AMHERST, MA – On Saturday, August 25th, Amherst LEADS kicked off its 2018-2019 programming schedule with the now annual Captains Symposium. Fifty-nine team captains from twenty-seven Amherst College athletic teams participated in a three-day event focused on team building and leadership development.
The 2018 edition of the Captains Symposium featured workshops, physical and mental challenges, and guest speakers. The event began Saturday evening with the keynote speaker, Brett Solomano. Solomano has a very unique profession. On any given day he may be working with famous celebrities, crashing motorbikes, or shooting machine guns. As a stuntman for television and film, Solomano has spent time as the stunt double for many of our favorite action and drama characters on shows such as NCIS: LA and the Walking Dead.
Solomano spoke to the captains about overcoming fear, pushing through mental barriers, thinking on one’s toes, and making confident decisions in the heat of the moment. All actions of powerful leaders. His lecture also highlighted the importance of navigating one’s own path to success.
Prior to the start of the weekend, the captains were placed into platoons. Platoons included captains from various sports and each were assigned a color. This color corresponded with the pinnie they would wear for their trip to EMPOWER Leadership Sports and Adventure center on Sunday. Following Solomano’s keynote address, the captains split into their platoons to embark on an adventure to Big Y. The captains received $100.00 and a time limit of one hour get enough food and supplies for the Iron Chef Challenge occurring the following day at EMPOWER. We are happy to report that every group made it back to Alumni Gym spending under the allotted budget and within the one-hour time limit. The weekend was off to a great start!
Things only got better as the group geared up for its most intense day of the Symposium weekend. Sunday couldn’t have given us better weather! With bright blue skies and warm, breezy temperatures, the captains left Alumni Gym early in the morning to head down to EMPOWER Leadership Sports and Adventure Center in Middletown, CT. This is the fifth year that LEADS has incorporated EMPOWER into the symposium schedule and we have yet to be disappointed!
The captains participated in a variety of activities that challenged their physical and mental strength. From climbing to the tree tops blind-folded, to engaging in lengthy and time-consuming puzzles, and even trusting one another while zip-lining, each task required the captains to step outside of their comfort zone and figure out what individual characteristics are unique to their leadership style.
By far one of the most entertaining events of the weekend took place at EMPOWER. Sunday evening the captains participated in an Iron Chef Challenge. Captains were responsible for starting a fire and cooking meals over said fire using the food they bought at Big Y the evening prior. They served both an entrée and dessert for three guest judges. Some of the meals and desserts included: spring rolls, kebabs with tzatziki sauce, egg sandwiches, crepes, smores and apple crisp!
Although the captains were awake for over 18 hours, they never lost their energy, dedication, or drive to contribute to each challenge the best they could. It was amazing to see how they went above and beyond to facilitate an incredible experience at EMPOWER for one another.
The Captains Symposium continued Monday morning with a workshop from Amherst College alumni, Julie Kim. Kim graduated from Amherst College in 2008 where she was the captain of the swim team her senior year. Since graduating from Amherst College, Kim got her master’s degree in education from Harvard and is currently working on her doctorate in education at Boston College. Her research and time focus on mindfulness and how that can be incorporated into everyday life.
Kim split her workshop into four different segments: arrival meditation, connecting captains, building a community, and individuality. In each segment, she provided the captains with takeaway messages to enhance their leadership skills both on and off the field using mindfulness. Some reflection questions included: “What strengths do I bring to the team as a captain?” and “What is my responsibility as a captain?” She culminated her workshop with a giving and receiving circle. Captains joined hands and sent energy to one another to allow them to realize that they are not alone as they embark on the year as leaders.
That afternoon, the symposium culminated with an invigorating presentation from Vincent R. Brown of V. Randolph Brown Consulting. Brown is a successful entrepreneur, published author, motivational speaker, and executive coach. His expertise includes diversity and inclusion, organizational team development, and creating and sustaining change. Brown received the Herrmann International Big Thinker Award for ground breaking approach and results in innovative training design and delivery.
Brown’s workshop was entitled, “6 Commitments of Transformational Leaders.” He highlighted the following commitments as essential aspects for those who would like to stimulate change within others: get behind the curtain, surround yourself with eagles, explore and intentionally build diverse relationships, communicate effectively, develop two plans and review them regularly, and lead and inspire so others will follow. It was incredible to see the engagement of the captains with Brown’s presentation; a true testament to the power he has to positively influence those around him.
The ultimate goals of Amherst LEADS are to continually challenge the student-athletes, ensure that they are learning new things, meeting new people, and taking away bits and pieces of information that will be useful as they move through college and beyond. This year’s captains group certainly set the bar high in terms of their commitment to success and we can’t wait to work with them during the 2018-2019 school year!
What’s next for LEADS?
- Sunday, September 23rd@ 1:00pm - Futures Event - BRAVE Workshop (Alumni Gym)
- Monday, September 24th@ 8:00pm - First-Year Initiative – Welcome Event (Stirn Theater)