LEWISBURG, Pa. – Year No. 4 of the Bucknell Bison Leadership Academy wrapped up on Tuesday with a pair of sessions featuring a panel of Bucknell coaches. Dr. Joe Thomas, a faculty member from a leadership training group called the “Student-Leader Seminar,” returned to campus for the fourth time this academic year to moderate the interactive gatherings.
Panelists for the morning session were head women’s rowing coach Steve Kish, head softball coach Bonnie Skrenta, head volleyball coach Anna Allison, head football coach Joe Susan, and head men’s and women’s swimming and diving coach Dan Schinnerer. During the evening discussion, panelists included head men’s and women’s track and field and cross country coach Kevin Donner, head men’s soccer coach Brendan Nash, head men’s and women’s water polo coach John McBride, and associate head men’s basketball coach Dane Fischer.
Prior to the Q&A session with the panelists, Dr. Thomas cited some “myth-busting” statistics from the NCAA in order to illustrate the impact that coaches have on student-athletes, supporting their good decisions that have positive impacts on the community and their college experience as a whole. He noted that nationally across all sports, student-athlete majors mirror the majors from the student body in general. He added that student-athletes are less likely to use drugs, smoke cigarettes and engage in dangerous drinking, and that they tend to be much more involved in community service than non-athletes.
A retired U.S. Marine who has studied and taught leadership and ethics in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East, Dr. Thomas attributed these national trends to the leadership qualities that are instilled in student-athletes by their coaches who interact with them on a daily basis. He also noted that statistically, student-athletes improve in each of those trends as their careers progress.
With that as a backdrop, Dr. Thomas moderated the panelists through a Q&A period that touched on a wide variety of issues related to leadership. The Bison student-athletes in attendance asked about such topics as the attributes that coaches are looking for in a team captain; how an individual’s role should change throughout a four-year career; the most common struggles that team leaders face; how to keep improving as a leader beyond graduation; and how to change the culture of a team.
“Today’s panel sessions were very productive, and a fitting way to wrap up a successful year for the Bucknell Bison Leadership Academy,” said Maisha Kelly, senior associate athletic director and coordinator of the Leadership Academy. “Our head coaches delivered some outstanding insight into what makes a successful leader, and the student-athletes were extremely engaged. It was a great opportunity for student-athletes to interact with coaches from different sports, and vice-versa.”
“It was very helpful learning from the coaches what has worked for them,” said junior wrestler Brenan McAllister. “It really helped a lot just getting a broader understanding of what goes into being a good leader and a good athlete and a good person.”
“It’s very important for a lot of people to want to be a leader because everyone has leadership abilities, no matter if you are a freshman or a senior,” said junior Ashley Henderson of the women’s swimming and diving team. “It’s important for everyone to know that they have an impact on the team.”
The Bucknell Bison Leadership Academy was launched in August 2011 with the goal of delivering programming and instruction that bridge theory, development and real experiences in an interactive learning environment. The skills learned through the Leadership Academy help team leaders enhance their impact on their teammates’ and their program’s performance immediately and for years to come.