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The Blue & Gray Press | October 20, 2017

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Leadership Academy develops skills for athletes after college

By SEAN KINSLOW

The athletic department at the University of Mary Washington hosted the first ever Eagle Leadership Academy late this summer, at which 34 student athletes and their coaches attended this event.  The Leadership Academy’s goal is to help student athletes develop as leaders both in sports and in life after college.

The academy ran from Sunday, Aug. 17 through Friday, Aug. 22, and each sports team was represented by one to three of their captains or team leaders. Washington Redskins Hall of Fame cornerback and UMW special assistant for student athlete development and public relations Darrell Green and American Olympic gold medal swimmer Jeff Rouse, a native of Stafford County, were just two of the 13 presenters that spoke in front of the academy.

Green spoke of his time as a leader on the Washington Redskins, as well as being a leader in life. Rouse explained that his gold medal win in the 1996 Olympics was inspired by his failure to win in 1992.

Other presenters included UMW Athletic Director Ken Tyler, Sports Psychologist Jere Palmer and Buster Nelson, a local State Farm Agent and former basketball player at Frostburg State. Presentations ranged in topic from working as a team, to motivation and how to help better the UMW and Fredericksburg communities.

“These young people, many of whom cut short their summer break, were incredibly impressive throughout the week,” said Tyler. “They were eager to learn, and they will share many valuable lessons with their teammates.”

The student athletes went through a series of activities and tasks in addition to hearing the presentations. Activities included time with the UMW’s New Experiences for Students Transitioning (NEST) program at Old Mill Park, helping freshman move into their dorms and giving group presentations on one of four topics: Eagle Nation Day, the FROSH Program for freshman student athletes, Community Service and Education & Academic Success.

“The academy makes me think before I act. I think more about how my teammates will interpret my actions and if I am being a good leader, both vocally and by example,” said sophomore volleyball captain Emma Olson who represented her team along with teammate Emma Murphy.

“As a sophomore captain, I wanted to use this week to learn as much as possible to help me lead this season and for future seasons,” said Olson.

The program has been in talks since January and was one of the many additions that the athletic department is looking forward to this year.

“Our inaugural Eagle Leadership Academy was a huge success,” said Tyler at the end of the week. “Many thanks to Senior Associate Director of Athletics Dana Hall for putting it together, all of our presenters and a special thank you to our dedicated and talented student athletes who participated.”

The wide variety of presenters offered the student athletes interesting perspectives from people with very different backgrounds. Each presentation provided lessons and insight on many different platforms.

“My favorite presentation was the one called ‘Leading by Example’ by Ken Tyler,” said Olson. “It was very inspirational and energetic, which is what drew me in. He’s an excellent speaker and really dug deep to give us all the tools and advice possible to help us lead.”

Even though the program is in its first year, many believe there is great potential to grow.

“They have each grown as people and leaders, which in turn has made our university and department even stronger,” said Tyler. “We are all very proud of our first Leadership Academy class, and we’re already looking forward to next year.”