Driving leadership development on and off the playing field

Saturday, March 17, 2018 - 1:30pm

Many athletes are natural leaders, using their skills to propel themselves, teammates, and their squads to victory. These abilities translate well to other personal and professional arenas. To that end, and with firm backing from Land O’Lakes, Gopher Athletics is advancing its approach to fostering student athletes’ leadership skills.

New facility, new programs: At the new Leadership Development Center in the Land O’Lakes Center for Excellence, Gopher Athletics’ staff are creating programs and initiatives for student athletes, coaches, and staff. Dr. Justin Anderson, (pictured above) a sports psychologist and director of student-athlete leadership, strives to help Gophers and the people who guide them to build strong leadership muscles for all aspects of life.

Land O’Lakes support is key: Anderson intends to create a community of leaders by implementing a uniform framework of programming for all sports. Eventually it will touch everyone from the athletic director to freshman athletes. It’s no small undertaking, and support from Land O’Lakes has been integral.

Methods and benefits: Taking advantage of new training spaces and conference rooms, staff will focus its initiatives on honing emotional intelligence and DiSC personal assessments. This will help student athletes develop strong self-awareness about their motivators, behaviors, preferences, and abilities, which will enable them to work effectively on current sports teams or future work teams. Other curricula will be incorporated into the required first-year experience course. Combined, these unique features will help the Center for Excellence become one of the premier academic centers in the nation.

Who’s who: Along with Anderson, several key players are involved with developing the center’s programming: Peyton Owens III, who heads the program, Quincy Lewis and David Plummer, working in student-athlete development; and Julie Manning, executive associate athletics director and senior woman administrator.

“There is no way we could have done this work to this level without Land O’Lakes and what they’ve given us the opportunity to do. It has been a great partnership.

Developing the leadership muscle takes reflection, time, and focus. If we help students develop these tools, they will be better on the field, connect with teammates in a more constructive way, and make better decisions. And when they leave here, they will have tools to help them with building relationships and leading teams in the workforce.”

-Dr. Justin Anderson, director of student-athlete leadership

Photo: Dr. Justin Anderson