Leadership summit 'life-changing' for York County athletes

Dante Green
York Dispatch

It’s the random experiences in life people don’t see coming that can change their perspectives on everything.

When four Spring Grove students were chosen to attend National Federation of State High School Associations Leadership Summit this month in Indianapolis, they expected a simple trip to pick up leadership tips from some well-known former athletes. They weren't expecting to make new friends and take home life lessons, but that's what happened.

Girls' volleyball player Mylie Ormond, baseball player Trenton Leggett, boys’ volleyball player Camden Sterner and swimmer Sarah Czapp were the representatives for the Rockets. A dozen student-athletes from the PIAA were selected to attend the three-day summit, eight of them from District 3 schools. The summit included 22,000 student-athletes from 28 states. 

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Ormond, a senior, said the summit was one of the best experiences of her life.

“It was life-changing,” she said. "It increased my motivation and placed more of a pinpoint on it. I learned a lot about stepping out of my comfort zone.”

Spring Grove students on day 1 of the Summit. left to right: Camden Sterner, Trenton Leggett, Sarah Czapp, Molly Ormond.

One of the  goals was increasing the leadership skills of the student-athletes who attended and helping them understand positive leadership and ways to better understand those around them and on their teams. The hope was for the athletes to take these skills back to their communities to make a difference, both in and outside of their schools. 

The summit had a host of seminars and guest speakers who were former athletes, including  Philadelphia 76ers player Omari Pearson. The speakers   had the student-athletes participate in different games and exercises.

Bringing lessons home: The Spring Grove students are bringing those lessons back home and applying them to their teams. For example, after Spring Grove won the PIAA Class 3-A state championship in volleyball last season, the team lost seven seniors to graduation. Ormond said the team won’t be as comfortable as last season, with several new members needing to step up. The drills at the summit, though, taught her important lessons about connecting with people who are younger or who might not have as much experience.

“It was people from all over the country, and by the end of the drills, we were comfortable with each other," she said. "One of my main focuses is to get everyone more comfortable with each other."

Student- Athletes head out to one of the seminars at the Leadership Summit on Day 2.

Leggett, a senior at Spring Grove, said he learned a lesson he will never forget from a game of leading someone blindfolded through several obstacles in their way.

“You can’t tell someone where to go. You have to walk with them through the steps,” he said. 

The seminars also focused on diversity and inclusion, teaching the students how they can be more sensitive to others. Speakers discussed mentorships, how leadership is influenced and ways of speaking to connect with teammates and those you work with. 

Leggett said the days at the summit were some he will never forget.

“I loved it. It was amazing. It was three of the best days of my life,” he said. “We talked to a lot of people from all over the country. Kansas and Vermont. We made some good friends.

"It was heart-wrenching at the end," he added. "A lot of teary eyes. It was a memorable experience.”

The NFHS, an advocate for high school athletics and performing arts programs, outlines its vision statement as “preparing tomorrow’s leaders for the next level of life through innovative programs, healthy participation, achievement, and development of positive relationships."

To attend the summit, the Spring Grove students received recommendations from Athletic Director Jeffrey Laux.

Laux said when he came across the opportunity provided by the PIAA, he jumped on it and got it out to student-athletes to see who would be interested.

“I am a big believer that our athletic programs need to build leadership skills in our young adults,” said Laux. "We hope they take what they learned and we can use it to continue to add on to our current leadership programs and continue to build leaders at Spring Grove into the future."

NFHS dands out certificates of completion for the leadership summit.

Making a difference: Another summit activity was going to a high school to play a few games with kids with special needs. The group participated in flag football, basketball and relay races. It was the first time in three years that the kids were able to hold the event. COVID-19 had stopped the event from taking place. 

Ormond said it was an eye-opening experience. 

“They told us how appreciative they were that we came. The kids watched us and took some qualities from us. I felt like we made a difference for them. Just the look on their faces and seeing how appreciative they were was special,” Ormond said.

Leggett, who serves as president of Spring Grove’s student council, said after the experience he and other PIAA students are hoping to bring a smaller version of the summit to Pennsylvania.

“We talked about establishing a PIAA conference team with all of the kids that came from Penn. Take it to the state board. Make the summit a yearly thing. Try to bring one to Penn. Our team that we can pass down every year to the younger kids. Kids that can take what they learn and apply it to other kids,” he said.