SoCon Student-Athletes Attend SALI
Black Mountain, N.C.— More than 40 Southern Conference student-athletes and administrators gathered in Black Mountain, N.C. for a weekend of fun and leadership training at the 18th annual Student Athlete Leadership Institute (SALI ).
Representatives from ten SoCon institutions were on hand at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly to participate in a variety of team and leadership building activities, as well as to discuss and develop ideas for the Student Athlete Advisory Committees (SAACs) at their respective schools. SALI provided an open forum for student-athletes to discuss current issues in collegiate athletics at a conference and national level with their fellow conference members and SoCon staff. In addition to developing practical leadership skills, SALI participants also created friendships with the athletes from different schools and sports across the league.
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. Jenny Lauer, a junior soccer player at Western Carolina and the new SoCon SAAC representative to the NCAA, addressed the group and shared her ideas and goals for SAAC on a conference level.
“I was a little intimidated at first,” Lauer said. “I think it’s great that people feel that I can be the voice of the conference but the voice is only as strong as the mind. If I don’t know what everyone else is thinking then I don’t have anything to say. It comes down to communication and knowing what people across the conference think about their schools and their experience in their student athletic lives. It comes down to people coming and speaking to me so that I can speak for them.”
Lauer will head to NCAA headquarters July 22-24 to represent the SoCon 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.
Elon assistant volleyball coach Tina Readling attended SALI for the second time and sees the leadership institute as a way to bring the conference together in a unique way, allowing student-athletes to take their experiences and friendships back to their respective campuses.
“I had such an amazing time last year,” Readling said. “My favorite thing about SALI is that our student-athletes are able to connect and find common ground with other student-athletes from other campuses around the SoCon. The camaraderie they develop and the similarities they see in each other help break down the barriers between the schools, and create good friendships with them.”
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 SAACs.