On Monday, October 29th, the First-Year Initiative (FYI) program gathered in the Powerhouse for their second and final Amherst LEADS event of the fall semester. Joining the FYI student-athletes was Semi Ojeleye from the Boston Celtics!
The evening began with a creative activity geared towards helping the student-athletes gain awareness of roles in a team atmosphere. Student-athletes were divided into 18 groups to complete the Marshmallow Challenge. Using a yard of string, 10 pieces of raw spaghetti, a yard of masking tape, and one large marshmallow, each group’s mission was to create the tallest freestanding tower in twelve minutes. This activity required collaboration, communication, and perspective taking, all valuable traits in leadership and determining one’s role on a team.
The student-athletes were extremely innovative and crafted structures with a variety of different shapes and forms. After the 12 minutes concluded, each structure was measured. The winning structure was 35 inches tall and created by Jonathan Endicott, Marie Fagan, Virginia Ryan, Marina Bevacqua, Keely Osborn, and Sophia Launsbach.
Following the activity, Amherst LEADS Director, Coach Justin Serpone, led the group through a debrief. He helped the FYI student-athletes determine what was and was not successful, roles established (either verbally or nonverbally), challenges that were faced, and problems that were solved. Additionally, he highlighted a few main takeaways:
- Every successful team needs people to figure out their roles.
- Take pride in whatever your role is.
- Be the best you can be at whatever role you take on.
- Become more aware at what different roles look like.
- Not everyone should play the same role.
Once the activity concluded, Jade DuVal, of the women’s basketball team, welcome Semi Ojeleye to Amherst College. Born and raised in Ottawa, Kansas, Semi Ojeleye was a standout athlete from the get-go. As a high schooler, he was named the 2013 Parade Magazine National Player of the Year. Upon graduating from high school, Semi attended Duke University for two years before transferring to Southern Methodist University (SMU). At SMU Semi was named the AAC Player of the Year, AP Honorable Mention All-American, First-Team All-AAC, and AAC Tournament MVP. Currently he is a forward for the Boston Celtics.
Semi spoke quite a bit about how his role shifted in his time as an athlete. He acknowledged that due to his limited playing time as freshman and sophomore at Duke, he was unsure of his role. While at Duke, Semi realized that whether he was playing or not, he had control over his perspective. Although Semi didn’t play as much as he wanted, he showed up to practice each day to with a perspective that allowed him to get better.
After transferring to SMU, Semi’s role shifted. He gained more playing time and also became an upperclassman. He took this responsibility to heart and worked with the rookies to foster good relationships and prepare them for being a student-athlete. Semi focused his role on developing humility in himself and the underclassman he played with.
Semi delighted the audience by answering various questions about his time on the Boston Celtics. Some of the highlights included:
- Guarding Lebron James…a goal that Semi always wanted to achieve.
- Pregame ritual of praying for himself and his teammates.
- Speaking to the fact that leaders are not always perfect.
- Stepping into the role that his coach defined for him.
Through all of his years of playing, Semi’s role has been dynamic and ever changing. His advice to the FYI student-athletes, “It is important to know what you’re good at and do well,” highlights the importance of leadership and role-taking.
We were honored to have Semi Ojeleye to Amherst College and thank him for all the knowledge and wisdom he shared!
What’s next for Amherst LEADS?
- Tuesday, October 30th Captains Sharing Experiences event featuring a Skype interview with Missy Franklin
- Thursday, November 1st Futures (Junior Group) Conflict Resolution Event with hostage negotiator Jack Cambria
- Thursday, November 29th Community Event – “The Changing Landscapes of the Media”