“How do you want to be remembered as an athlete?” “Are you excited about making an impression or making an impact?”
Those were just two of the questions posed to the 250 student athletes at Northside School District’s first Student/Athlete Leadership Summit. Scattered among the tables on the floor of Paul Taylor Field House were athletes representing every NISD high school, but instead of school colors, all wore the same white t-shirts with the same messages – beyond the game and hope.
“You’re not just in the game, you’ve gone beyond the game,” Stan Laing, Executive Director of Athletics, told the group in his opening remarks. “That’s why you’re here today. Your coaches have called you out to be a beacon of hope for others. You possess character traits to be great leaders one day.”
Each high school selected 20 to 25 students to participate in the inaugural event. The day-long summit included guest speakers and activities that helped student athletes forge new relationships with each other, and to consider the impact they can have as leaders and grow in the roles they play in their respective programs.
“As an athlete, being on the field is what people see,” said Mychal Cooper, a senior football player at Taft HS. “But if you can’t be good on and off the field, you won’t be able to excel as a leader.”
The majority of the guest speakers were NISD alumni or former NISD educators, including Retired Colonel S. Dan Johnston who taught at O’Connor HS for 15 years after 25 years of service in the Army.
“If you pay attention to leaders and pick up on their habits, you will become a great leader,” Johnston said.
Other speakers included two NISD Pillars of Character – Texas Lutheran University football coach Danny Padron, a 1969 Jay HS graduate, and Cliff Dugosh, a 1982 Holmes HS graduate.
“All of the speakers today have made me think about my life and how I can help people around me,” said MaKenna Hanssen, a junior volleyball player at Brennan HS.
The responsibility that goes along with being a leader was not lost on attendees.
“Sometimes it’s hard to be a leader,” said Roel Sanchez, sophomore football player at O’Connor HS. “But you need to be the bigger person, say no when it’s right, and not always follow.”
At the end of the day, the student athletes left with a new perspective on what it means to go beyond the game.
“You’re not going to be playing sports your entire life,” said Hanssen. “You have to learn life skills while you’re playing, things that help you go further, become a better person, and teach you character.”
Visit the Northside Facebook page for an album of pictures from the Leadership Summit.