Second MIAC Student-Athlete Leadership Conference a big success

Second MIAC Student-Athlete Leadership Conference a big success

WINONA, Minn. -- The second-ever Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) Student-Athlete Leadership Conference was an unquestioned success last weekend on the campus of Saint Mary's University. More than 110 selected MIAC student-athletes spent Aug. 2-3 in Winona, Minn., to build and strengthen their leadership skills, and that mission was certainly accomplished.

The two-day conference featured educational sessions, panel discussions, a personality assessment, team-building activities, group breakout sessions and social activities, all focused on the theme:  "Develop your Leadership Playbook." By the time the conference concluded on Sunday evening, Aug. 3, the "Leadership Playbooks" of those in attendance were filled with new ideas and strategies to effectively lead thanks to the student-athletes' willingness to learn, and the tremendous sessions put on by the presenters, panelists and speakers.

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Each institution could select up to 10 student-athletes to attend, and each was required to send a coach or administrator as well. In all, the MIAC's member institutions were represented by roughly 125 individuals who all benefitted from the weekend's programming. MIAC Assistant Director Megan Gaard planned and organized the conference, and Saint Mary's athletic staff provided outstanding assistance throughout the event.

"The 2014 MIAC Student-Athlete Leadership Conference was a huge success," said MIAC Executive Director Dan McKane. "The attendees came away energized for the upcoming school year with plenty of new resources to better equip them to lead both on and off the playing field."

  

"It was a pleasure getting to work with student-athletes throughout the MIAC during the conference," added Gaard. "In our roles in the conference office, we don't have as much day-to-day contact with student-athletes as we would like, so this was a particularly great experience for us. We came away so impressed, and so proud of the young leaders in the MIAC."

The conference began Saturday, Aug. 2, with check-in, a welcome and lunch, and then officially started in style thanks to Katy Smith and her Real Colors Personality Assessment. Smith was named Minnesota's Teacher of the Year in 2011, and her engaging session not only helped the student-athletes determine which "color" described their personality, but also how to successfully interact with the other personality types.

A pair of familiar faces from the MIAC tennis world followed with outstanding educational sessions on pertinent topics. Gustavus Head Men's Tennis Coach Tommy Valentini discussed "Finding Virtue and Value in Collegiate Sport," and Carleton Head Women's Tennis Coach Luciano Battaglini led a session on "Sportsmanship," and challenged the student-athletes in attendance to treat their sports and rivals with respect. In addition to their tennis responsibilities, Valentini is a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Minnesota's School of Kinesiology and teaches courses on sport ethics at Gustavus, and Battaglini is an associate professor in the physical education, athletics and recreation department at Carleton.

Saturday's final session was a panel discussion on "Social Media and Student-Athletes," as St. Catherine Sports Information Director Sara Eisenhauer, Saint Mary's Assistant Baseball Coach Pat Jacobsen and MIAC Assistant Executive Director Matt Higgins offered ideas, information and suggestions about responsible social media activity. The night concluded with bonfires and open athletic activity under the lights on Saint Mary's field.

Sunday's programming began with a "Life After Athletics" panel, as MIAC alums Tennie McCabe, Jenny Baertsch and Pat Bowlin discussed the transition from student-athlete status to a post-collegiate career. Up next was Dr. Cindra Kamphoff, who is an Associate Professor and the Coordinator of the Sport, Exercise and Wellness Psychology Graduate Program at Minnesota State University-Mankato. Kamphoff is also an accomplished marathon runner, and shared "Mental Strategies" with the student-athletes, to help them learn how one's mind can be utilized in athletic preparation and performance.

  
The ropes course and team-building activies were a big hit at
the Leadership Conference. (Photo by Matt Higgins, MIAC) 

Nicole LaVoi, Ph.D., shared her expertise next with a session on "Team Building." LaVoi is a MIAC alum - she played tennis at Gustavus - and now she is the Associate Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport and a Senior Lecturer in the University of Minnesota's School of Kinesiology. In fact, seven of the Leadership Conference's speakers and panelists were former MIAC student-athletes who returned to share their experiences and expertise with the league's current leaders. In all, 14 of the weekend's 16 speakers were either MIAC alumni, or currently work at a MIAC institution.

"It's inspiring to see so many MIAC alumni find great success after their collegiate experience," Gaard said.

The bulk of Sunday's activities saw the group broken down into three groups to rotate through a trio of entertaining sessions, including Team Building Activities with LaVoi, Low Ropes Course Activities with Saint Mary's staff and institutional action plans, so each school's attendees could formulate a strategy to bring the things they learned back to benefit all the student-athletes on their campus.

The conference concluded with a session on, "Goal Setting and Motivation," led by St. Thomas Head Men's Basketball Coach John Tauer, who is also a Professor of Psychology at St. Thomas and holds Master's and Ph.D. degrees in Social Psychology.

This was the second time the MIAC hosted a Student-Athlete Leadership Conference, as the first-ever event was also held at Saint Mary's in 2011. The second installment proved to be just as successful as the first, which means the MIAC  will plan to continue the tradition in 2017.

"I am so proud of the event we put on for our membership," McKane said. "The student-athletes had so much fun and I truly believe everyone came away with a new perspective on leadership. With the positive feedback we received, the MIAC anticipates we will hold another leadership event in three years."

"We put a lot into planning a conference that was both educational and fun for our student-athletes, and, with how everything turned out, it was well worth all the effort," Gaard added. "We look forward to continuing the conference in the future."

The MIAC thanks the student-athletes and institutional representatives for their attendance, as well as the talented and knowledgeable speakers, panelists and presenters who shared their expertise throughout the conference. The MIAC would also like to thank Saint Mary's University, including Athletic Director Nikki Fennern and the entire athletics staff, Director Terrie Lueck and the conferencing and camps staff, food services and residence life, for all of their efforts to provide a first-rate location for the conference.

The MIAC has a photo gallery from the event both on its web site and its Facebook page, and a video slideshow of the highlights on its YouTube channel. Throughout the conference, the MIAC and attendees used the Twitter hashtag #MIACLead to share their experiences on social media.

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