Upper School student-athletes during the LEAD program

L.E.A.D. Program

The Leadership Evaluation and Development (L.E.A.D.) Program aims to teach and discuss leadership with student-athletes at Oak Knoll. The program, initiated by then-senior Emily Dolan at the conclusion of the 2018 school year as part of her senior Capstone Project, was meant to provide practical conversations and learning to all student-athletes. Through the senior athlete seminars, speaker series and all-sport meetings, student-athletes are being taught valuable lessons through their roles as leaders on the field. The L.E.A.D. program hopes to show Oak Knoll student-athletes how to utilize these lessons learned through athletics in their everyday lives.

Senior Athlete Seminar

The staple portion of the L.E.A.D. Program is the senior athlete seminars. Each season, every senior who is participating in a sport comes together as a group to discuss leadership. The discussions start generally determining what is leadership, the qualities of a good leader, etc. As the seminar continues, more specific issues are addressed as a group – what are the roles of captains? What are the roles of the other senior leaders? How do you handle a difficult situation with a coach? Students work either together or in small groups to answer these questions before coming together as an entire group to discuss. The goal for these sessions is for the participants to walk away being more confident about their personal style of leadership, more understanding where they fit into the team dynamic and overall more comfortable in their leadership role. At the end of each session, a challenge is presented to the group for them to overcome together.

Speaker Series

The Winter of 2019 saw the inaugural Women in Sports Leadership Speaker Panel at Oak Knoll run as part of the L.E.A.D. program aimed to broaden the horizons of the Oak Knoll community. The panel discussion featured female leaders in the business, college or education, media and medical fields. They described their transition from high school to collegiate sports followed by speaking about how they navigated the competitive landscape to establish a career in athletics.

Speaker series such as this will continue to be offered and expanded at Oak Knoll in an effort to allow students to network with professionals and think about how they can use the lessons learned on the field in their career quests.

From left to right: Carissa Conroy, Ed.D., Rutgers Athletics; Dr. Lonnie Sarnell, Psy. D. Clinical and Sports Psychologist; Kelly Patterson Swon ’99, NY Market Director at Good Sports; Rachelle Paul, Seton Hall University.

All-Sport Meetings

Seasonal all-sport meetings are held to bring every student athlete participating that season together as a group. When student-athletes enter, they are seated randomly so they can interact with student-athletes from other sports, grades, etc. Students have time to eat together and get to know the members of their group. This opportunity, where every student-athlete is present, is used to start the discussion on self-awareness, mental health and leadership. Previous all-sport meetings have featured sport psychologist Dr. Lonnie Sarnell who talked to the group about stress management, sports anxiety, coping measures and goal setting. Oak Knoll alumna Katie McCafferty Rathbun ’08 also spoke with the group about her time at Oak Knoll and her transition to collegiate athletics and more.

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