Bucknell Athletics Leadership Institute trains leaders for life

Elise Covert, Sports Co-Editor

In the Patriot League, where the worlds of high-achieving academics and Division I sports collide, leadership is an important quality for athletes to develop so that they can succeed in their sport, in the classroom, and in life beyond college. In 2011, a Patriot League initiative prompted the creation of the Bucknell Bison Leadership Academy, which trains student-athletes to become leaders both on and off the field. In August 2016, the program was re-branded as the Bucknell Athletics Leadership Institute when Lauren Wicklund took over as the Associate Director of Athletics for Leadership Development.

“We want to grow [the institute] so that it touches every single student athlete, staff, and coach in the athletics department,” Wicklund said. “Our vision is to create championship leaders.”

The Leadership Institute implements a four-year leadership development program. All first-years go through its initial track, which helps student-athletes develop personal leadership and confidence skills useful in both the academic and athletic realms.

For sophomore and junior students, the Institute becomes more rigorous and selective. Wicklund and her staff work with coaches to identify rising athletes who show strong leadership potential. Wicklund says that the most important part of this track is “being able to tap underclassmen to make them believe that they do have that potential.”


For seniors, the program provides the “Bookbags to Briefcase” seminar, which assists student-athletes on their transition out of college and into the workplace. Student-athletes are also taught how to sell their undergraduate athletics experience in a job interview.

Additionally, there is a track designed specifically for team captains. This provides more elite training to prepare captains to become more efficient leaders and communicators. Wicklund saw this training take root in the Bison women’s basketball program last season. She commended the senior captains for creating an environment where coaches and players are able to work as a cohesive unit, giving every player the opportunity to shine. With their leadership, the team captured the Patriot League title and advanced to the NCAA March Madness Tournament.

This track focuses on implementing leadership, rather than just talking about it.

“It’s not just a title; there are responsibilities,” Wicklund said. “To lead, you have to do.”

Wicklund has also brought a mentoring program to the Institute. To foster connections between different Bison teams, student-athletes are matched with coaches from another sport based on a temperament evaluation.

Wicklund says she hopes participants of the experience understand that the Institute’s goal is to help athletes see the possibilities in all situations, believe that they can lead others to solutions, and have the confidence to turn that belief into action.

“A big part of being a leader is being confident that your leading style will make an impact,” said softball captain Meghan Kovac ’18. “The Institute has allowed me to develop what type of leader I find myself to be while continuing to practice these skills on my own team, in the athletic environment as a whole, and in the classroom.”

For Kovac and many other athletes, the Bucknell Athletics Leadership Institute has been a staple of their time as a student-athlete at the University.

“We are working tirelessly to make it one of Bucknell’s signature programs as well as a terrific value-added enhancement of our Bison student-athletes’ four-year educational experience here at Bucknell,” Director of Athletics and Recreation John Hardt said.

“The big goal is to make leadership a constant so that everyone is living it, breathing it, doing it—all the time,” Wicklund said.

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