Thanks to a growing number of state leadership conferences, high school student-athletes are receiving more opportunities to exchange information with their peers. One conference in Ohio is providing its own twist for its 10 schools by placing an emphasis on promoting positive core values.
Developed by its principals’ group, the Greater Miami Conference (GMC) Student Leadership Summit took place on September for 10 select students from each school. Located near Cincinnati, the GMC is comprised of Hamilton, Middletown, Lakota West, Lakota East, Fairfield, Sycamore, Princeton, Oak Hills, Mason and Colerain High Schools.
Hamilton High School Principal John Wilhelm serves as president of the GMC principals and credits the group for its desire to further develop student leadership. Wilhelm said, “We lead more than 1,000 teachers and 25,000 students in our 10-school conference. As principals, we have a lot of power to shape the minds of coaches and students.
“This summit was founded on the idea of conference unity and camaraderie. The GMC has been a very stable conference for the past 50 years. In today’s structure of a lot of conference swapping and changing, I find value in stability,” Wilhelm said. “I want to make sure that we understand as a conference that while we want to compete at the highest level, we also want to respect our member schools, student-athletes and parents in the stands.”
The GMC principals invited more than student-athletes to attend the summit. Wilhelm said he wants his leaders on the field and court to be joined by those who lead from the cheering sections or in the hallways. He added that while the student-athletes and cheering sections compete hard, “teams can be teams and sometimes they don’t think before doing.”
Hamilton teacher and coach Justin Beck joined Wilhelm at the summit. As the teacher of a leadership class, Beck echoed Wilhelm’s desire to incorporate student leaders from diverse backgrounds.
“The most important part about what we are doing through the summit and the leadership class is demonstrating to students that leadership is not just something that a person has,” Beck said.
“We are always discussing how leaders are learners and that a great deal of leadership is about being the best version of yourself. In order to do this, one must always be willing to learn and grow.
The summit and class provide a great opportunity for students to constantly grow and reflect.” The summit featured guest speakers Nick Jackson and Tyler Bradshaw. Jackson is a motivational speaker representing SpeakLove, while Bradshaw is a Fairfield High School graduate and mental health blogger currently working as a recruiter for Miami (Ohio) University.
“This event serves as a precursor to some of the things that you see on the evening news with athletes or fans fighting each other,” Bradshaw said. “I hope it serves as a strong foundation for athletes to think long and hard about doing something ingenuine to an opponent because you may know them thanks to the leadership summit.”
Bradshaw spoke on behalf of mental health awareness and suicide prevention. He lost his father to suicide in 2013. His presentation to students showed how life is going to throw them some curveballs. Bradshaw’s blog, seeyabub.com, serves as a way for him to process his grief while drawing awareness to the issues that impacted his life.
“If you go off the media stereotypes of what adolescents in America act like today, you would be led to believe they may be disinterested in my presentation,” Bradshaw said. “To be able to walk into a room and have a couple hundred high school students listen intently and compassionately, and to see some of them tear up and cry and relate to one another about an issue that needs to be discussed more, was just absolutely incredible. A couple of courageous students thanked me for the chance to hear my story. That’s the type of information about adolescents that’s lost on the news, but that’s how the students in the GMC are.”
In addition to team-building games, schools were paired with a conference rival in an afternoon session tasking them to create a service project linking the two communities. Wilhelm said Hamilton paired with Middletown to come up with the idea that each school would visit the elementary school of its partner throughout the school year.
Another initiative to come from the summit was a pre-event meeting of student leaders. Similar to the custom prior to a soccer match, school leaders who attended the summit meet rival summit attendees, exchange something symbolizing the school symbol, and recite a reading that acknowledges their attendance at the summit.
As a recruiter, Bradshaw believes “an ACT score, a GPA and a course schedule can only tell you so much about a student.” It’s the relationships developed and values promoted at the summit that Bradshaw sees as being what helps students throughout life.
“I believe most colleges will tell you they want grit or resilience. Being a student-athlete in and of itself should develop grit, character and determination,” Bradshaw said. “That is a time-tested value of sport. Being a student-athlete is going to help develop the character traits that are going to help them be successful in their classrooms, communities and companies that hire them after they graduate.”
Cody Porter is a graphic arts/communications assistant in the NFHS Publications/ Communications Department.