July 22, 2013
Black Mountain, N.C - Western Carolina sent three student-athletes, Christina White, Jenny Lauer and Jack Walsh, to the Southern Conference's 18th annual Student-Athlete Leadership Institute (SALI) over the weekend as they participated in various leadership activities and to discuss and develop ideas for the Catamount Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).
White is a member of the Catamount soccer team and the WCU SAAC president, while Walsh is a member of the men's golf team and the SAAC vice president. Lauer, also a soccer player, is the WCU SAAC's spirit chair and the SoCon's representative the NCAA SAAC. Stacey Miller, WCU's Assistant Athletic Director for Academics & Compliance and Senior Woman Administrator, accompanied the group.
"I took a lot away from SALI," White said. "I believe that bringing the skills, tools and ideas we learned at SALI back to WCU will be very beneficial for the Catamounts this year. Being around such a great group of individuals from across the Southern Conference really opened our eyes to other programs and has really motivated us to make this year great of Catamount Nation."
Festivities began as soon as the participants set foot in the door Friday. Members from each institution created a poster that represented each of the people in attendance and their institution as a whole. Each school then presented their poster and introduced themselves to the group before diving into several icebreaker activities designed to ease the process of getting to know their fellow participants. Kevin Ringhofer and Que Tucker facilitated the event, implementing different activities and discussions designed to identify the various aspects of leadership. The group was split into two teams, "Red Zone" and "Blue Zone," representing the two different types of leaders. The Red and Blue Zones also determined the teams for the night's activity, the annual dodge ball game. After splitting the first two games of the five game series, the Blue Zone took the next two games to earn a 3-1 series win and bragging rights for the remainder of the weekend.
Saturday started off with Southern Conference Commissioner John Iamarino's, "Commissioner's Chat" where participants are able to learn about conference happenings and plans straight from the commissioner himself. The commissioner then took questions from the student-athletes about conference realignment and the various SoCon championships. The morning session featured discussion of SAAC activities, taking ideas from participating schools and creating new initiatives to use at their individual institutions. Lauer followed with her address to the group and shared her ideas and goals for SAAC on a conference level. She will represent the SoCon at the NCAA headquarters on July 22 through July 24 at the national SAAC meeting in Indianapolis, Ind.
Following the morning session and lunch, the participants also got a chance to give the SoCon staff their opinions on several topics including social media, athlete gifts and video features.
The afternoon brought participants' leadership skills to new heights in a literal sense. Participants used their leadership and communication skills to complete an indoor ropes course set over two stories high. Each individual relied on their partners to navigate their way through the course successfully. Once their feet hit the ground, the group took off for a fun-filled night of pizza and putt-putt.
Sunday morning, SALI participants had the chance to look back on the weekend and reminisce on the all of the activities. The group then talked about different hypothetical situations and how they would handle them as leaders at their respective schools. Participants ended the day by sharing their experience at SALI and what projects and initiatives they were going to attempt to implement at their institutions.
"I think SALI allows the student-athletes to see just how much of a leader they can be around campus," Miller said. "It brings new and fresh ideas and allows them to gain support from other areas around campus. They find inspiration in other ideas from other campuses to bring back to their own campus and develop and build upon those ideas."
SALI is an opportunity to give SoCon athletes an impactful weekend for everyone involved and this year was no different. New friendships were formed across many campuses, and student-athletes became committed to being leaders on their teams and improving their respective SAAC.