This past season, Red Deer College (RDC) took leadership to a whole new level and as a result, they’ve received the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association’s Innovation award.
In September, the College formed Captain’s Council, a group that consisted of team captains and assistant captains from the school. The goal of the program was to develop leadership skills and help the student-athletes develop the psychological skills to lead in pressure situations. The group would meet four times during the 2013-14 season.
At a meeting in October, three former school captains, who now work in the community, were also invited. Together, the captains and former captains studied cases; then, the groups presented their strategies and suggestions on how they would handle the situations.
Among the attendees was Red Deer Fire Chief Jack MacDonald, who was quite impressed with the experience. “It was very refreshing to be in the presence of such committed student-athletes – all of whom seemed sincerely motivated to be the best leaders they could be,” he said. “I thoroughly enjoyed it; I learned more from them.”
At another meeting in January, all athletes at RDC were invited for a session on mental toughness and preparation. Bernie Holiday, the Director of Mental training for the Pittsburgh Pirates Major League Baseball team, came to Red Deer and spent the day discussing mental toughness with the athletes.
Everyone involved in Captain’s Council benefited in a positive way. The athletes were able to develop their leadership skills and mental toughness, while the coaches were able to identify areas the captains and teams could improve on.
The program also allowed Athletic Director Keith Hansen and Athletics Assistant Carolyn Neufeld the opportunity to develop a rapport with the athletes and get to know them as individuals. This was extremely important as it made staff more accessible to the athletes and helped open the communication pathway.
It was perhaps no coincidence that RDC had one of its most successful CCAA seasons ever, winning both the Men’s and Women’s National Championships in Volleyball, the Women’s Curling National Championship and a silver medal at the Men’s Basketball National Championship.
“This program obviously was not the only reason (for our success),” said Hansen. “But I believe that the difference between winning and losing is so small, that the program helped our athletes to push and lead while under pressure.”
The CCAA Innovation award was presented at the CCAA annual general meeting in Banff, AB on June 10, 2014.
The CCAA is a national sport organization that enriches the lives of student-athletes through intercollegiate competition.