by Michéline Mittak DeFranco and Melissa Sue Sorrells '05
Hobart and William Smith athletics may consist of two separate and distinct units, but the sense of pride and the high level of respect between these programs is a unifying force. From taking turns cheering at each other's games to achieving an individual best effort or making headline news with a team, student-athletes at the Colleges- whether they are Herons or Statesmen- develop valuable lifelong skills. More than 80 percent of the Colleges' students participate in intercollegiate teams, intramurals, club sports or outdoor programs. Those who wish to compete at the top of their sport become members of one or more of the 22 varsity teams, many of which are regular contenders for conference and national titles.
Others engage in recreation or intramural activities to have fun, stay fit or to achieve a form of selfcompetition.
Whether they are committed to fitness or loyal to team sports, student-athletes at HWS hone their leadership skills and competitive instincts, helping them to achieve the highest level of excellence in their professional and civic lives. And students who become dedicated to athletics in their youth are more likely to maintain a healthy lifestyle in their adult years.
With 21 conference championships, 115 all-region awards and 85 All-American honors captured between 2001 and 2006, the success of Hobart and William Smith studentathletes on the field is readily apparent. While it may not always be as easy to see the academic success going on behind closed doors, student-athletes excel in the classroom just as decisively as they do on the field, with varsity athletes making up for more than a third of students graduating with honors in 2007.
Jane Erickson '07, a former lacrosse starting midfielder, received a highly competitive Fulbright Assistantship in Indonesia due in no small part to skills she learned on the turf. Austin Kana '09 is one of only 15 students nationwide to receive a prestigious Environmental Protection Agency Greater Research Opportunities Award. A member of the Colleges Sailing Team and a double major in environmental studies and public policy, he impressed the EPA judges with his strong academic credentials and his essay on coral reefs. "I've always been close to the water," Kana says. "At HWS you can take things from one discipline and apply them to another."
"There is a tremendous balance between academics and athletics that allows us as student- athletes to excel both on the field and in the classroom to achieve future success," says Nolan Robinson '07, a member of the 2006 Liberty League All-Academic football team who is attending the University of Buffalo School of Dental Medicine.
As Robinson suggests, success on the field and in the classroom translates into more opportunities in the real world, allowing HWS student-athletes to score competitive internships. Brian Cibelli '08, a forward for the ice hockey team, and Lance Boyington '09, a free safety for the football team, employed their knowledge of athletics and skills they learned on the field and ice to earn summer internships in the public relations department of the Rochester Raging Rhinos soccer team this past summer. And the positive effects of being involved in athletics continue long after students leave campus, helping alums secure top jobs around the world in business, industry, education and public service. Using the skills they gained on HWS athletic fields, some alums pursue careers in athletics, like Amanda Callahan '03, sailing coach at Roger Williams University. Others take the abilities they've developed through athletics and apply them to an entirely unrelated field, like Luke Gutelius '98, who put skills learned as a member of the football team to work for him as the co-owner of maax, inc., a clothing design and manufacturing company.
No matter how alums spin their experiences, the benefits of health, self-esteem and confidence gained from involvement in collegiate athletics last for life. Joe Stein '86, a managing director and head of the financing group at investment banking firm Peter J. Solomon Company, L.P., says it best: "Even today, in some way, I think of myself as a Hobart athlete."
Lessons learned on the field are important, but the Colleges are also on the forefront of preparing student-athletes to become future leaders through the Napier Leadership Seminar for Hobart athletics and the William Smith Peak Performance Leadership Plan.
Formulated by Hobart Athletics Director Mike Hanna '68, P'99 in 1996, the Napier Leadership Seminar offers Hobart studentathletes and athletics staff comprehensive training to foster leadership growth, character development and expertise in a variety of life skills, including teamwork, communication, financial management and career planning. The program, named in honor of the late William J. Napier '57 and created by Napier's wife, Trustee Jane Napier, and their children, William W. Napier and Marylouise Napier, brings speakers to campus to discuss leadership and values. The curriculum is customized for the unique experiences of each class year, tailored to offer insights, ideas and answers.
"I admire Hobart's commitment to the leadership and teamwork skills of their student athletes. The Seminar is an exceptional enhancement to the superb education of Hobart College," says Jeremy Foley '74, director of athletics at the University of Florida. Though the program didn't exist in his undergraduate days, Foley serves as a guest coach for the Napier Leadership Seminar along with other alumni and outside experts from business, the military and athletics.
"Our job is to prepare these young men for life after college. The Napier Seminar gives Hobart athletes a winning edge here and in their various roles after college," says Hanna.
Conceived during the 2001-2002 semester by former Heron Athletics Director Susan Bassett and the William Smith coaching staff, William Smith's Peak Performance Leadership Plan promotes physical and intellectual well-being and healthy lifestyle choices through wellness programming and peer mentors. The program also puts emphasis on continuing education for the coaching staff.
Annual seminars, given by alumnae, coaches, HWS career counselors and outside experts, address issues of nutrition, time management and leadership skills. Throughout the rest of the year, members of the Peak Performance Core 20, a group of studentathletes who act as peer facilitators, work with their fellow student-athletes, coaches and administrative staff to promote healthy choices.
"The Peak Performance Plan promotes effective communication, accountability, responsibility, education and teamwork," says former-Core 20 member Kelly Van- Gorden '02. "Having the Peak Performance Plan has greatly developed the athletics program and has created a community defined by excellence and wellness." Currently an assistant professor of Exercise Science and Athletics at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, VanGorden has returned to campus to speak during Peak Performance events about the importance of taking on leadership roles.
"The Peak Performance Plan enhances our students' athletic experiences and prepares them for post-graduate life," says William Smith Athletics Director Deb Steward. "The skills we promote take our athletes beyond their four years here, and they leave campus better citizens and better workers."