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Villanova Athletics Begins Leadership Institute for Team Captains

Oct. 23, 2007

VILLANOVA, Pa. - How can we improve the leadership skills of the captains of our varsity sports at Villanova? This was a question Dr. Ray Heitzmann, an education professor at Villanova has been contemplating the last couple of years. Beginning this fall, Heitzmann along with Athletic Director Vince Nicastro and Senior Associate Athletic Director Lynn Tighe, have implemented the Captains Leadership Institute in an effort to improve the leadership qualities of all team captains and leaders at Villanova.

In order to meet the scheduling demands of the student-athletes, the program has been divided up so that winter and spring sports captains can meet in the fall, while fall sports captains will meet in the spring. Each grouping of captains will meet twice, to learn about leadership styles, listen to guest speakers, and discuss issues they have dealt with or may have to deal with in the future. All participants are either captains already or emerging leaders, and have been nominated by their teammates or coaches to be a part of the program.

The institute held its inaugural meeting on Sunday, September 30, in the Severance Room of Jake Nevin Field House. Those in attendance were: Siobhan O'Connor, Stacie Witman, and Laura Kurz representing women's basketball, Kiel Costella, Zach Rambo, and Joe Mechak representing men's swimming, Caitlyn Reagan, Jesse Radtke, and Brie VonRosendahl representing women's swimming, Jackie Dempsey, Carolyn Brown, and Meghan Morese representing softball and Matt Panneton, Chris MacDonald, Ryan Holloway, and Eddie DiDonoto representing men's lacrosse.

Field hockey head coach Joanie Milhous and Associate Head Football Coach Mark Ferrante were also in attendance as guest speakers. Milhous and Ferrante presented personal insight about their past experiences serving as captains during their playing careers.

The outcome of the first meeting was a major success according to those attending. "The information given by Vince, Lynn, and Dr. Ray was very helpful and allowed us to look at leadership from some angles and some perspectives that we may not have approached it before." Mechak said. "I felt that the first night was very informational. It was helpful to learn that other teams are experiencing the same dilemmas as my team is."

"I also felt like I was in a comfortable enough environment to really express my feelings," Witman added.

A second meeting was conducted the following Sunday, October 7. It featured two guest speakers, Rosa Gatti and Father Robert Hagan. Gatti, a former Sports Information Director at Villanova, currently serves as the Senior Vice President for Corporate Communications and Outreach at ESPN. She offered valuable information related to her experiences working in a male-dominated sports industry, and how determination allowed her to persevere and be where she is today. Associate Athletic Director, Father Hagan, also gave a very inspirational speech in which he defined the characteristics of a leader and the importance of being morally and ethically responsible as a captain.

Captains and team leaders from winter and spring sports came together on Sunday, September 30 for the Leadership Institute's inaugural meeting.

Dr. Heitzmann concluded the seminar with a statement summarizing his thoughts and feelings about the institute. "We have a wonderful group of student-athletes at Villanova. They are bright, hardworking, athletic, and ethical. This leadership Institute will empower them, with the knowledge and skills to further enhance their success on the playing fields, the classroom, and later in life."