For the past four years, Waynflete’s athletic director, Ross Burdick, has taken on the leadership role in organizing the Student-Athlete Leadership Summit on behalf of the Western Maine Athletic Conference. Organizing an event for 136 student athletes from 18 different schools is a huge undertaking, but Ross feels that the effort is worthwhile. Athletics provides students an authentic opportunity to lead, and the Summit provides a forum for students to reflect on what leadership is, to assess themselves as leaders, and to cultivate their skills. The result for the participants is a better understanding of themselves and what constitutes effective leadership, including such qualities as honesty, authenticity, humility, and the ability to forgive. Leveraging peer influence by cultivating student leaders through the Summit gathering has a tremendous impact on the team experience as well, including better sportsmanship, new friendships that transcend school allegiance, improved team chemistry, and a more fulfilling experience for all. Waynflete and the Western Maine Conference are fortunate to have Ross on our leadership team. Lowell Libby, Upper School Director
On November 14, 136 student athletes from the 18 Western Maine Conference high schools gathered at St. Joseph’s College in Standish for the 2014 WMC Leadership Summit. Goals of the day included having the students interact in a number of sessions, providing them a chance to talk and learn from each other, and offering leadership training. Eight students from each school were chosen by school administrators to attend the full day summit. Waynflete’s 2014 representatives were seniors Gavi King and Jacob Hagler, juniors Arianna Giguere, Will Nelligan and Cooper Chap, and sophomores Sophia Mayone, Isabel Canning, and Jack Meahl.
The guest speaker was Kevin Hancock, the current president of Hancock Lumber. Kevin was a three sport athlete at Lake Region High School (a member of the WMC) and a two sport athlete at Bowdoin College. Kevin had a great message for the students gathered in the auditorium about a new kind of leadership. According to Kevin, gone are the days of “my way or the highway” and a “top down” leadership approach. Kevin advocated for a leadership model that turns every member of the organization into a leader by empowering them. Kevin talked about how leadership can be quiet. It is not just the big things but the little examples of leadership that can be the most important.
After hearing from the guest speaker, students traveled with their small group through several sessions. An icebreaker game of “Human Bingo” got the students up and interacting to get to know the others in their group. “A Day in the Life of Colby College Student Athletes” gave the students a window into the life of college athletes. The “Wild Card” session allowed students to discuss issues that are hot topics in high school sports and things that they felt needed to be addressed in high school athletic programs. Movement with personal trainer BJ Grondin gave the attendees an opportunity to move and to learn about different types of movement and nutrition. “Leading From the Inside Out” with former athletic director and pastor Gary Groves forced the students to focus on improving themselves in order to become better leaders of teammates. Groves challenged the student leaders to be authentic, honest, forgiving and humble in their schools and communities. The “Hey Coach” session asked the students to come up with examples of great coaching and also ideas to help new or developing coaches to become better. The student ideas and responses will be used to create a guide which can be shared with all WMC coaches. The students also worked together to create a WMC approved music playlist for pre-game warm-up music. Athletes were reminded that they are role models for young children in the community and music selections must be appropriate.
Students then enjoyed a wonderful lunch in the St. Joseph’s dining hall. After lunch attendees thanked the guest presenters and were asked to take some things that they had learned back to their schools to become better leaders. Finally students completed feedback forms about the day to help the athletic directors of the WMC plan future leadership events.
Some student comments on the 2014 Leadership Summit included:
“Fun and active, very enjoyable. I really liked interacting with other athletes from the WMC.”
“It was an important day for me to think. Like Mr. Hancock said, we rarely get time to stop and think because we are so busy everyday. I really enjoyed it.”
“I learned about letting others lead and that it is important to support other teams in our school in addition to the ones I am on.”
“In Leading from the Inside Out, I learned more about myself as a leader. I can encourage more people to lead too, and that can make them feel for important.”
“The day was amazing. We all learned a lot and met new people. The food was great and the campus was beautiful and welcoming.”
Arianna Giguere ’16 had this to say about her participation in the summit:
During the summit, I learned not only about leadership in general but also about my own personal tendencies and approach to leading. Our guest speaker Kevin Hancock left us with some thoughts that specifically resonated with me. He explained that if you have the capacity to influence, you are a leader. He encouraged each one of us to broaden the circles of people we reach out to to lead. In our society, certain people such as “presidents”, “bosses”, or “captains” are assumed to be leaders, yet this is only a title. Instead, being a leader is not about being controlling or dictating; it can mean being quiet and listening to others. There is strength in a team, and people are stronger if we allow everyone’s voice to be heard. As leaders, Kevin said, we should make ourselves heard, but remember that it isn’t all about us.
As a member of an athletic team, I intend to use what I learned about leadership. I know what I need to work on specifically, and I plan on leading by example in order to have my teammates follow. In turn, my teammates themselves will become leaders as well. My goal is to unite my team so that each grade, especially the underclassmen, feel like they can speak up and express their thoughts in order for our team to succeed. The summit experience motivated me to think outside the box and consider new opportunities to employ as a leader. It was a wonderful experience.
Isabel Canning ’17 had this to say about her participation in the summit:
I went to five different activities at the leadership summit. They ranged from creating a fan friendly pregame playlist to an open forum on improving athletics within our schools. Sports are a great common ground for people. They provide a way for communities to get together and for kids from all over to connect through a similar passion.
It’s easy to become caught up in a season or a game and forget the impact that your team has. The leadership summit helped me to realize that even though my team may feel small it is a part of a bigger program and the effects it can have are significant. One woman spoke of how the way we idolize professional and even college athletes and how younger kids look up to us as athletes in high school. How we carry ourselves as athletes reflects on our school and affects our community more than we can understand. A strong athletic program comes not only from the success of the athletes but also the sportsmanship exemplified by each student.
A speech given by a local business owner touched on the importance of each specific individual working to the best of their ability and being their own leader. He said that a good leader empowers others so that eventually everyone is a leader and feels responsible for each other. One idea that stuck with me is that leadership can come from anywhere. As essential as communicating your ideas is to your team, listening to your teammates is just as important. Inspiring everyone to be leaders in character, work, and compassion strengthens not only your team but your surrounding community as well.