WASHINGTON – For Emily Izydorczak and Erik Janss, a trip to Washington, D.C. in November wasn’t about sightseeing or checking out holiday decorations. Instead, they got a lesson in leadership.
Izydorczak, a junior at St. Bonaventure and Janss, a sophomore at La Salle, were in the nation’s capital to take part in the NCAA’s annual Student-Athlete Leadership Forum. Created in 1997, the forum has been a life-changing experience for more than 5,000 student-athletes, many who have grown personally and professionally, gained a new network of peers and friends, as well as felt the rewards and importance of community service.
The forum had an immediate impact on the two A-10 student-athletes. Janss hoped to bring his experiences back and share them with others at La Salle,
“I didn’t really know what to expect – it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. I was hoping I could learn a lot and bring it back to campus, not only for the student-athletes but for the whole student body."
One takeaway for both Izydorczak and Janss was the simple experience of meeting student-athletes from different divisions, different schools and different states. Janss, a pitcher on the Explorers’ baseball team who also serves on the La Salle and the Atlantic 10 Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), spoke to others about their experiences with the committee on their campuses.
“One of the most important things I experienced was meeting people from all over the country, seeing how they run their SAACs, how they do things and interacting with them, getting to know them as people," Janss said.
For Izydorczak, a distance runner on the Bonnies cross country and track teams, it was a chance to talk shop with runners from all over the country.
“I learned it’s alright to be uncomfortable, because that’s where the growth happens.”
“The engaging discussion was so amazing – I met somebody who runs in Hawai’i, somebody who runs in Minnesota. Just hearing different perspectives from athletes from all over the country – that doesn’t happen a lot so it was very meaningful to me to have those discussions.”
The student-athletes participated in a number of leadership-building activities, from a Strength Finders Assessment, to a core values evaluation to learning about emotional intelligent leadership. One of the most important lessons was about growth as a person and as a leader.
“I learned it’s alright to be uncomfortable, because that’s where the growth happens,” Janss said.
Those leadership teachings also gave the student-athletes tools that they will be able to use once they complete their college careers.
“I have a more concrete sense of my why or my purpose, Izydorczak said. “I learned that when you have a why and a purpose, you can take your leadership style and put it for into the future – so I can take my leadership style and apply it to my teaching career.”
In addition to the leadership activities, the student-athletes participated in a community service event. But the event was structured around what they had learned – making the service activity a learning experience itself. The student-athletes broke into groups to build a care packages for the Covenant House of Washington D.C. Using those skills they had learned, the groups of student-athletes developed and implemented a strategy – creating an assembly line where all student-athletes, and administrators assembled the care packages (filled with hats, gloves, lip balm, hand warmers, socks, water bottle, blanket, etc.) in under 30 minutes. The project highlighted the diverse group of student-athletes and how they had to successfully work together on the service project.
“There are many leadership styles and I personally am a doer, but in order to have more effective leadership style, I have to work with other people who might have a different leadership style, like a strategic thinker, or even a relationship builder,” Izydorczak said.
"I can take my leadership style and apply it to my teaching career.”
Conference offices select student-athletes from among their active member schools and an administrator from the conference office, to represent their conference at the forum. Marcus Bartley, A-10 Associate Director of Compliance, joined the two A-10 student-athletes in Washington. Both student-athletes looked back fondly on the experience and offered similar advice to student-athletes that will get the opportunity to attend the annual forum in the future.
“Go with an open mind – don’t expect anything, do everything and enjoy it all. You’ll get out, meet new people,” Janss said. “It goes fast, so try to pay attention as everything happens and enjoy the moment.”
“I would recommend you take every opportunity you have at this forum, whether it be sitting next to somebody new, or engaging in a conversation that makes you uncomfortable. I know I did both of those things and I got so much out of this forum and I am so thankful for it,” Izydorczak said.
For more information on the NCAA Leadership Forum, visit here: http://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/leadership-development/student-athlete-leadership-forum
For more information on the A-10 SAAC (Student-Athlete Advisory Committee), click here: http://www.atlantic10.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=31600&ATCLID=211666991
For more information on the Covenant House of Washington, DC, click here: http://covenanthousedc.org/.