I suddenly feel I need to fulfill what it means to be a leader. Instead, I need to understand what I have done in the past that has allowed others to identify me as a good leader, and then continue to do those things.

What was the most important leadership moment on your team this year and why? 

We started the 2018 season with five scattered wins and 17 losses. Granted, we played some very tough out of conference games, but regardless, there was plenty of games we should have won. Toward the end of this streak, a dozen of the older players on the team came together to determine the root of our problems. A few days later, Coach Heather spent the first half of a practice conditioning the team for its failure to perform small-yet-important off-the-field tasks. From there, we went on to beat Army two out of three, which sparked our winning sprint until the Patriot League semifinals, which marked the conclusion of our season. Those two events were the most important leadership moments on the team this year. A few of the older players recognized an internal issue and called a meeting to work to solve it. Coach Heather was also able to identify an internal issue and successfully get the team to address it, which upon its improvement directly contributed to the success we had in the remaining weeks of the season.

What "gets you up in the morning?" 

At most, each athlete here at Bucknell gets only four years to compete; some athletes graduate early and get a mere three. Each day that goes by is one day closer to the end of your experience and career at Bucknell. I’ve been so fortunate to have played alongside two classes of now graduated seniors who allowed me to understand this reality as early as I have. Bucknell is and will continue to make up the fastest moments of our lives. We each have tens of years ahead of us to be regular working class citizens, so I try to give these four years my absolute all because I know they will be behind me before I even know it. I wake up every morning remembering not to take this time as a student-athlete at Bucknell for granted. I have a life’s worth of activities ahead of me, but right now, I only have one shot to be a Bucknell baseball player, so I wake up every morning giving this short lived experience absolutely everything I have to give.

What advice do you have for other student-athlete leaders? 

Maybe you will lead by giving grand speeches which is great, but maybe you won’t, and that’s okay too. Arguably, leading without those long post-game speeches is just as effective, especially if that is synonymous with who you are as a person. Essentially, I think it is most important to trust yourself. Just because you get named a leader, or maybe a team captain, does not necessarily mean that you need to go ahead and change yourself to have a larger role or voice on your team. Trust that you have already become a leader through doing what you have been doing. So if that means giving long speeches daily, then go ahead and continue to do so, but if that means leading by example in a quieter but ruthlessly hard working way, then do that. Trust yourself and your own leadership style.