Not many students at Conn are taught by the women’s rowing coach, but I was. Midway through last semester I started a class called Sports Leadership taught by coach Eva Kovach. This class was part of Conn’s Career Informed Learning courses, which bring alumni or community members to class to discuss how the concepts we learn about play out in the world. The dean of sophomores, Carmela Patton, recommended that I take the class because of my interest in sports. In high school, I competed year-round and ended my high school career as the captain of my cross country team and track and field team. I have always enjoyed spearheading groups that I have been a part of. That added with my ability to be loud and make friends has so far served as a good formula for molding me into a leader. During my first year of high school, I always respected my captains but I also thought that the biggest part of the job was simply being nice to everyone. After leading the teams myself and dealing with issues within my teams I understand that ‘leading’ is multifaceted. Being a part of this class gave me the opportunity to look retrospectively at my past roles as a leader and learn what I did well, but also learn what I can improve upon.
The first topic we covered was emotional intelligence, which is a combination of self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skill. This topic integrated my interest in psychology. Although the class is not technically a seminar, we were often encouraged to bring our own perspectives into the discussion. And our class had many different perspectives. My classmates included athletes from women’s and men’s ice hockey, men’s lacrosse, volleyball, men’s basketball, men’s tennis, women’s field hockey, and dance. Despite the huge differences in how, for example, ice hockey and volleyball are played, good leadership starts at such a basic level that the class can interpret what we learn in many different contexts. Leadership applications in the workplace, and alumni relations, were also a huge component of this class, which is why alumnus Dwayne Stallings was invited to class. Dwayne is from New London and played basketball at Conn. He is now a financial advisor for Raymond James. We asked him questions about his time at Conn, about his being part of the 1998-99 team, which made it to the Division III Final Four, and his current job in finance. Hearing from an alumnus who enjoyed his time at Conn and who has found success was motivating. From his perspective, the secret to success is having enough emotional intelligence to connect with employers and employees, as technical skills can be learned in any job.
Since enrolling in this class I have found myself thinking more about the way I approach people and how well I am doing at self-awareness and regulation. I was even able to use some leadership techniques at The Coffee Closet where I work to assist the managers who are always looking for feedback.