The 2012-2013 academic and athletic year was, in part, highlighted by the championship-level success of several varsity teams. The Mountain Hawks secured league crowns in men’s tennis, men’s lacrosse, women’s and men’s golf, and men’s cross country. Meanwhile, 47 percent of student-athletes were recognized on the Patriot League’s Academic Honor Roll (for GPAs of at least 3.2).
Lehigh’s athletes prepare for academics and competition with vigor, but a third component— leadership development—plays an important role in molding students for achievement in everything they set out to accomplish, says Julie Sterrett ‘07, assistant director for athletics leadership development.
“I coordinate and facilitate our leadership education efforts for student-athletes, teams, and coaches” says Sterrett. “Our programming strengthens the connection between student affairs and athletics by offering the practical application of student development and leadership theories within the context of sport.”
A two-time All-Patriot League selection in softball and a member of the dean’s list throughout her career at Lehigh, Sterrett has been working with undergraduate athletes since 2008. The Lehigh Athletics Leadership Academy, housed in the office of student leadership development, offers comprehensive, developmentally incremental and interactive educational programs to catalyze leadership awareness and efficacy in order to maximize personal effectiveness and overall team success.
At Lehigh, that training begins in the ﬁrst year. Through the P.R.I.D.E. program, first year student- athletes are made aware of the many on-campus resources available to them, so that they are better able to balance their social, academic and athletic commitments. Student-Athlete Mentors (S.A.M.), train upperclassmen leaders and peer educators, and help ease the transition to college for their new teammates.
Lehigh’s Emerging Leaders program prepares student-athletes to lead first by example in order to develop credibility among teammates. It involves empowering athletes to hold themselves and others accountable academically, athletically and socially.
“In the fall, the Emerging Leaders program is open to any sophomore or junior student-athlete,” said Sterrett. “In the spring semester, the program helps coach-identiﬁed individuals and future team captains develop the vocal leadership skills needed to effectively support, refocus and confront their teammates.”
The most selective of Lehigh’s offerings, the Leadership Legacies program, supports veteran leaders and current team captains as they apply their knowledge and skills to actively lead their teams in season.
Finally, a senior capstone experience, called Launch, connects graduating student-athletes to athletics alumni and encourages meaningful reflection and identification of transferable leadership skills.
Beyond educational programs, experiential learning and leadership involvement opportunities are varied. The Student-Athlete Council is a group of approximately 25 students who work collectively to enhance the college experience for all student-athletes through community service (via the C.O.A.C.H. program), campus collaborations, and alumni partnerships. The Student-Athletes Leading Social Change team engages in meaningful dialogue and service projects locally, nationally and internationally.
All in all, Lehigh’s slate of opportunities is robust but ﬂexible enough to accommodate the often jam-packed schedules of student-athletes. The Patriot League has recognized Lehigh student-athletes for their commitment to leadership through the Outstanding Leadership and Character award, established in 2012. In fact, all of the winners of the award are Mountain Hawks: Chris Lum ’12 (football) and Jana Basubas ’12 (soccer) won the inaugural men’s and women’s award, while Michael Colvin ’13 (football) and Rebecca Guman ’13 (basketball) won in 2013.
“It’s a win-win situation,” says Sterrett. “By challenging our athletes to clarify expectations and act on core values, we’re strengthening the culture of leadership at Lehigh. In turn, our student-athletes are prepared to continue to lead effectively in their personal and professional lives beyond college sports.”
Story by Karl Brisseaux '11
Posted on Monday, January 27, 2014