“The opportunity to connect on a deeper level with my teammates and other athletes this weekend at L.E.A.D. was incredible. You not only learn more about fellow athletes, but about life, and most of all, about yourself,” Duke Senior TJ Pura ’17 of the Men’s Tennis team reflecting on his L.E.A.D. weekend experience.
DURHAM -- Over one hundred Duke student-athletes recently participated in the inaugural Duke Athletics Leadership Enrichment and Development [L.E.A.D.] Weekend at Quaker Lake Camp in Climax, NC, from September 2nd - 4th. Thirty-nine sophomores, forty juniors, and twenty-three seniors from the Baseball, Rowing, Wrestling, and the men’s and women’s: Fencing, Lacrosse, Swimming and Diving, Tennis, Track and Field teams attended the Leadership Retreat facilitated by the Duke Athletics Leadership Program.
The L.E.A.D. program focuses on helping leadership groups of each team explore and understand their leadership potential through various group and individual activities. Working in groups comprised of members from each team, these young men and women had the opportunity to problem solve, communicate, discuss and reflect on individual roles as sophomores, juniors, and seniors within various team cultures. In addition, students challenged themselves by pushing some comfort zones and testing their ability to work with others. Activities included High and Low Ropes courses, behavioral and personality assessment through DiSC and PDP Profile reports, Team Competitions, discussions on collaboration within their teams and state of their team culture.
One of the highlights was the participation of Sue Gordon, a distinguished former Duke student-athlete. Gordon, the Deputy Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and formerly with the CIA for over 25 years, shared her experiences on leadership, communication, transition, and teamwork during various activities. For Sue, it was more than a chance to give back, “It was easy to forget that these young leaders are also remarkably accomplished Duke athletes. Their focus, passion, and dedication to learning the craft of leadership—that will first be applied to their teams, and later in their professional lives—inspired me. The real payoff and gift of the L.E.A.D program is to the individual, the University, and—grandly—to society. For this “more mature” leader who has been in their shoes, it was like being dipped in the fountain of youth and remembering how fun the journey of self-discovery is."
Each student-athlete who participated is selected by their coach because of their current and potential development as leaders. During the retreat, seniors served as mentors and facilitators, leading group discussions on team culture, leadership qualities, and sharing personal experiences. These senior leaders are an essential part of L.E.A.D. as peer experiences play a pivotal role in assisting with leadership development on teams, on the campus and in local communities.
The L.E.A.D. weekend culminates with a reflective exercise on what each student-athlete has learned and ways they will commit to serving as future leaders and in making their respective teams better on and off the field.
Jaida Lemmons ‘19, a female sophomore on the Track and Field team, felt “the LEAD weekend was uncomfortable -- in the best way possible. I learned more about myself -- my strengths and weaknesses -- than ever before, and I am now better-equipped to work well with those that are different than me. I appreciated the weekend most for being a part of the movement that is building an even more amazing athletic culture at Duke by not only addressing the issues, but also by presenting and implementing real, practical solutions to those issues. Spaces like those at L.E.A.D. are what makes Duke great -- the willingness to address the issues and face them. The L.E.A.D. weekend was beyond impactful, and I am forever grateful.”
L.E.A.D. is made possible in part by a generous gift from the Heidrick Family.