June 5, 2012
PITTSBURGH—The University of Pittsburgh hosted its two-day Panther Leadership Academy Conference at Pitt-Johnstown this past weekend. As part of the Cathy and John Pelusi Family Life Skills Program, the conference included small group discussions and activities that promoted both team bonding and leadership.
“Our student-athletes participated in workshops and exercises that focused on a variety of leadership topics, such as teamwork, the role they play, staying focused, problem solving and much more,” Assistant Athletic Director of Student Life Penny Semaia said.
On the first night of the conference, Semaia introduced Pitt student-athletes to the facilitators and welcomed guest speaker Jeff Janssen for the event’s opening activity. Janssen is the founder and president of the Janssen Sports Leadership Center, which was created to train and develop leadership skills within student-athletes on three stages: rising leaders, veteran leaders and leadership 360. Speaking for the third time this season, his lecture included the importance of team chemistry and communication through bonding exercises and group discussions.
“We did a lot of team building activities,” freshman Brianna Kiesel of the women’s basketball team stated. “In one of the challenges, we had to stand on chairs and move each one in front of the other to get through a maze. In another task, our group stood on a blanket that we had to flip over without anyone’s foot touching the ground.”
The following day, over 40 participants were broken into four teams. Each group went through a series of leadership exercises and then discussed the importance of their roles during those experiences. The event concluded with several short skits that addressed challenges student-athletes are facing on campuses daily.
“Attending the Panther Leadership Conference was a great experience,” junior swimmer Otto Pagel said. “I really enjoyed all of the team challenges and having an opportunity to sit down with members of the swim team to reflect on what we learned from all of the activities.”
Each year, Pitt’s Panther Leadership Academy provides comprehensive leadership development programming for its 450-plus student-athletes. The purpose of the academy is to help student-athletes grow as effective, vocal leaders and then become successful leaders in the business world after graduation.