LEWISBURG, Pa. – Seven members of the Bucknell Bison Leadership Academy spent their Labor Day Weekend in Ithaca, New York, attending the Leadership in Athletics Conference, presented by Cornell’s Big Red Leadership Institute. The conference was themed “Cultivating Emerging Leadership”, and gave student-athletes the opportunity to explore and examine a number of topics related to leadership and intercollegiate athletics.
Jacquie Klotz, Megan McGurk and Claire Maree O’Bryan from women’s basketball, Martine McCarthy and Tegan Stanbach from women’s water polo, Katie Price from volleyball, and Lauren Hudson from the women’s track and field team represented Bucknell at the conference.
The event was highlighted by three keynote speakers and a pair of panels on the topics of followership and team culture. Entrepreneur and extreme sports adventurer Joe Desena delivered the keynote address at the welcome dinner on Sunday evening. Daron Roberts, the founding director of the Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation at the University of Texas, was the opening keynote speaker on Monday morning. The conference finished up with a concluding address from Col. Art Athens, a 1978 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he was Brigade Commander and a member of the lacrosse team. Col. Athens was appointed director of the Academy’s Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership in 2008.
“The Importance of Followership” panel was moderated by Cornell men’s lacrosse operations director Mark Wittink. Panelists included Clint Sidle, who is the director of the Roy H. Park Leadership Fellows Program in the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell; David Merritt, a former Michigan basketball student-athlete who launched a cause-based fashion brand that helps send students in need to college; and Gen Meredith, a former member of the Canadian Olympic rowing team who is now an expert in public health and international development.
Kevin Kiffin, who teaches “Leadership and Management in Sports” as part of Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, moderated the panel entitled “Building and Sustaining a Great Team Culture”. Kiffin’s panelists included Lauren Stevis, a former Saint Joseph’s soccer student-athlete who is now a training manager for Saxbys Coffee; Risa Mish, a member of the Management and Leadership of Organizations faculty at Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management; and Hank Jancyk, who is set to enter his 29th season as head men’s lacrosse coach at Gettysburg and is the second-winningest men’s lacrosse coach in NCAA history.
Six of the Bucknell student-athletes who attended the conference shared their thoughts on the event.
The BRLI was an awesome event, and I am very appreciative of the new perspectives surrounding leadership that I was exposed to through the speakers and small group sessions. I can't wait to bring some of the things that I learned back to the track team!
One of the most prominent themes of the program was the importance of selflessness vs. selfishness. A very elementary, yet monumentally, important thing to remember about working on a team is to keep moving with the good of the group in mind. It is easy to let personal aspirations for success and recognition play into our minds, but a true leader remembers that the mission is greater than themselves. To be able to motivate teammates to rise up and become strong players, contributors, and teammates is just as important as bringing your best every time you step on the court, field, or in the pool. We all have that greatness in us, and all have the ability to bring it out of each other.
The BRLI was a day full of great experiences. It was so amazing to hear from such a diverse group of speakers on how they lead in their everyday lives. Each person has different tactics and approaches to being a leader, so it was nice to pick my favorite components form each leader. My favorite part of the day was the group breakout sessions. Not only did our small groups get to reflect on the speakers but we also were able to share the leadership we both experience and are a part of in our own schools. I was able to pick up different ideas from the other teams and schools that I would love to bring back to my own team. Overall a great day at Cornell!
Claire Maree O’Bryan:
From the BRLI conference my main takeaway is that every leader is unique, and he/she leads in different ways. By listening to the philosophies of leaders from different backgrounds and disciplines, we can pull together parts from each that align with our own values and goals to shape our own leadership strategies. This is what will make us unique. As we cater to our teammates, peers and colleagues, and as we face adversity, more strategies and values will be added and in turn make us better and more prepared leaders. I can't say that I had a favorite “speaker” because there were aspects of each leader that I aspire to be like, culminating in, as I've mentioned, a unique leader rooted in the ideals and adversities that I've come and will come in contact with.
This event was an incredible opportunity to connect with student-athletes from other universities, and converse about issues present in most athletic programs. From team culture to followership, these discussions were useful in crafting solutions to help Bucknell student-athletes propel their teams towards success. The speaker I enjoyed most was the closing keynote -- Art Athens. He spoke of the fine line between selfishness and selflessness. Through his Marine Corps experience and athletic career at the Naval Academy, Athens helped me see how very small moments of selfishness could diminish the selflessness of others and completely break down a team. I also enjoyed hearing from John Desena about adversity. John is the creator of Spartan Races, and spoke with us about how important it is to be uncomfortable in your surroundings. I believe that I can apply his methods of adversity to my life beyond athletics. Waking up in the morning and beginning with a 10-mile run, or even a difficult crossword puzzle, will help me put in perspective the rest of the challenges I face that day.
For me, this weekend’s biggest takeaway was a revival in the reasons I love my team and I love my sport. Sometimes it can be hard when you are wrapped up in practices and school to remember what it is about your team that you love and why you are so proud to be a part of it. The speakers who lectured on team culture and followership brought certain teammates of mine to the forefront of my thinking and reminded me why I am so blessed and grateful to be a part of the women's water polo team every day. During the breakout sessions where I heard from other schools about the dynamics of their team and coaches, I realized just how lucky I am to be a part of my team, and while we are by no means perfect we do have a great thing going for us. The foundations of trust, respect, and understanding are unwavering and the support I feel when I walk on to the pool deck is boundless. Being a Division 1 athlete is something that I get to share with people all across America -- not just the 19 women on my team. Being reminded that there are people at other schools who have the same goals and are dealing with the same problems and issues gave me a sense of comfort and excitement. It is not often that you get to feel connected to a community larger than yours, and I was reminded of the reasons I love to compete and why I should always respect and appreciate my opponents. In the end, we are all just people who are trying to navigate being a student, athlete, friend, family member and the other communities we belong to.