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Atlantic 10 SAAC learns meaning of leadership at NCAA Convention

By Brian Burnsed

Leader (n): A person who guides others in direction, course, action or opinion.

Members of the Atlantic 10 Conference Student-Athlete Advisory Committee recently learned that leadership can’t be defined so succinctly.

The SAAC members were invited to attend several events at the NCAA Convention in Indianapolis earlier this month. At the Honors Celebration, they watched the Silver Anniversary Award winners and the Top VIII award winners—all former star student-athletes— be recognized for their innumerable contributions to the world around them.

They bore witness to a man, David Robinson, who led an NBA team to a pair of championships and is now focused on leading students through his school to college. They saw a football player, Sam Acho, who was a vocal leader on a team that reached a national championship game and who has brought medicine—and hope—to impoverished citizens of Nigeria.

“It was very inspiring,” said Alexandra Zinn, a junior tennis student-athlete at Charlotte. “I’m thankful for this experience.”

The next day, the A-10 SAAC gathered for a discussion with Curtis Hollomon, director of leadership development at the NCAA. 

Hollomon asked each student to share their core leadership values and instances where those values had been tested.  As the students reflected, it became apparent that each had a unique approach to pushing teammates to excel.

“As a runner you’re always falling off the horse and you have to get back on,” said Alex Dadds, junior cross country student-athlete at George Washington. “I lead more through example. I don’t really rally the troops.”

Conversely, Danielle Frye, junior softball student-athlete at St. Bonaventure, says she actively tries to keep the team unified and motivated. 

“I look at myself as someone who my team can talk to at all times,” she said. “And I never let up in the weight room and on the field.”

Some of the SAAC members discussed the difficulties they’ve had keeping their teams on the same page. Aaron Siekmann, junior golfer at Xavier, said he plans on returning to Xavier and applying some of the leadership techniques imparted by Holloman. Siekmann hopes that if each golfer vocalizes what they value most in a teammate and team leader—just as the SAAC members did with Holloman—that they’ll better understand each other.

“(Golf) can be such an individualistic sport,” he said. “We need to recognize each other’s perspectives.”

Frye, too, noted that she intended on using what she’d learned at the Convention in hopes of drawing her team closer together. Though Frye already pushes her team, which finished 8-12 in conference play last year, she feels she could do more.

“I’m going to go back and sit down with my coaches to discuss leadership roles on the team,” Frye said. “We need to talk about how we can better unify so we can be more successful.”