BEVERLY, Mass. – The Endicott Athletics Department is proud to introduce the department's first-ever four core standards of leadership, just in time to celebrate NCAA Division III Week (April 4-10, 2016) and what it means to be an NCAA Division III student-athlete.
According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), "Division III Week is an opportunity for all individuals associated with a Division III institution or conference to recognize the powerful impact of athletics and student-athletes on campus and the surrounding community."
"We are excited to introduce our core values as it relates to our philosophy of leadership within athletics here at Endicott," said Dr. Brian Wylie, Director of Athletics.
The four core values are: Commitment, Character, Effective Communication, Confidence.
"We talk a lot about leadership in our department and about how our student-athletes should be great leaders on the field, but also equally and perhaps more importantly, off the field, in the classroom, in the Community, and what it means to truly be a leader," said Sean Quirk, Associate Athletic Director.
Over the course of the past seven months, the athletic department has been cultivating and developing the above four core values in order to bring the department and athletics community together to reach common ground, foster relationships, and create more unity across the department and those it impacts.
According to Wylie, the development of the four core standards was a way to compliment the pre-existing culture on campus and strengthen the athletic community through our four core standards (Commitment, Character, Effective Communication, and Confidence) because, "This is what is going to make us better than our competitors. This will create an ethos that our hope will not just rest with our coaches and student-athletes but will permeate through to all our students and Community. We will all be speaking the same language."
"We've been talking as a department for the last several years about leadership development both with our coaches and student-athletes. Over the last several years these conversations moved from general concepts to more theoretical and practical strategies in how we implement our leadership plan," said Wylie.
"With that in mind, we wanted to dive more into it to see how we can be more supportive with leadership and provide more training and we came up with a model that we really wanted, not just the student-athletes to look at, but the coaches and everyone in our department," said Quirk.
In the fall, Quirk and Wylie started meeting monthly with 85 to 100 student-athletes that form the athletics' leadership group comprised of team captains and designated leaders selected by their coaches representing all 20 varsity teams at Endicott and that has since evolved to include emerging leaders.
"We started with an assessment of what the student-athletes thought of leadership and how they perceived it to be, then we did the same exact thing with our coaches and staff with what they feel leadership is," said Quirk.
From there, the athletic department developed a definition of leadership as it applies to Endicott Athletics: "Leadership is a process where an individual influences a community to achieve a common goal."
"There are a lot of definitions of leadership out there, but this one is our own that we feel really fits Endicott Athletics," said Quirk.
"This leadership definition and four core standards is tethered to everything that we strive for and expect from the athletic department," Dr. Wylie said.
THE CORE STANDARDS EMERGE
Then, the core standards developed based off the assessments and round-table discussions which took place at staff meetings to spur conversations about different mantras and buzzwords the coaches associate with leadership that make up the core standards.
Through the work of Quirk, Wylie, Associate Athletic Director/Senior Woman Administrator Jodi Kenyon and the entire athletic department staff, the four core standards of leadership were presented to Endicott's group of captains and emerging leaders at a session in late January.
With over 500 student-athletes on campus, making up roughly 24-percent of the entire campus population, it is important for the coaches and the teams to not only have the same type of standards on the field, but also equally off the field, as emphasized by Quirk on how this message can carry beyond game day.
"Our student-athletes can apply what they are doing here to their everyday lives whether that be in that classroom, in their social lives, and then ultimately when they graduate here to look back on their experiences here as a student-athlete and say 'These standards are things that I lived up to and I implemented into my everyday life' and hopefully that will carry with them into the game of life when they graduate," said Quirk.
When the core values were presented to the student-athletes, the reception was "refreshing," Quirk added.
"When we encouraged the captains and leaders' group to come up with their own set of core values, their responses were dead on to what the coaches said, so that was really refreshing as we are starting to link the two together because that says both the student-athletes and coaches support what we believe our culture is here, that we are a tight-knit community and athletic department and we believe in the same things."
KEEPING IT ON CAMPUS
When asked why the athletic department did not pursue an outside leadership group to come in and train student-athletes and coaches, Wylie had this to say:
"Quite simply, we weren't looking for a cookie-cutter approach to improving our leadership. We could have brought in countless experts or companies and have them explain what they felt would be effective for us... but that wasn't what we were looking for. My experience with those approaches is that the concept is effective for a while but it fades. We really wanted to dig down into what was important to our student-athletes and coaches. I truly believe that the process that we have set out on is going to have the most effective transformation of our culture. I feel as though we already have a strong culture... one that is routed on expectations, standards, and excellence in everything we do. Our philosophy parallels the College's mission in providing young men and women the best possible educational experience and one that challenges each student to be prepared for life after Endicott. Athletically, we seek to do the same while keeping our sights set for competition and ultimately championships."
A COACH'S TAKE
From a coach's perspective, Kenyon, who also is in her 11th year at the helm of the Endicott women's soccer program, spoke on how the creation of the four core standards of leadership has helped to build more team unity.
"It creates a model for everything, from the training to providing more support. It's been a progression as we are all beginning to speak the same language. I have been meeting with my leaders and players individually, as well as within our team we have had conversations about what leadership looks like. For example, we like to send inspirational messages through our team group message thread," said Kenyon.
"It's more than just saying we are on the same page and knowing what the standards are. It is critical that we go beyond that and actually see what it looks like through the 'I live it every day' action. When we are in a difficult situation and facing adversity, this will be something we can turn to as we learn and grow through each situation."
Some of the expectations Kenyon has set out for her captains, rising leaders and team as whole is as they they be ambassadors of the program by displaying the characteristics of leadership and doing the right things. As Kenyon said, "It's more of a walk the walk, instead of just talk the talk."
"Fostering team culture with these four key pillars is what will ultimately make our team, our department, and our school more unified as a whole," said Kenyon. "Much like many schools have adopted the John Wooden "Pyramid of Success," this is our version that we can take pride in."
With the leadership program, the hope is that the four core standards will resonate with the entire team and push them to become better leaders, and also help the new incoming players transition faster into culture of the women's soccer program.
As for how this leadership campaign has made its mark on the athletic department and campus wide, Kenyon is already seeing the impact as it is creating more of a positive identity and she is hopeful the community will embrace it as the Gulls continue to grow their reach.
The four core standards of leadership in the form of a self-assessment as developed by Endicott Athletics are as follows:
"Totally invest yourself socially, athletically, and academically to your team, department, and Endicott."
● How do you evaluate your investment, engagement, and personal accountability while encouraging others to do the same?
"Be the best version of yourself to consistently do the right thing and own it when you don't."
● Describe how you would demonstrate and measure "character" of yourself and your team.
● What are your greatest strengths and areas of improvement you can work on as a person and as a professional?
"Make honesty, active listening, and follow through the highest priority when communicating and be open to new ideas."
● What has been your traditional method of providing feedback to student-athletes and co-workers?
● Does your feedback yield encouragement in others or do you see areas for improvement in your communication?
● How would you assess your listening skills?
"Show mental and physical toughness and believe in yourself even in the face of adversity."
● Describe your level of confidence in each of your responsibilities here at Endicott.
● How do you handle adversity and in making difficult decisions?