Student athletes attend Leadership Institute

Before they ever step foot on the court or the field together, a group of the first Harlan High School student athletes spent a day attending a leadership summit at the Northside Sports Gym.

The more than Harlan 60 students and some of their coaches took part in the Fourth Quarter Leadership Institute brought to Northside by the Athletics Department. The day included classroom-style instruction and interactive team challenges like building a balloon tower. Session topics asked students to consider what defines success, the traits of a successful leader, the importance of attitude, and their social media IQ.

60 student athletes pose for picture

“I took away new skills for the future that I’ll carry with me beyond Harlan,” says sophomore Samuel Carter who will play football at Harlan next year when the school opens. “I want to make sure that I lead the right way. Sports don’t last forever but people and relationships do. As a leader you have to help make connections with everyone to become a family.”

Students from all of Northside’s comprehensive high schools attended Leadership Institutes on separate days for each school. In addition to athletes, some schools sent fine arts, JROTC, and spirit students. Most were rising juniors and seniors on their respective campuses. The Harlan group was noticeably different – students were younger as the school won’t have a senior class the first year and most met each other and received their first school shirts the day they attended.

“We’re getting the opportunity to develop leaders a lot earlier as part of the building process.” says Harlan Athletic Coordinator/Head Football Coach Eddie Salas. “Today has opened up communication between our students. The coaches have enjoyed watching them in a room of their peers and seeing who stands out.”

Created by Rutledge Development and led by Clint Rutledge, a former Texas high school athlete himself, the day-long institute is a first step for attendees. They’re then tasked with going back to their campuses and using what they learned to help develop other leaders on their teams and in their organizations. Students each receive a five-week guide with instructions to continue leadership conversations around the topics of courage, persistence, attitude, commitment, and being a difference maker. 

group of students posing with balloon tower

The winning team in the balloon tower challenge. 

“We all bring different perspectives,” Rutledge told the group. “You can’t just have one person leading one way. To make a great team, you need to bring together different leaders of different types.”

Students were asked to consider the choices they make, the habits they develop, and ultimately the person they become.

“Do you follow the crowd,” Rutledge asked. “Or do you have the courage to go the opposite direction? Decide who you want to be.”

female student writing

Each student was given a guide to use the day of the Leadership Institute and also to bring back to their campus to continue their leadership development.

Character development and encouraging students to go “beyond the game” are the foundation of athletics programs in Northside. Last year, the Athletics Department held its first leadership event, bringing student leaders from all campuses together on the same day. This year, the individual events allowed for customization to each school and more interaction between students.

“It was a great experience,” says sophomore Brittany Bell, who will play volleyball at Harlan next year. “You don’t realize how much [leadership] applies to life and not just athletics. It’s so much more beyond sports.”

Two students with their coaches

Pictured from left to right are Harlan Athletic Coordinator/Head Football Coach Eddie Salas, sophomore Samuel Carter, sophomore Brittany Bell, and Assistant Athletic Coordinator/Head Volleyball Coach Monica Gonzales.