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April 24, 2019
With incredible honor and gratitude, I was selected to represent Harvard and the Ivy League at the 2019 NCAA Student-Athlete Leadership Forum in Orlando Florida. This was a special recognition as only two individuals from each Division I conference are nominated to attend each year. This year, the Ivy League was represented by myself, a Harvard soccer player, and Sarah Walsh, a Brown swimmer. To be honest, I did not know what to expect going into the weekend, and was worried about missing school with all the work I was going to have to catch up on when I got back. However, in retrospect, I can confidently say that I learned and grew more over the course of those three days then I could have ever imagined.
The forum is designed to bring together leaders from across the NCAA (DI, DII, DIII) to learn and grow from each other’s experiences and insight. On the first day, we were sorted into teams of around 20 athletes (different sports and divisions), which were led by two “coaches” or facilitators. Since this was an event filled with 300 NCAA athletes, you can imagine there were plenty of competitive activities against other teams, including the most competitive rock-paper-scissors tournament you could ever imagine. To my surprise, quickly, my team grew very close with each other. We shared stories, we laughed, we cried, and together we took a deep dive into our individual leadership philosophies, strengths, and weaknesses. I was extremely impressed by everyone’s willingness to show vulnerability and offer such invaluable advice.
One key takeaway I want to bring back to my team and the rest of Harvard athletics is the idea of Strength-Based Leadership. As both students and athletes at Harvard, we find ourselves competing at the highest possible level in the classroom and on the field. We all want to be the best. In fact, it is that drive that got us to where we are today. However, when it comes to being a part of a team and specifically, when it comes to being a good leader, you need to understand your strengths. You need to know exactly what you are good at and you need to work to be the absolute best at it. If you try to perfect all areas of your game, then it will be hard to be anything more than average in all. Know our strengths, focus on your strengths, and trust those around you to fill your gaps.
“If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.”
Trust is essential. You must trust that your teammates have the qualities and skills to lead in the areas that you may lack. You must identify your weaknesses and build up your teammates that prove to be strong in those areas.
With that, I challenge players to take a moment and think about their strengths. Think about where your team needs you and how you can lead. Everyone is a leader, where can you step up?