Baltimore, MD- As I was dropped off at the airport in El Paso, TX on Wednesday, November 9, it really hit me. I was getting a chance to attend the NCAA Leadership Forum. I was absolutely stoked having the opportunity to travel 2,500 miles to attend the Forum in Baltimore, Maryland. This was a once in a lifetime experience that would not come again!
When I arrived in Baltimore, I still couldn’t believe this opportunity was really happening. Again- “it really hit me.” As I made my way around Baltimore, I naturally made sure to find the nearest Starbucks. Here I met up with two other members of the Lone Star Conference, Bryce Martin from Texas A&M Kingsville and Haydon Bogard from Cameron, along with the Lone Star Administrator Danielle Anderson. I started to feel more comfortable in the city since I was now acquainted with members from my conference.
As I registered, I saw that the sights at the hotel were breathtaking. I could see Orioles Park Camden Yards through one window and the M&T Bank Stadium out the other. After registering, everyone was assigned to different color groups. I was assigned to the blue group (GO BLUE!) The color group sessions offered the opportunity to engage in open dialogue around a variety of topics. Everything was very well set up and organized. One of the goals of the Forum was to allow the participants to investigate the characteristics of effective leadership, as well as the personal challenges that leaders face, and strategies for effective communication. Participants were also able to learn about the NCAA and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and how they support their efforts as leaders and enhance their experience as a student-athlete and athletic professionals. During the whole conference we we’re instructed to use the hashtag “LearnLead” on Twitter and Instagram. If you search #LearnLead on either site, you can see the eventful activities that happen over the weekend.
The color group session is where life got a bit difficult. I was nervous to say what I wanted because I was around such different athletes, including lacrosse players, swimmers, and even gymnasts. I soon realized no answer is a bad answer. At these sessions I was to be engaged, seek out connections, drive my own development and challenge my peers to do the same.
I asked myself, “Challenge my peers? I don’t even know these people.”
They expected me to open up and tell this group of people how I felt on certain topics. At first, I was hesitant to answer some of the questions asked, but within the first hour I realized that my input was important, as was the input of others. I gained a little bit of knowledge about my peers in the room and I starting feeding in.
I realized that they are leaders and that they are going to respect my opinions just as I should respect theirs. The public speaking of some athletes really amazed me and it really made me want to pick up some of their traits. I realized in that moment that I was not just a leader but also a follower.
I knew that the Forum was going to be difficult but I still underestimated it. The first thing I was asked was “What is your leadership style?” I was okay with answering this first question, but then the questions became harder as they started asking, “Why do you lead the way you do? How would your teammates and coaches describe your leadership? What is your leadership philosophy? Describe your components of your style that are most important to you?”
This put my mind to the test. Did I have my own philosophy? My first instinct when asked to speak my philosophy was to always get the job done right, to have fun while doing it, and to stay true to you. At this point, I did not feel like my answer was good enough. We learned more about core values. I quickly identified mine as respect, integrity and balance. I said this because I believe it is important to respect the opinions and actions of other people, even if you don’t always agree. Considering the values of other people is important to me. I hold myself accountable for my actions and I do things because I believe it is the right thing to do. Also, while a lot of individuals can become overwhelmed with the things life throws at them, it is important to me to balance it all out without losing control. I realized that these were the values that created me.
By the last day, I had a new philosophy when it came to the last day. I would allow my core values to be my stepping-stones through life. If I happen to fall, I will rise up again with no hesitation to go beyond, strengthening those values.
This Forum had a number of great things to offer, starting with the great public speakers such as Ryan Gillman and Samantha Peszek, to the other topics that brought athletes to tears, myself included. I would recommend that any athlete attend the Forum should they ever get the chance. I believe this helps athletes find themselves and learn to be the best leaders they can be.
The people that I met and the relationships I formed at the forum became very important to me. I had a new family with in a matter of three days. A baseball player sitting next to me slid a paper to me during a
color session, He said take this back to your team and use it. I was surprised because he hadn’t said one word to me. He was a little bit shyer than the other leaders in the room, but it really meant a lot that these people actually cared about my personal growth and my team’s person growth.
Before I finish, I want to recommend the Gallup Clifton Strength Finder to anyone reading this. It can provide a basic sense of your abilities, as well as an awareness and understanding of your natural talents to provide insight into the core reasons behind your consistent success. I also want to thank the NCAA for this wonderful opportunity. #LearnLead