On Saturday, August 26th seventy-five captains of the sports teams moved in to kick off the now-annual Captains Symposium, and it was a weekend to remember. While always looking to improve, this year’s LEADS symposium certainly put the captains to the test in a variety of ways.
Captains arrived to check-in early evening on Saturday to receive their gear, be placed on a platoon and settle in for the opening keynote speaker. Following words from athletic director Don Faulstick, former NYPD Hostage Negotiator Jack Cambria. Cambria, a thirty-three year police veteran who recently retired as the New York City Police Department’s longest-standing Negotiation Team Commander started the symposium off on a strong note going through all of the skills it takes to be a successful negotiator, especially during high-stress situations. Cambria shed light on the importance of many aspects and lessons that relate to being the captain of a sports team, but most memorable was his insight on perception, handling confrontation, the importance of acknowledging status on a team/self-worth, managing chaos, listening and communication (verbal and non-verbal). All of what was touched upon while Cambria was with the group could be directly related to their role as leaders. The group was also able to witness a scenario acted out by four football captains; giving the group a sense of the day in the life of a hostage negotiator.
Following the memorable presentation from Cambria, captains participated in evening activities that challenged them to work as a team, communicate effectively and stay resilient. The group of captains for the weekend are broken up into four “platoons”, half of the platoons made their way to Pratt Pool while the other two platoons were tasked to shop for ingredients for a cooking challenge that would be incorporated into the symposium. The pool activity is a challenge that involves effective listening, endurance and team work. The final portion of Saturday evening activities involved the live streaming of the Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor fight in the Powerhouse for anyone that wanted to watch.
Sunday, the group hit the ground running with breakfast early in the morning and then headed to EMPOWER Leadership Sports in Middletown, CT for a 24-hour stay with built in physical and mental challenges. This is the fourth year that LEADS has incorporated EMPOWER into the symposium schedule and we have yet to be disappointed. While the past three years have challenged the captains in many ways, this year was particularly challenging because of the limited sleep element that was added; platoons worked through the evening on Sunday into Monday completing challenges. While sleep deprivation may have been in play, the captains set the bar high, never lost their energy, dedication or drive to do the best they can. Captains worked together under difficult circumstances to get the job done. The element of limited sleep was meant to test the group physically as well as mentally and they went above and beyond to get things done. Also incorporated into the 24-hour EMPOWER retreat was a cooking challenge where platoons were tasked with creating an appetizer, entrée and dessert for three outside judges.
All of the components while at EMPOWER where met with tenacity, positivity, and confidence from the captains. Each task and challenge done at EMPOWER earned platoons a certain amount of points depending on the time it took to complete a challenge, while the race was close the entire weekend, ultimately the black platoon came out on top with the win.
The group arrived back on campus Monday morning and where given time to rest. The final event of the captain’s symposium was a unique dinner that would play into their different senses. Following a social hour with appetizers LEADS brought in a representative from blindness.org to hold a dining in the dark experience. Captains had blindfolds at their tables that they used and were tasked in eating a plate of small finger foods and a cup of chili all without being able to see. While difficult and entertaining, this exercise brought to light the difficulties that those with sight disabilities have to go through on a daily basis and ultimately forced the group to rely on their other senses of taste and smell.
The ultimate goal of Amherst LEADS is 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 succeed, and we can’t wait to work with them during the 2017-2018 school year.
To see pictures from this year’s symposium, follow these links:
What’s next for LEADS? The Future’s first event will be happening on September 19th