A NEW APPROACH TO CULTIVATING LEADERSHIP IN ATHLETICS
Speaking into the lives of students is a passion of Middle School Athletic Director Christy Johnson. Having lived overseas in Ethiopia as a missionary for 13 years, Christy has a heart for not only serving others, but leading them to a life full in Christ. This is seen in the
compassion she has for students and the expectations she sets for them, whether she’s teaching in P.E. class or coaching her Varsity Girls Soccer team. In the 2022/23 school year, as part of the intentionality Christy pours into her coaching, the idea of a Leadership
Academy was born.
Christy refers to this leadership training as an E.L.I.T.E. program— Excellence, Leadership, Integrity, Teamwork, Encouragement. These are traits of a high caliber leader both on and off the playing fields, and they are the qualities that she is looking for in athletes. “The program started out with coaches sending me two or three of their players who showed leadership potential,” Christy explains. “I meet with them at the beginning and near the end of their athletic season to speak into the role of being a leader. What does it look like to lead other people in a positive way? We want to help them develop the qualities that we already see in them which will serve them well later in life,” she says.
The program for leadership development spans both middle school and high school athletic programs. High School Athletic Director Ryan Anderson continues the Leadership Academy, focusing on team captains and young students who display traits of leadership. “We are already putting some students into a position of leadership when they are named team captain, so we wanted to come alongside them and make sure they fully understand the responsibilities,” he says. “But it doesn’t stop at just captains. It’s a building block so we also include younger students who may one day be a team captain.”
As a result, students are growing in the character traits necessary to lead a team of people. “It’s really a series of life skills we’re walking the students through,” says Anderson, “which they’ll use in the workplace, or on a missions trip perhaps, or wherever the Lord leads them.” In her first year as a team captain on the JV Girls Basketball team, sophomore Elyse Dizmon says, “The way Coach Anderson challenges us has really made me think about how what I do and say on the court affects others. We may not think our teammates are watching how we react to a bad call or a bad play. We have to stay positive and keep our heads up, which will help keep our teammates up.”
Representing the middle school softball team, eighth graders Ellie Hoyer and Daniella Garcia both agreed that meeting with Coach Johnson was very inspirational. Ellie says, “Coach Johnson talked to us about being encouraging. It left me feeling like now I know how to be a leader so I have no excuse not to be one.” Daniella shares, “It made me realize the aspects of leadership that I need to work on. Coach Johnson talked about integrity and putting in 100% effort even if I know no one else is watching.” As the program develops, the goal remains the same—to point athletes to have a Christ-like mindset amidst the wins and losses which come on the courts, the playing fields, and in the game of life.