Black Mountain, N.C.— Student-athletes and administrators from across the league gathered in Black Mountain, N.C. for a weekend of fun and leadership training at the 19th annual Student Athlete Leadership Institute (SALI).
Representatives from the 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.
Activities began with members from each institution creating a poster that represented their institution. 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. The Red Zone took a 4-2 series win and earned themselves the Southern Conference dodgeball championship trophy.
Prior to dinner and dodgeball, participants’ leadership skills and fear of heights were put to the test. The student-athletes 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.
Southern Conference Commissioner John Iamarino’s, “Commissioner’s Chat” informed participants of conference happenings and plans for the future. The commissioner then took questions from the student-athletes about conference-wide initiatives and the various SoCon championships. Saturday's sessions also featured a discussion of SAAC activities, taking ideas from participating schools and creating new ideas to use at their individual institutions. Later in the day, Jenny Lauer, a senior soccer player at Western Carolina and the new SoCon SAAC representative to the NCAA, addressed the group via Skype and shared her ideas and goals for SAAC on a conference level.
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.
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.