(originally published on January 25, 2015)
Some Marion High School student-athletes are learning how to be better leaders in order to help their teams on the field of competition and improve the world around them.
About 25 student-athletes from various teams at Marion met weekly this past semester before school to learn about different leadership concepts.
“The morning sessions taught me a new thing every single week on how to be good teammate and player both on and off the field,” said Luke Oliver, who plays both football and soccer.
The student-athlete leadership training was led by Marion’s Director of Athletics Jamy Bechler. It was a combination of the IHSAA and NAIA’s Champions of Character programs and Bechler’s own ULeadership initiative, which promotes the concept of “Leadership Begins with U.”
“Going to the leadership meetings helped me to know that you may not lead everyone,” said senior football player Noah Graham. “But leading a few can make a big difference and hopefully create a culture change.”
The leadership sessions last the entire semester. A new group of student-athletes will begin going through the training course when the second semester begins. The participants selected are a mix of different sports and grade levels. One of the hopes is that the underclassmen will develop leadership abilities that will impact future years.
“I know that as a junior next year I will need to step up my leadership for my Lady Giants soccer team”, said soccer player Abby Eltzroth. “What I have learned in these meetings will be extremely beneficial in helping me make my team and teammates better. I am excited to see my servant leadership style put into action.”
This is Bechler’s first year at Marion High School after spending nearly 20 years at the college level. Most recently, he was the assistant athletic director and head women’s basketball coach at Martin Methodist College. His team was awarded the 2014 NAIA Champions of Character Team Award for their service and leadership. Bechler understands that coaches need not only talented athletes but good leaders to help the team achieve its’ potential.
“If our student-athletes can learn to be better leaders and develop stronger character then they will be more productive athletes, students and individuals in general,” said Bechler. “As coaches, we spend so much time working on plays, developing skills and game strategy that we forget about the intangibles. A team of positive leaders can go a long way.”
“The leadership training has provided us and our athletes a chance to do more than just practice and compete,” said veteran track and cross country coach Terry Lakes. “It has provided us with skills that are life long and will help our athletes cope with whatever life throws at them.”
Bechler looks forward to a new group of student-athletes towork with during the second semester and as well as how the first semester group begins to work within their teams.
“I have enjoyed these weekly meetings a great deal,” said Bechler. “We have had some honest talks and I think the student-athletes have had the opportunities to understand some different perspectives on things. It is exciting to see the student-athletes volunteer to come in early before school and engage in learning different leadership concepts.”
Additionally, Marion is participating in the IHSAA’s Five-Star Leadership Challenge for the first time. This consists of various elements that schools must fulfill in order to earn the distinction of a Five-Star Leadership School. Among the obligations is to do community service, display consistent sportsmanship and meet with parents about various character and sportsmanship issues. Each IHSAA member school has a sportsmanship scorecard. Currently, Marion has a perfect 100 out of 100 score after the fall sports season.