Athleadership Pilot: Summers 2016-2019. A collaboration with Heritage Youth Sports Foundation

“Sports can save the world.” Nelson Mandela

Athletes are positioned to be very effective leaders. Sports teams can play pivotal roles in a school, neighborhood, and beyond. Athletes are defacto role models and under the best of circumstances can elevate, inspire, and bring people together. Unfortunately too often athletes are not positive role models, instead demonstrating characteristics like arrogance, disrespect, unruly behavior and even bullying which can tear a team or community apart, imparting the wrong images and messages to fans of all ages.

Coaches, athletic directors and school principals want athletes positively influencing students. We have a program that teaches vision, focus and leadership mindset development to high school athletes who then teach what they have learned to youth ages 5-16, creating a legacy system.

Athleadership is an outgrowth of the success at Minneapolis North High School where the Polars, in last place at the start of the 2013-2014 season, finished the season in first place and by 2015-16 became state champions. Discovery of Self (DoS) was part of their training, designed to develop confidence, self-regulation (of mood/physiology), personal responsibility, possibility thinking, and a sense of connection to people and purposes beyond individual/private interests. Imagery, diaphragmatic breathing, and concepts like paradox, synchronicity, and quantum leap are transformative.

As a result of the success and positivity of the team, in just 3 years the school – threatened with closure years earlier and struggling with challenges of enrollment and public perception – went from 165 students to 420, and a graduation rate of 95% (with 75-80% of players on the A/B Honor Roll). The school’s success in turn has energized North Minneapolis and has significantly contributed to a changing narrative for a neighborhood struggling with the highest rates of unemployment, poverty, crime and violence.

Athleadership builds on that success, and represents the interests of coaches and athletic directors from different schools, park board and rec center personnel, parents, and school and community healthcare workers who want to see children develop as caring, competent citizens and leaders while improving their sports performance.

Athleadership is a program designed to develop confidence and compassion, self-awareness and emotional intelligence, vision and discipline.  It is a leadership program for athletes to develop a mindset for possibility thinking, and the tools to co-create a new reality of opportunity for themselves and others.

”Jane has graciously volunteered her time with Community Education as an instructor of the Discovery of Self program for the young men of the Minneapolis North Boys’ Basketball program.  She has quietly changed their thinking and their lives. It has been truly amazing to witness the impact on our team. One young man in particular has gone from a JV player and having very little contribution to varsity starter and a Captain which he attributed all to Ms. Jane and her class. He can be heard telling his teammates “Ms. Jane Said.” We are very thankful for her work and look forward to her continuing partnership and involvement with Minneapolis North Boys’ Basketball.”  Larry A. McKenzie – Head Coach Jan, 2014

“The Discovery of Self curriculum has benefited me personally as well as benefiting the JV team that I coach at North High. As executive director of Heritage Youth Sports Foundation, I am proud that the Athleadership program is a vehicle to not only deliver vitally important DoS practices, principles, and leadership messages to youth as young as 4 or 5, but also gives high school athletes the opportunity to step into a structured role as mentors, teachers and leaders of a whole new mindset. I’ve already heard from a number of the youth how what they learned has helped them in school.” Coach Mike SheltonDuluth 10

Based on the DoS curriculum with a 25 year track record in a wide variety of venues nationally and internationally, Athleadership was piloted in the summer of 2016 as a program of Continuum Center and the Heritage Youth Sports Foundation. Five Minneapolis North High Polars basketball players were trained to teach elements of DoS at three summer programs serving North Minneapolis youth ages 5-15. Over the course of 6 weeks, the players (all in summer tournament leagues) worked a total of 38 hours with 70 youth. Some of the interns’ time is spent researching and writing on selected topics (see below).

“I handle things differently. I am able to deal with challenges and emotions much better by using the [diaphragmatic] breathing in order to calm myself down and not stress myself out. I use the imagery before the game during warm up to get my mind right. When I’m not playing so well, rather than get in a negative spiral, I think about when I’ve played well. Being an athleader has helped my communication skills and being in the role of a teacher increased my confidence. It makes me feel good to know I helped some kids change for the better.” Jamire Jackson – varsity basketball, and team player of the year (2016) in football

We want to insure that our youth develop in a sports culture that promotes the best of team spirit and player mindset so that character and cooperation are effectively instilled alongside the motivation and capacity to win titles.

Athleadership is an optimal performance and leadership development training program for sports, school, and creating opportunities in life.  Not only does it impart valuable principles and practices to very young people, but by putting the high school players in a teaching position they are trained to be role models and leaders who can positively and effectively leverage their popularity.

“I have seen myself change from being hot-headed and easily fired up or angry a lot since my freshman year. My freshman year I would get mad almost every day. I would get mad at the coaches or teammates during practice. During games I would get mad at the refs when a call didn’t go my way or even mad at one of my coaches during the game. I would get mad in school at my teachers sometimes when they said or did stuff I didn’t like and then I would stop going to that class or I would miss class and my grades would drop. But since I learned the breathing and talking with Ms Jane I slowly started to get better and better with everything.
Duluth 33
I used the breathing and imagery before every game with my team for the past 3 years and I feel like it has really let my mind calm down and get more focused. This past season I started using it more on my own, like before a big test at school, before practice, I even did it before I took the ACT test. I used it this past summer when I was out of town at my basketball tournaments. At the beginning of my junior year I really started to become the leader I was supposed to be and it all started when I started to change the way I looked at negative situations. I stopped letting emotions get the best of me. I feel like after I learned how to do that I got more control of my life and things started to get better.

Passing along what I’ve learned to young kids through the Athleadership program was really good because growing up I didn’t have anyone doing that for me, so when they grow up they will have an advantage. Now that I know it went well and really helped these kids, it makes me feel more confident in front of other groups.” Isaac Johnson – senior starter (basketball and football) 2017 basketball player of the year

Athleadership is about becoming a champion in life not just in sports, and about how to build team spirit that inspires a community and beyond. Athleadership is a program with many who want a consistent, community-wide message to develop athletes from a young age to become positive minded role models.

Continuum Center and Heritage Youth Sports Foundation, in partnership with the North High Alumni Association and co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council and NAACP,  created Athleadership from the Polars worst-to-first-to-state-champions story and from many demonstrations of optimism in action. We are leveraging the positivity from North High and North Minneapolis…seeds and a hallowed soil with a powerful past, present, and future. The model extends well beyond North Minneapolis.

Athleadership Summer Program

Our pilot program, summer 2016, served 70 North Minneapolis youth in three summer camps

Youth sports program with a focus on developing leadership character, and focus of attention, intention, and positivity.

Athleadership is a program designed to develop positivity and personal responsibility, confidence and compassion, vision and discipline.

We develop a mindset for possibility thinking, and give youth tools to create new opportunities for themselves, their community, and beyond – from the inside out!

In addition to learning the technical and physical fundamentals of the game, our Athleadership program provides
• drills that use and develop inner resources for focus and optimal performance
• activities that develop brain capacities widely overlooked and  exercises to stretch thinking in many positive ways

Providing tools and ways of thinking to develop your child as an Athleader

Athleadership 2017

Athleadership 2018 

Athleadership 2019