A Community Of Leaders
By Emily Iannaconi
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Holy Cross student-athletes are leaders on and off the playing field. Select members of teams across all sports have the chance to develop their leadership skills as part of the Holy Cross Leadership Academy.
The director of the Holy Cross Leadership Academy is Becky Bedics, Ed.D., and she has worked with Holy Cross through the Jeff Jansen Institute for the past four years. Through the Janssen Sports Leadership Center, approximately 140 Holy Cross student-athletes participate in the Leadership Academy, which provides an ongoing and integrated approach to leadership development by targeting and training three distinct groups of student-athletes. These three groups include the Emerging Leaders, Veteran Leaders and Leadership 360 Leaders, all of whom are recommended to the Program by their coach. Bedics distributes the training with multiple modules offered throughout the school year to maximize learning, retention and application.
The Leadership Academy also includes educational resources such as The Team Captain’s Leadership Manual and the online Team Captain's Network for all participants to reinforce and extend learning. It also serves as an ongoing consulting relationship with the Janssen Sports Leadership Center for advice on various issues that arise throughout the year.
Bedics comes to the Holy Cross campus twice in the fall and twice in the spring to meet with all three Leadership Groups on one day and then complete a session with head and assistant coaches the following day.
Assistant director of athletics for student-athlete development Armani Dawkins recognizes the value of having the Leadership Academy at Holy Cross. “It’s no secret how much time student-athletes spend within their sport,” said Dawkins. “We’re in a unique situation here at Holy Cross where our student-athletes make up 25 percent of the general student body population, so they have a large voice on campus and in the community.”
Dawkins also believes that the Leadership Academy can help prepare student-athletes for their future careers. “The foundation of this program is not about just giving student-athletes the skill sets to be leaders; it’s showing you how to apply those skills to the real world,” said Dawkins. “The program challenges student-athletes to find their voice and apply it within their teams and life after the Hill. We’re thankful that we are a part of a league that recognizes the importance of leadership in student-athletes.”
The Emerging Leader Program is typically composed of a select group of sophomore student-athletes. The program provides perspective leaders with the insights, strategies and skills necessary to become effective leaders on their team and in the larger campus community. These student-athletes are focused on finding their voice as rising members of their team.
The Veteran Leaders Program is designed to provide advanced leadership training and support for team captains and veteran student-athletes from all teams. The program teaches student-athletes how to be vocal leaders as they combat the day-to-day challenges and responsibilities of leadership.
"Participation in the academy has made me realize that establishing a culture of success on any team requires vocal leadership, strong team bonds and commitment to a common goal."
Senior Andrew Higgins
The final Leadership 360 Program is composed of senior leaders who have completed the Emerging and Veteran Leadership programs. An important part of the Leadership 360 Program is for each leader to experience a 360 degree evaluation of their leadership skills. By evaluating their individual strengths, these student-athletes can then positively impact their team and the larger athletic community.
In addition, at the end of each year, select student-athletes are recognized as a Leader of Distinction. Bedics works directly with head coaches at the end of the year to choose these student-athletes. Selection is based off of their participation throughout the year, and the different stages that each athlete completes throughout their four years.
A senior volleyball captain and member of the Leadership 360 Program Mandy Sifferlen believes that participation in the Academy will help her after she leaves Mount St. James. “I have learned how to read a situation and understand the strengths and weaknesses of my teammates to generate the best plan for success,” said Sifferlen. “This program has given me confidence to step up and take on a leadership role in future group projects, as well as taught me mature communication skills.”
Junior cross country and track runner and member of the Veteran Leader Program Hannah Jeter cited an example from one recent meeting to illustrate how lessons learned in the Leadership Academy can be translated to life outside of athletics. “In the last Leadership Academy we had to guide blindfolded participants through a course with crumpled paper,” said Jeter. “If you stepped on the paper, you were out. This exercise showed the importance of clear communication and teamwork.”
Senior captain of the men’s swimming and diving team and a member of the Leadership 360 Program Andrew Higgins, believes that the Leadership Academy has helped him develop his voice as a leader. “Participation in the academy has made me realize that establishing a culture of success on any team requires vocal leadership, strong team bonds and commitment to a common goal,” said Higgins. “I have learned how to be more vocal, take accountability as a leader and teammate and be more accessible to my teammates.”
Junior hockey captain and Veteran Leader Brett Mulcahy, understands that the Leadership Academy can help student-athletes hone their leadership skills. “Too often people believe that leaders have a natural ability in which they have inherently developed,” said Mulcahy. “While some individuals may understand and perform leadership roles better than others, the leadership program gives the participants an opportunity to learn how to be a leader and further develop those skills in a classroom setting by taking a very hands on approach, whether that be through discussion, lecture or activity.”
Having the opportunity to interact with other student-athletes also provides a valuable learning experience for all participants. “It is helpful being in an environment where the different sports on campus are able to share their experiences with everyone,” said Mulcahy. “Each person is able to learn from the experiences of one another, which allows us to grow and develop our leadership skills.”
Students from different sports value the chance to come together through the Leadership Academy and act as one unified team with the combined goal of improving not only their individual teams but the Holy Cross athletic community as a whole.
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