HILLSBORO, Kan. - The ninth annual KCAC Sport Management Conference hosted by Tabor College, took place August 4 in Hillsboro, Kan. with a special summit emphasizing the NAIA's Champions of Character program for coaches, student-athletes, and administrators.
The day started with four Champions of Character awards including: KCAC Female Champion of Character Student-Athlete of the Year, Male Champion of Character Student-Athlete of the Year, Coach of Character, and Team of Character. Sterling's Hayley Ray, Kansas Wesleyan's Jordan Rousselle, Sterling's head women's basketball coach K.C. Bassett, and women's cross country team were the 2014-15 winners, respectively.
Kristin Gillette, NAIA Director of Champions of Character provided a presentation on the purposes of the Champions of Character Program and Live5 Initiative, which focused on enhancing and further development of the program including local and national initiatives, character education activities at championship events, character conferences and certification of NAIA constituents.
"I commend the KCAC for their commitment to character-driven athletics," Gillette said. "The Champions of Character Summit provided all KCAC constituents to talk about the five core values by encouraging, challenging, and keeping each other accountable to make character a priority this school year."
New this year was a student-athlete panel, which included two student-athletes -- one male and one female -- from each KCAC institution to answer a series of questions from Gillette. Dr. Karol Hunt conducted a coaches' panel with a preselected coach from each school. Questions in both panels included the importance of Champions of Character and what each school is doing to incorporate the five core values and Live5 Initiative.
Cameron Coleman, a sophomore men's basketball player at York College (Neb.), spoke specifically on character during the student-athlete panel and the importance it has had on his experience in the NAIA.
"The coaches and other student-athletes have done a really good job of holding others accountable and having good sportsmanship," Coleman stated. "It has made me feel a lot more comfortable and also makes me feel like I am at home.
"More so, it's just about being a family. We may be going out there competing against each other but I think it's good that in some ways we're close together and we all have the same goal, which is to be better as people. I think one way we can accomplish that is to be vulnerable, be willing to share our struggles and accomplishments, and be there as a helping hand to the next person."
Following the student-athlete panel, Sterling College (Kan.) Athletic Director Gary Kempf began his presentation on Integrity in Game Situations. Kempf challenged coaches and administrators to think about who and why they serve when talking about character and integrity, and what their ultimate goal is for their student-athletes and respective teams.
"Our ultimate goal is not about us," Kempf said. "It's not about what we do, how many games we win, but it's about who we serve. Integrity shows your true character in a time of pressure and it is not a switch that can be turned on and off. The issue is what happens when we're in the midst of a battle."
Kansas Wesleyan University Director of Athletics Mike Hermann followed Kempf's presentation with a discussion about what happens after an incident defining the Champion of Character philosophy. Hermann discussed Kansas Wesleyan earning an institution-high 95 points on the Champions of Character report card during the 2014-15 season, but were also deducted the highest possible 50 points for incidents in competition.
"One of the reasons I took the job at Kansas Wesleyan was because I was really excited about the Champions of Character as the hallmark program of the NAIA," Hermann said. "I've worked in college athletics for a long time and the ability for the NAIA to really have an intentional character program where the coaches take online classes and students take the Live5 courses is invaluable. We value Champions of Character at Kansas Wesleyan."
The final presentation of the day was Rusty Allen, Vice President of Athletics at Tabor College, who looked at winning and losing differently as it relates to character and sportsmanship. Allen recounted his history as a men's basketball player and a coach to give examples of how he came to realize how serious he was taking his job in sports and what led to him deciding to approach winning and losing differently.
"Why is it so important to win and lose differently?" Allen asked. "I think it's because it is an opportunity to have a positive influence. We can influence people in a positive way and then they can go pay that forward. Our world needs more leaders who live out strong character traits and the Champion of Character Core Values in the NAIA are needed in our world. Things like integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship, and servant leadership are not present enough in our world. My challenge is to use the opportunity that failure provides to demonstrate character to the people watching."
Click here to view each presentation and subscribe to the KCAC YouTube Channel.
About NAIA Champions of Character
The Champions of Character program helps participants find the balance by keeping five core values - integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship, and servant leadership - at the heart of the athletics experience. Students learn to understand how the values play out in both practice and competition. Coaches are taught how to intentionally define, model, shape and reinforce the values through their coaching and mentoring. Parents learn how their behavior is key to supporting their athletes. For more than a decade, Champions of Character has been making a difference in developing athletes, coaches and parents of character.
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