Watching our students grow, learn so much through their school years and shape up into wonderful human beings is the best reward, we as educators get to experience for being part of their education journey. As they get older, it’s impressive to see them taking on leadership roles and speak with confidence in front of crowds. A skill that people work years to perfect, and one that I wish I had in high school.
I strongly believe that offering leadership opportunities for our students/children is very important and we are lucky to be part of EARJ where our students have the chance to lead, create or join clubs, councils, and sports where they can learn leadership skills.
On February 12th, twenty-four Panthers attended the GTAD Virtual Student Athlete Leadership Conference. More than 100 international schools participated, either at home or at school, depending on what time it was on their side of the world. In Rio, it started at 4:45 am.
Dr. Greg Dale, Director of Sport Psychology and Leadership Program for Athletics at Duke University, talked to our students about what it means to be a leader and what it takes for people to follow them. Although his stories and videos were inspiring, what stood out the most was that he made our students think about what they could do in their teams and communities as leaders.
At the beginning of his presentation, Greg asked everyone: “What is your leadership brand?”. The question made me ask myself about what my personal brand was and what are the things I do that make me worth following or at least listened to?
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, once said: “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”. This made us think even more. What are our values? What do we stand for? What do our student’s peers say about them when they are not in the room? What type of impact do they have in their clubs or teams?
I remember talking to my teams when athletics and competitions were normal. I would always speak about the meaning of being part of a team, such as: how everyone counts on each other, how individual actions could affect the whole team, and even how good communication within the team can make huge differences. However, one of the most important variables when it comes to the success of a group is simply mindfulness. Such as coaches being mindful of athletes’ feelings, or athletes being mindful of how their poor choices could affect their teams.
Dr. Greg Dale described what were the three important things that great leaders do. They…
- Distinguish themselves: They go the extra mile and pass the line. They don’t cut corners and go beyond them, willing to do things that others aren’t, they make others notice when something is wrong and take their team with them through the right way. At times, these leaders will have to take initiative and make some tough choices, such as ones that their team and/or friends will disagree with. Furthermore, this type of behavior and self-will could lead their peers to think a little harder and make the right choices.
- Are Vocal Leaders: They are leaders that are willing to challenge their teams. They are great communicators but without undermining others. They push their teams to be better, challenging and encouraging them, and making them believe they can do it. They build a culture in their teams where people can hold each other accountable. Do you remember the confrontation between the two captains in the movie “Remembering the Titans?” In that scene, you can clearly see that Attitude Reflects Leadership. The leader’s behavior must always reflect the right attitude so his/her team believes in him/her.
- Lead by example: They serve others, willing to do the dirty work, and help in any way they can, like assisting their teacher or worker cleaning after class or practice. They are resilient in tough times and keep their teams in a good place. These leaders embrace pressure and pressure is part of trying to be great because it is filled with expectations, challenges, and consequences. They make the right choices, so those drinking alcohol and doing drugs do not fit here as leaders. Bad choices reflect on their attitude and demeanor.
In conclusion, it is important to know that:
- Being a good leader takes a lot of courage and it’s not always easy.
- Requires a good set of values and that we stick to them.
- We need to be proactive in developing our own leadership brand because it’s a clear representation of our attitude and the things we do.
- At moments, we need to separate ourselves from the choices that the crowd makes.
- It’s important to create a great team culture where we can all hold each other accountable.
As their teachers and parents, there are important questions I feel we need to ask ourselves:
- Are we good leaders ourselves, good role models, preparing and guiding our students and children for the future and its challenges? Are we encouraging them to face these, without paving the way, so they can also learn from failure?
- What are we doing to help them build a good set of values that they will live through and make them great leaders in the future? And, is empathy one of them? A very important one in the times we are living.
- Are we teaching them what the right priorities are in life and celebrating their good choices? What are we doing on a daily basis to teach them that it’s okay to be different and want to go to school, for example?
The conference was an amazing and a life-changing experience for our EARJ student athletes. Listening to great keynote speakers and then hearing about what their peers are doing in other places in the world gave them a boost of energy and hope they could be back on the field or courts soon. Our students were very inspired by all and here is great feedback they allowed me to share with you. It meant very much to me and I’m sure you will enjoy reading it too.
Athletics and activities are the heart and soul of every school, and sports are a great starting point on our students’ and childrens’ leadership journey. They teach us lifelong lessons. If we all do our job and work together as a community and make the right choices outside school, we will see our Panthers’ in action soon. Remember, our attitudes reflect on us and especially on our kids. Let’s all be great leaders in their journeys too.
Athletics & Activities Director
Keeping a positive mental mindset is key to facing the uncertainty of these bizarre times we are living. This mentality has the potential to help us get through negative days and will serve as a great tool for our future in life.
In my eyes, this year I was blessed with the opportunity to spend more time with my loved ones than ever before. Throughout this time I was also fortunate enough to take part in certain webinars and conferences. One workshop session in particular impacted me the most, “Rise above with Rudy”.
Have you ever watched the movie Rudy? If you haven’t, it’s a must. Rudy is a 1993 American biographical sports film and it is about the life of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, who harbored the dream of playing football at the University of Notre Dame despite significant obstacles.
Just to give you a little bit of context, Rudy comes from a family of nine siblings in which his dad worked three jobs to put food on the table. Rudy had dyslexia, lacked the academic eligibility, money, stature, and talent to play football in Notre Dame. His chances of making his dream true were completely unrealistic, yet significant people along his life engraved a positive mindset in him which convinced him to fight for it.
Rudy Ruettiger dictated the workshop himself, and listening to all the challenges he faced to get into his dream school was truly amazing and inspiring. Here are some of the key lessons I learnt from him that day:
It’s all about love and respect. Rudy’s High School coach always saw the positive in him, his strengths, and not his weaknesses. The lesson here is that we need to show a lot of love because we all learn better when there is love. Just like Rudy’s coach and his best friend, which inspired him to push himself and never quit on his dream. Our children need to surround themselves with good friends, good thoughts, and develop positive relationships with adults in their family and school.
Don’t steal people’s joy! Be around people that want you to win, that gives you hope. When our children/students cannot produce like other students, let’s empower them. Let’s help them be better, be more positive. If we steal our kid’s joy, they will not be positive and they won’t learn. When our children are excited about something, let’s help them embrace it.
Preparation is the key to anything. Our children need to dream like they are an “All American”. They need good mentors and good people that will help them through the day, through their struggles, and through challenging and complicated times. Nothing is impossible with a positive attitude and the right push.
Towards the end of the session, I raised my hand to ask Rudy for advice on how we should be facing Covid-19, with the canceling of all sports seasons and the huge impact that this will cause on our student-athletes’ lives.
Rudy claimed that our Mental Attitude is the key. We need to develop a mental attitude that will keep us going. Regardless if there is a season or not, as an athlete you do not quit working out, nor doing the little things everyday to become better. You need to keep going because there will come a moment in which you will come back, and you must be ready for that day. Sitting around dreaming about things happening won’t make them real until you get up and get to work.
This is the moment to develop a Positive Mental Attitude in our school so that when the day comes, we will be ready to thrive.
Are you ready for that day?
Director of Athletics and Activities
What is self-confidence? Self-confidence is the ability to execute your skills.
Some say that self-confidence is the mark of a champion. It’s that secret ingredient that keeps athletes working hard, regardless of how many times they will fail or how many obstacles get thrown at them on their path to success. Lacking self-confidence will make our athletes, children or teams, consistently perform below their potential. Low self-confidence can kill the enjoyment of the activity or sport and turn one into a dropout statistic.
In sports psychology, they talk about proactive confidence versus reactive confidence. Proactive confidence is taking responsibility for your confidence. When an athlete has a game and brings good levels of confidence, they fill their minds with healthy thoughts so as to feel empowered during their performance.
Conversely, there is reactive confidence, which is how the athlete is reacting to the events of the day. Maybe they are tired and did not sleep well. Maybe they argued with a parent that morning or had a bad warmup. Maybe they missed some shots and thus will immediately jump to conclusions deciding that this is not their best day.
The goal is to have proactive confidence. Are there specific things that parents, coaches and teammates can do to help this confidence grow? Or worse, are there things we do that can kill it?
When Caeleb Dressel was called on stage for winning one of the many awards that made him the 2017 swimmer of the year, he thanked his coach and staff, teammates, family and many others that were important in that recent swimming season. The part that got me the most was when he thanked his parents. It was very special because he said that they were the best swim parents in the whole world because they did not know anything about swimming, could not recall any of his best times and were just proud of him for swimming and having fun.
As a swim-mom, I was always up at 4:00 am taking my son to swim early morning practice and then at the end of the day, the same. I had to wait for him to finish some days as late as 9:00pm. I did not have much time to sit on the stands to wait for him but many times I did.
The swim parents are super supportive, great people that sacrifice their family lives for their swimmers and sometimes they can be very intense. I remember that there was a parent that would watch every single practice. He became a very good friend of the coach so he sat on the pool deck, believed he was another coach and even had his own stopwatch to time his son and friends.
Everything was going well, his son became a top swimmer in the country, had national records, the boy became a project for Tokyo 2020 and dad started living through his son’s results.
The pressure on that child was huge and one day, he stopped improving his times, which is very normal by the way. It can happen. He was not placed in the competitions and he looked sad, overwhelmed, questioning his abilities. The coach changed his style of swimming but nothing changed. The child changed his dry-land and swimming trainings but nothing changed. Everyone would try to find a way to help him, but nothing changed!
When he did well, everyone felt proud, but now that he wasn’t and his times were getting worse, his dad and coach would openly show their frustration. The poor boy’s self-confidence was gone and each competition was a torture for him.
Caeleb Dressel’s words to his parents caused a great impact in many of our swimmers and their parents. My son made me sit and watch the video and asked me to never again make any comments about his swimming. He thanked me for always supporting him and cheering from the stands.
That other boy went to his dad and asked him to step out of the pool deck and be his dad. He said he already had a coach and that he needed a dad that did not talk to him about swimming all day. Dad was devastated but it was true. From then on, the boy continued his training but he had already lost the love for the sport, the enjoyment and he quit two months later.
As teachers, coaches or parents, are we realistic in our expectations for our students-athletes or children? Are we doing what is best for them? Are we building their confidence? Do we need to put them in a club to be the best? Do we need to shroud them in work and add more stress in their best school years so they do better in the future and access the top universities or colleges?
In this world, where excellence in performance is an expectation, we need to be careful about what we expect from our children, what we say and how we say it. More important, are we always celebrating their successes? And if there weren’t many tastes of success, are we learning in defeat? How about we start praising the process and not only the outcome?
Director of Athletics and Activities