Feb. 9, 2012
EASTON, Pa. -
Three Lafayette student-athletes, rising seniors Zach Winthrop, Mara Kish and Andrew Shoop represented Lafayette in Annapolis, Md. at the Naval Academy Leadership Conference. The three were selected to attend the four-day conference along with 200 participants from over 45 military and civilian colleges.
Since 1984, the United States Naval Academy has hosted an annual leadership conference for senior midshipmen and cadets from each of the service academies. In 2002, the conference expanded to include students from a national group of colleges and universities to discuss leadership themes relevant to government, business and academics, in addition to the military.
"This seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity," Winthrop said of being invited to attend the conference. "I knew I was going to get a personal, first-hand chance to see the inner workings of the Naval Academy and be able to listen to a group of awesome speakers. I knew I had to take advantage of it."
"You feel honored and privileged to be selected," Shoop added. "I decided that now was the time to take this seriously and get everything out of it that I could. I talked to Mr. (Bruce) McCutcheon, Coach Tavani and some of my other coaches and received some advice on how to attack it the right way."
Shoop, who is penciled in as the starting quarterback for the Lafayette football team, made himself an easy choice to be selected to attend the conference. The theme of the forum was visionary leadership and how it is essential for future success. The talks, led by some of the nation's top leaders, stressed that visionary leaders focus on the future of an organization and provide a unique vision that reinforces the why of what they do. They instill purpose, meaning and focus, empower and motivate followers, and allow for the growth and establishment of new ideas.
Among the speakers were General James N. Mattis, USMC, Commander, U.S. Central Command; Mr. Anson Dorrance, University of North Carolina Head Women's Soccer Coach; Mr. Howard Putnam, Former CEO of Southwest Airlines; and Mr. Herman Boone, Former T.C. Williams High School Titans Football Head Coach.
Kish, a goalkeeper on Lafayette's Patriot League champion field hockey team, recalled Boone's story about looking to his quarterback for advice at a critical moment in a particular game, and the success that came from listening to him. "It's hard to take advice from people who are younger or less experienced than you," Kish said. "But, sometimes that is exactly what you need."
Winthrop echoed those thoughts, as well. "As a senior, you are in that role where you have someone above you, the coaches, but also there are the younger players on the team below you. Keeping those conversations and ideas flowing between everyone is one of the keys to leadership."
"A lot of what I learned centered on being a leader of yourself first," Shoop said. "You have to do everything that you demand of others, or nobody is going to respond to you in the correct way. That was one of the biggest things that I learned. What I need to do is make sure I am the guy that holds everyone accountable, everyone has to be on the same page and we all have to make sure we are all working toward that same goal, which is that ring. I think this experience was a small, but significant step, for us getting there as a team."
The goal that Shoop mentions, a Patriot League Championship for his football team, is one that is shared by Winthrop for his men's soccer squad and Kish, who wants to be part of keeping the field hockey trophy on College Hill. The challenge they face, however, is keeping that goal in the back of their minds as they work each day toward that end result.
"You have to win the day," Kish stated. "Visionary leadership means that if you want to achieve a big goal, you need to have that goal in mind as a distant thought. You need to think about more of the immediate and you need to do whatever you possibly can to fulfill that vision."
"We need to take it more on a daily basis," Winthrop added. "They talked about winning the day and focusing on that lift or that practice. The really interesting thing was hearing the general's talk about war, because we know what is going on, but war isn't a literal thing for us. When you hear the expression in sports, `Win the battle before you can win the war', it is true, but it is literally what they are talking about."
"Spending time with the Naval Academy students was one of the best parts about the experience," Winthrop continued. "We play sports against them, but you don't really get an insight of how their life is different from ours. They were extremely nice hosts, we ate our meals with the entire Naval Academy and it was cool to see that side of things."
"It was eye opening to see how they live," Shoop said. "To see the regimented schedule they are on and everything that goes into attending the Naval Academy. I really got to step back and count the blessings that I have, being able to go to college and have the freedom to do things that I want to do."
Personally seeing the lives of the midshipmen gave Shoop, Winthrop and Kish the chance to learn more about each other.
"Getting to know Mara and Zach that much better," Shoop said when asked about what he gained from the trip. "Mara being and engineer and Zach being a Biology major in addition to being athletes, I didn't really know too well before this because of our schedules. It was good to get away and build a relationship with people from my own school."
In addition to the three growing closer on the trip, Kish made a pact with a football player from Colgate to stay in contact and keep tabs on what they each promised to do to help their individual teams succeed. Of the 45 participating schools which sent students, Lafayette and Colgate were the only two that chose to send student-athletes to the conference.
What stood out to Winthrop, who plans on going to medical school after Lafayette, were the words of General Mattis, "The only battle that you ever have to win, is the battle for the affection of your superiors and inferiors."
The trio intends to use those words to help their teams bring home a Patriot League title in the fall.