Recently, O’Neal welcomed 40 upper school students on campus for its annual Leadership Academy Kick-Off Camp. Founded four years ago, the Leadership Academy previously focused exclusively on student-athletes. This year O’Neal was excited to expand the invitation to include student leaders outside of Athletics. The primary goal for the Leadership Academy has been to encourage the students to grow and develop into leaders by cultivating and fortifying their emotional intelligence and building individual character through group activities and community service. This year, the Leadership Academy intends to build on the momentum of previous years as the students will continue growing as leaders within the O’Neal and local community. From team building activities to guest speakers and self-reflection, eight facilitators along with student participants used this summer’s Leadership Academy camp as a springboard into the 2020-2021 school year.
O’Neal’s Director of Leadership and Character Development Charlie McHarney, collaborated closely with a core group of faculty leaders to include: Athletic Director, James Franklin, Kelley Adams (Assistant Athletic Director), Dave Williamson, Heather Weeks, Lulu Brase, and Jeff Haarlow. The group planned for months leading up to the camp and put together a week filled with team building activities, guest speakers, self-reflection activities and individual strength assessments. The focus was on energy and how one’s strengths contribute to that energy.
In the weeks leading up to the camp, each of the forty students (as well as the facilitators) accomplished the CliftonStrengths assessment in order to determine their most prominent individual strengths. Mr. McHarney is a GALLUP certified Strengths Coach as well as being certified in EQi 2.0 and EQi 360. Prior to the camp, he conducted a one-hour, individual coaching session with each of the students to review the results of their assessment and begin the process of exploring their top five strengths. Once the camp was underway, the students conducted numerous exercises to further understand and “claim” their strengths while also gaining a greater appreciation for how their unique strengths bring value to their team or group.
Another activity of the camp was a video review of Jon Gordon’s book “The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy.” After the video, each student was given a “bus ticket” that also contained their top five strengths. This ticket served as an invitation for each student to get on the “Energy Bus” for the 2020-2021 school year. The remainder of the week included numerous team building activities as well as guest speakers.
“The Leadership Academy has helped me reach out of my comfort zone and make me realize my core strengths I can use in my day to day life,” says O’Neal Sophomore Brooklyn Adams. “I love learning about my peers’ strengths as well. In group activities, my group puts our strengths together to solve a problem or complete an activity. I strive to use my core strengths in and out of the classroom daily!”
Mid-week, Dan Perlmutter, a head sports performance coach at Duke University, returned to O’Neal to speak to students about the importance of seeing themselves critically in order to increase the quality of their team. He highlighted the importance of learning how to effectively communicate with your teammates, specifically with regards to how you value them. Mr. Perlmutter also discussed the importance of a mindset of gratitude for your situation instead of entitlement and developing relationships with your team members. He ended his presentation with his own twist to a common quote. “Players win games, relationships win championships.”
“Coach Perlmutter has had a profound impact on me as both a student-athlete and person, and I feel lucky to be able to learn from him,” states O’Neal Senior Holly Pashley. “During the academy, he spoke about the power of positivity, as well as focusing on our response to an event rather than worrying about the outcome. He also explained how doing one thing that makes us uncomfortable each day is the ideal way to experience growth. I truly believe that what he shared with us will elevate our performance in athletics, in the classroom, and in the community, and look forward to welcoming him back to O’Neal in the future.”
To expand on self-reflection, later in the week, Virginia Gallagher, owner of Hot Asana in Southern Pines, spoke to the participants about how to find peace with one’s self. She discussed techniques on how you can use Yoga to find your neutral, being calm and self-care. Ms. Gallagher discussed the value and importance of mindfulness and provided techniques to the participants to bring more self-reflection and positivity into one’s life.
“Every year the leadership academy camp has evolved and grown,” reflects O’Neal Senior Kayla Jenkins. “The camp was particularly different this year given the current atmosphere. However, this was by far my favorite camp. From my GALLUP strength test to team building exercises, I learned so much about myself and how I can contribute to not just the O’Neal community but the world around me. It had such an impact that I actually plan on writing one of my college essays on my experience with it this year.”
The Leadership Academy will continue throughout the year with weekly scheduled sessions where the students will further their individual strengths as well as the strengths of their fellow teammates. The students will also receive additional guidance on emotional intelligence as it pertains to self-perception, self-expression, decision-making, interpersonal relationships, and social responsibility. A focus for Mr. McHarney this year will be the character development of the Leadership Academy students. Critical to this endeavor will be the planning and execution of service projects throughout the year to demonstrate leadership through action within the community. “Character builds over time and is additive”, says McHarney. “It is demonstrated in what we do, how we do it, and why we do it. Serving others and committing to a cause greater than self is paramount to developing humility, which is a key component of character development.”