GW Student-Athletes Learn Leadership Lessons from University Namesake
Sept. 21, 2011
In an effort to foster community within the Department of Athletics and Recreation, George Washington University student-athletes, administration and head coaches joined leadership from the Colonial Army and the Club Sports Council for a day-long retreat to George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate on Sunday, Sept. 18.
"In order to lay the foundation for our student-athletes to represent the George Washington University and wear his name across our uniforms, I thought it'd be beneficial for all of us to learn about the man," said GW Director of Athletics and Recreation Patrick Nero.
The more than 400 Colonials in attendance took part in tours of the grounds to learn about George Washington and participated in team-building activities led by members of the Athlete Mentor Program who were recently trained through the new GW Student-Athlete Leadership Academy. The day was capped by a barbecue hosted by James Rees, executive director of the estate and author of George Washington's Leadership Lessons.
"It's really important as ambassadors of George Washington University to understand who George Washington was," said GW women's soccer head coach Tanya Vogel. "It gave us an opportunity to get a glimpse into who he was as a person, and you have to know where your roots are from if you're going to be able to stand tall as a member of the George Washington University."
The day began at the Charles E. Smith Center, where the participants divided into 16 groups, each with their own uniquely colored T-shirt emblazoned with the George Washington logo and the text "Our Nation's First President. Our University. Our Team."
Before traveling to Mount Vernon, GW alumna Michelle Rubin ('91) and members of the Colonial Army and the Club Sports Council led the crowd in the GW Fight Song - "Hail to the Buff and Blue."
After the short drive along the Potomac River, Rees welcomed the GW contingent to the grounds by sharing several not-so-well-known facts regarding the university's namesake.
"He was 6-foot-3, one of the most athletic men in the 18th century and certainly the most athletic of the Founding Fathers," said Rees. "George Washington's pedestal was just a little higher [compared to the other Founding Fathers]. He, in fact, served in the three most important jobs in the 18th century - head of the Continental Army, head of the Constitutional Convention and first President of the United States. And to each of these jobs, he was elected unanimously."
The delegation then split into three groups and enjoyed the opportunity to tour the estate's mansion to experience Washington's life, and the educational center to learn about his leadership abilities.
"He was just an incredible person, everyone looked up to him," said Stephen Oswald, a senior outfielder for the GW baseball team. "George Washington just totally embodies how a leader should act and behave. It never dawned on me that I wear GW on my jersey everyday, and coming here opened up my eyes as to who he was. The fact that I can wear his name on my jersey is pretty cool."
Men's tennis senior Richard Blumenfeld echoed Oswald's comments. "Whenever I wear GW gear, I always first thought of the university that I attend," said Blumenfeld. "But after coming here, I feel so much more connected to the name and what it really represents."
At the final station - in an open field surrounded by tourists, colonial re-enactors and firing cannons - student-athletes, coaches and staff from different teams partook in a series of exercises to learn about and lead their peers.
"Because of this event, now we can go out to each other's games and support each other, feed off each other's energy and represent the Colonials in the best way," said men's basketball senior Aaron Ware.
Student-Athlete Advisory Council president and women's soccer senior Lindsey Rowe believes the event will have a positive impact on support amongst athletics teams. "It's one thing to have teammates by your side, but to have 450 people behind you is a completely different feeling and it provides a sense of community and confidence that those people are going to back-up what you're doing."
"The entire day was designed to get all of our student-athletes and coaches interacting in a setting where they can not only learn important leadership lessons from our nation's first President, but also learn about each other as people," Nero concluded. "Our goal is to develop a greater sense of community throughout athletics and recreation by getting to know our peers and the staff that supports them."