Student-Athlete Reflects on NCAA Leadership Forum Experience

A personal photo featuring 9from left to right) me, Darcy Muns, and Coach Nick Stone. (Photo by: Jay Daniels)

From April 11 to April 14, Albion College sent three representatives to the annual NCAA Leadership Forum in Orlando, Florida.

Attending were junior women’s lacrosse player from Lake Orion, Michigan, Darcy Muns, swim and dive head coach Nick Stone and myself as a junior swimmer. The forum consisted of Division I, II, and III athletes and administrators from across the country.

During the weekend event, attendees made connections, formed relationships and learned from one another. This included team-building strategies, NCAA rules, and strengthen leadership skills.
With nearly 400 participants randomly mixed into eight different small groups, there was no lack of knowledge or experience to be shared. A full schedule that started at 7 a.m. and concluded at 10 p.m. each day left little free time. Days were spent with many small group and large group meetings, community service projects and guest speakers.

The purpose of the forum was to share experiences across the country and help develop important leadership skills in both athletes and administrators. It was a special event that has been hosted for the past 12 years and has many objectives to help better all participants attending the conference in networking, communication skills, and leadership growth. One of the skills talked about and practiced during the weekend was writing out a leadership philosophy which help stand for what a leader believes in and how to act.

While a majority of the weekend was spent working on communication skills and leadership techniques to be applied in NCAA sports teams, there were other highlight moments. One was the amazing guest speakers brought in who delivered powerful messages about life.

The first speaker was Daron Roberts, who graduated from Harvard Law School only to chase a dream of being a professional football coach. His motto was simple: “Live in the moment.” A powerful message from a man who knows the importance of knowledge and chasing a dream. This was a powerful message that reminded me how important it is to enjoy college, enjoy athletics while they last because in a few short years those opportunities may not be available anymore.

The second guest speaker, and the highlight of the whole weekend for Stone, was Chris Norton. Chris was a former American football player who suffered a severe spinal injury resulting in complete loss of motion from his neck down in 2010.

While Chris sits in a wheelchair, he brings his message of hope and courage across the country, talking about his determination to walk again. In 2015, he graduated from Luther College in Florida with a degree in business management and with assistance walked across the graduation stage with the help of his fiancée.

His lasting message he had with his speech was that sometimes life has a bigger plan for us that we may have never seen.

Coach Nick Stone reflected on this speech after the forum. “His message is a strong reminder that no matter how tired I am, that I still have so much to be thankful for,” Stone said.

Stone hopes to use Norton’s message as a tool of inspiration for himself and his team.

Muns’ biggest takeaway would be “No matter how different a group of people can be, they find true friendship by listening to each other and being honest.”

All three of us who attended agreed it was a special trip and are very excited to bring so much knowledge and information back to Albion.

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