Titans travel to NCAA Leadership Forum in Phoenix

Erik Buchinger

Wendy Wangerin cutting down the nets after the National Championship win over Mount Union College at Kolf.
[/media-credit] Wendy Wangerin cutting down the nets after the National Championship win over Mount Union College at Kolf.

Three representatives from the UW Oshkosh athletics program attended the NCAA Leadership Forum April 7-10 in Phoenix. UW Oshkosh women’s gymnastics coach and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) advisor Lauren Karnitz, junior gymnast Danielle Turner and sophomore men’s basketball player Charlie Noone were at the event. The leadership forum was created in 1997 and, according to the NCAA’s official website, the event is designed to engage a diverse and dynamic representation of student-athletes, coaches, faculty and administrators. “Basically it was an opportunity for the NCAA to develop these people into better leaders and to give them tools to bring back to their institutions because they were seen as natural leaders on their campus, so they were sent there to develop those leadership skills a little more,” Karnitz, who is in her first year as UWO’s SAAC advisor, said. Noone was selected to attend because of his membership with the University’s SAAC organization and said it was an honor to represent UW Oshkosh. “It meant the world to me,” Noone said. “To know I was one of two student-athletes to have this unique opportunity was truly special to me.” Turner was nominated by Karnitz to the athletic department and said the leadership forum had an engaging atmosphere. “It was amazing being there and working with other student-athletes from Division I, II and III schools,” Turner said. “All of the staff, student-athletes and administrators were full of energy and radiated with positivity.” The three arrived at approximately noon on April 7 and went straight to work following the opening sessions, which consisted of speakers discussing inspiration and motivation, Karnitz said. “They brought us in on Thursday and immediately when we got there, we started working, and it was literally all day everyday while we were there,” Karnitz said. Every morning, everyone broke into their color groups, which consisted of approximately 30 students and two facilitators. “In our groups, we had discussions on leadership aspects and our self-evaluated characteristics,” Turner said. “We did multiple activities and team-building games that honed in on everyone’s strengths to help us complete each task.” The attendees broke off into groups separated by divisions, and Karnitz, Noone and Turner were among the Division III representatives at the event. “We talked about governance and someone in the NCAA Division III office told us about the rules about Division III and what makes us different from Division I because there’s a lot of animosity there sometimes between the divisions,” Karnitz said. According to Karnitz, the group discussed the benefits of participating in Division III athletics. “Division I gets all this money and now currently in the news, there are athletes that want to get paid for what they do,” Karnitz said. “Understanding the philosophy of Division III and how it’s different from Division I, it’s almost a blessing in disguise that we don’t have those kinds of issues. Typically, Division III is never criticized, and we’re looked at positively.” In addition to participating in a community service project for kids in crisis in the Phoenix community, the group listened to speeches from the two keynote speakers. Former women’s college basketball player and current basketball analyst LaChina Robinson spoke about branding themselves, and Justin Patton, a certified body language and communications skills coach, also spoke at the event. “Those two were awesome,” Karnitz said. “A quote that stuck with me, which was from Mark Twain was, ‘The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.’ I just think that is really important to know what your purpose is and have clarity in why you do what you do because that’s when you can really be effective.” Noone said his favorite part of the event was learning from other student-athletes. “My favorite part was definitely meeting a wide array of people from all over the world and hearing how their school and how they are a leader on their campus,” Noone said. The three returned late on April 10, and Noone said he learned a lot from the experience. “I took away that leadership is a word with many meanings,” Noone said. “There are many different ways to be a leader. Not only on the basketball court but also on campus.” Turner said she learned from other athletes sharing their experiences on a wide variety of issues. “I learned more about myself and how to look at certain situations differently,” Turner said. “Many teams have similar issues regarding teammates not being on the same page. I learned how other athletes approach these issues and better ways to handle them while also staying positive.” According to Turner, she learned anybody can develop themselves into being a leader. “I acquired that it’s OK not to have all the characteristics needed to be a successful team leader,” Turner said.