Amherst LEADS Hosts Captains Symposium

Contact: Gregg DiNardo

Bobby Ross
Dan Shaughnessy
Marion Jones
Shannon Taylor

AMHERST, Mass. - With 63 captains from the department’s 27 intercollegiate programs in attendance, Amherst LEADS recently kicked off the 2012-13 athletics calendar with its third annual Captains Symposium. Beginning on Saturday, Aug. 25, the three-day event focused on team building and leadership development exercises, while also featuring four guest speakers, including former Olympic gold medalist and WNBA player Marion Jones.

Former NFL (San Diego Chargers, Detroit Lions) and collegiate head coach Bobby Ross spoke with Amherst’s captains Saturday evening, imparting lessons he learned during his illustrious career. Referencing former teams and players, such as 12-time Pro Bowl linebacker Junior Seau, Ross artfully crafted the image of a true leader.

“I thought that Coach Bobby Ross’ speech was powerful,” said Kate Sisk ’14, of the women’s soccer team. “He really got us into the mindset of a team-focused leader, rather than a self-focused ‘loser.'”

The following morning, Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, shared his perspectives on leadership. A keen observer of Boston-area professional and collegiate sports over the course of three decades, Shaughnessy discussed topics ranging from Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, Bill Russell and Red Auerbach’s fabled Celtics teams and the current lack of leadership within the Boston Red Sox that helped contribute to a disappointing season.

Later that afternoon, as part of leadership development company The Program’s “Judgment Day”, Amherst’s captains were put through physically and mentally challenging exercises that gave them the opportunity to engage in different leadership styles and tactics. Over the course of four hours, the student-athletes were challenged to step up as leaders, even when physically exhausted.

“We were not only given the tools to be successful in leading our teams this season, but to be leaders in everyday life,” said football’s Landrus Lewis ’13. “We set high standards; reached some and missed others, but we were able to get that much better through ‘The Program’.”

Capping off day two, former five-time, Olympic medalist Marion Jones addressed the attendees as the Symposium’s third guest speaker. Sentenced to six months in prison in 2008 for lying to federal investigators, Jones candidly discussed both her meteoric rise and fall from grace during a two-hour session with Amherst’s captains.

“Marion was so intriguing,” said field hockey standout Sarah Wise ’13. “She had such an outrageous story to share and the ways she has developed since then are astounding.” 

Monday morning began promptly at 5 a.m. as the captains wrapped up the “Judgment Day” program with a three-hour team building session in Pratt Pool. Afterwards, Shannon Taylor bookended the weekend’s events by sharing her experiences at the 2012 Olympic Games in London as a member of the US Women’s Field Hockey team.

“I think the best thing about the Captains Symposium is the environment it creates,” said Brandon Hew ’13 of the men’s ice hockey team. “To be able to surround myself with the leaders of other athletics teams not only allowed me to build and strengthen relationships with the other captains, but also learn a great deal from them as well. Working and collaborating together towards a common goal and then eventually evolving into a cohesive unit of elite leaders was an extremely rewarding experience.”

The Captains Symposium is the first event in a series conducted throughout the academic year as part of the Amherst LEADS Captains Program. For more information about Amherst LEADS, please visit