LEWISBURG, Pa. -- Bucknell student-athletes Meghan Kovac (softball) and Ben Richard (football) recently represented the Bucknell Athletics Leadership Institute at the U.S. Naval Academy Leadership Conference in Annapolis. This was the fifth straight year that Bucknell sent delegates to the USNA seminar.

The USNA Leadership Conference began in 1984 for senior cadets and midshipmen from each of the service academies. In 2002, the conference's scope expanded to include students from civilian universities, with topics related to government, business and academia, in addition to the military. More than 200 participants from over 45 colleges now attend each year.

The theme of the 2017 conference was "Forging Team Spirit: Sharing the Vision". Featured speakers and panelists included USNA Superintendent Vice Admiral Walter E. "Ted" Carter; Mitch Hart, chairman and founder of Hart Group, Inc.; Jodi Greene, Deputy Under Secretary of the Navy; former FBI directory Louis Freeh; Gen. James F. Amos, USMC, former Commandant of the Marine Corps, Rear Admiral Dell Bull, USN, Chief of Naval Air Training; Bill Kraus, co-founder and owner of Mission BBQ; and SOC Daniel Luna, USN, SEAL Program Manager.

Kovac and Richard weighed in with updates on the intensive four-day conference.


Maghan KovacSunday: Our first speaker was Lieutenant General Sattler who started the Conference off with some incredibly valuable advice. We then had the chance to meet with all representatives from the Patriot League (Loyola, Lafayette and Lehigh). This first night was a great start to the conference!

Monday: Today was a long day but it was entirely worth it. We heard from many different speakers, including a former astronaut, a Paralympic gold medalist and topped the night off with hearing from General Amos and Sergeant Major Kent, surrounded by every midshipman from the Naval Academy. I have never had more goose bumps than when listening to over 4,000 proudly sing "The Navy Blue & Gold" (of course topping it off with a strong "BEAT ARMY!")

Tuesday: Tuesday was another long day, filled with even better speakers and lessons than the day before. We listened to speakers such as Major Lampert, Senior Chief Jimmy Hatch (Navy SEAL) and Captain Wooldridge. Something very important I took from today was said by Colonel Liszewski. He said that, "character drives your decisions, and those decisions are what lead to the successes and failures of your team." I think this is very important for all of us as student-athletes.

Wednesday: Today was bittersweet.The idea of going back to campus is always nice, but I really didn't want to leave. We only had one spaeker on this day, Navy SEAL Daniel Luna, who talked to us about being a good person and doing your job. Very simple, but this is what he believes led to his success. Overall, this was such an incredible experience and I would definitely do it again!


Ben RichardDay 1: We arrived at the hotel and were greeted with a speech from Lieutenant General Sattler that really set the tone for the days to come. We also met with the other student-athletes from the Patriot League to get to know each other. I was happy to see how well the Patriot League was represented at such a renowned conference.

Day 2: Today was filled with distinguished speakers from all walks of life that had such incredible life experiences. A key quote to sum up the day is, "An army of sheep led by a lion can defeat an army of lions led by a sheep." To wrap up the day, we as civilians were humbled by the speeches from General Amos, Sergeant Major Kent, and the presence of the entire brigade. I walked out of the doors that night ready to sign up for the Marine Corps.

Day 3: We had yet another incredible panel to listen to today that consisted of a Navy Seal, SWAT Officer, and two extremely decorated Marines who talked a lot about specific examples of leadership in the field during combat. We, as student-athletes, could take those experiences and relate them to how we work with our own teams in the field. A major takeaway was how we use our own character to provide an example for our team members in order to ensure a similar mindset between the individuals.

Day 4: The closing remarks were done by Chief Daniel Luna who is a very experienced Navy Seal. His message was all about how being a good person is crucial to being a good leader. He also talked about knowing your role, doing your job, being able to manage, and how that differs from leading. We were all tired by the end of the trip, but left having learned more in three days about ourselves and how to lead than we could in a whole four years without it.