Springfield, Ohio — Three Wittenberg University student-athletes and Men's and Women's Tennis Head Coach Justin Stuckey attended an NCAA Division III Student-Athlete Regional Leadership Conference in Chicago, Jan. 23-25.
The student-athletes - football cornerback Brandyn Brown, class of 2010 from Louisville, Ky., men's lacrosse midfielder Ted Winders, class of 2010 from Western Springs, Ill., and volleyball outside hitter Katherine Yuskewich, class of 2010 from Columbus, Ohio - are all active in the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) at Wittenberg. They were invited to participate in the conference, which is organized annually to discuss opportunities and challenges to student-athletes, and to prepare them for academic and later professional leadership opportunities.
The regional conferences were developed to provide NCAA Division III student-athletes, coaches and administrators the opportunity to assess individual leadership skills. This particular conference offered a variety of activities and small group work sessions that provided for self assessment and peer feedback, a better understanding of key practices of exemplary leaders, information on the role of the SAAC as a student-athlete resource, and issues affecting student-athlete well-being, among other things.
All three Wittenberg student-athletes had nothing but positive things to say about the conference, including Yuskewich, a three-year letterwinner on the nationally ranked Tiger volleyball team.
"The conference exceeded my expectations. I was pleasantly surprised by all that I learned at the conference about myself and my leadership style," she said. "The conference was very well organized, and it was a great experience to be around so many Division III athletes discussing issues in the NCAA and finding ways to improve it."
The student-athletes attending the Division III Student-Athlete Regional Leadership Conference represented a wide array of intercollegiate sports. The Division III SAAC, a national "voice of the student-athlete" within the NCAA governance structure, had a strong presence at the conference by facilitating select sessions.
"Many of the Wittenberg SAAC members who attended conferences in the past told me many great things about them, but I was not expecting to have that much fun and learn so much," said Brown, a three-year starter and two-time All-North Coast Athletic Conference honoree. "Everything about the conference was a plus, from my group members and facilitators, to discussions amongst leaders from the NCAC conference.
"Personally, I enjoyed the discussions in my drum group, which was a group of people I had never met before. In these drum groups we discussed the different types of leaders and the qualities that each type of leader could bring to the table. I learned how I can use this to my advantage in the athletic world, class and in my career. Finding out how to read people, get feedback, and be a better listener will help me with all of my future plans."
The Wittenberg student-athletes weren't sent to the conference to simply enjoy a weekend of personal growth. They are now tasked with bringing some of the lessons learned in Chicago back to campus and sharing them through new SAAC programs and activities at Wittenberg.
"I learned a lot about different types of leaders and to me this will be a valuable tool to use at Wittenberg," Yuskewich said. "I now understand that there are different types of leaders, and I know how best to work with them. Ted, Brandyn and I also came up with an action plan to take back to campus. The idea involves student-athletes doing community service.
"We are hoping we will be able to put the plan to action and implement it through SAAC. I am so happy I had the opportunity to attend this conference. I had the time of my life and would love to do it again."
Winders, a three-year starter on the men's lacrosse team and the current president of Wittenberg's SAAC organization, said he emerged from the conference proud of both his school and his student-athlete advocacy organization. While there is always progress that can be made, he feels good about where Wittenberg's SAAC is headed.
"The highlight for me personally was the satisfaction I received from seeing that our SAAC here at Wittenberg is the most advanced in both the region and the conference," Winders said. "We spent a great deal of time writing an action plan to bring back to Wittenberg, and other students had a vast list of problems they needed to solve within their different SAACs.
"With our well-rounded participation from athletes and the wide-range of programs and activities we oversee, it was difficult for our Wittenberg group to even find an area that we needed to address. Once we found the area we needed to address, we quickly came up with a precise and accurate action plan to help bring about even more change in the greater Wittenberg community."
SAAC is an organization that represents and advocates the interests of Wittenberg student-athletes to the rest of the university community. Through bi-weekly meetings, student-athletes are able to network and organize events, including National Girls and Women in Sport Day on Feb. 7, Take a Kid to the Game Day on Feb. 14 and a holiday service project last month in which each student-athlete on campus was asked to donate $1 to supply toys for a local family.
Written By: Ryan Maurer