Lehigh student-athletes take part in leadership development activity as part of the Flight 45 initiative. Lehigh’s Flight 45 leadership development initiative added two new programs this semester: League Scholars and League Champions. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

New athletics leadership program takes Flight (45)


Lehigh’s Flight 45 leadership development initiative added two new programs this semester: Lead Scholars and Lead Champions.

The initiative is currently broken down into seven engagement groups: Student-Athlete Mentors, Student-Athletes of Color, Student-Athlete Council, Community Outreach by Athletes Who Care About Helping, Lead Scholars, Lead Champions and Tackling Inclusion, and Diversity and Equity.

According to the program’s website, Flight 45 structures its teachings around the four cornerstones of intellectual, physical, social and mental/emotional growth. Within these four cornerstones, athletes are challenged to grow in the five pillars of leadership: self-awareness, integrity, competitiveness, toughness and team-first mentality.

Flight 45 begins the year by hosting an early orientation for first-year athletes, which is specifically led by the Student-Athlete Mentors group.

First-year volleyball player Alysia Fingall said they began by putting athletes from various teams into “huddle” groups, each with a Student Athlete Mentor from different sports. She said the experience was mainly composed of group bonding, speed-friending, character building seminars and other activities to get the athletes adjusted to Lehigh.

“The main takeaway is that there are always people there for you,” Fingall said. “You’re constantly meeting people who you can always go to if you need to talk about really anything.”.

First-year track and field runner Kasey White said the part of the orientation that stuck with her most was the health and academic resources Lehigh offers its student-athletes.

“It’s really good knowing that there are resources for mental health, physical health and academics,” White said. “It’s good to have the (Student-Athlete Mentor) leaders also because if we’re ever having trouble, it’s just an extra person to lean on.”

She said the huddle groups will continue to check in with each other throughout the semester.

Fingall agreed that the orientation provided her and other athletes with foundations to use going into the academic year. She said her whole team spoke with Cait Gilard, assistant director for Athletics Leadership Development, which Fingall thinks helped the team set their goals for the year.

“We did an activity on our whiteboard about actions that are progressive for the gym and what we expect to see every day and after a bad weekend,” Fingall said. “We revisited the board to look over our standards for the year, and that really helped.”

Flight 45 is not an initiative solely for the first-year athletes though, as it remains an active initiative athletes are welcomed to stay involved in throughout their time at Lehigh.

Junior volleyball captain Megan Schulte is an active member of both Community Outreach by Athletes Who Care About Helping and the inaugural cohort of the Lead Scholars program.

Schulte said Community Outreach by Athletes Who Care About Helping has seen changes this year, with a more intimate group of student-athletes who have a passion for doing outreach in the South Side community. Additionally, they will be focusing on introducing children in the community to sports.

Lead Scholars is the first women-in-leadership program in Lehigh Athletics, Schulte said, and it is currently funded by Cathy Englebert, ‘86, a former Lehigh women’s basketball and lacrosse player who became the first female CEO of Deloitte and the current is WNBA commissioner.

Schulte said she worked with the other Lead Scholars this past summer where they spoke with different guest speakers each week.

“We got to learn a ton from a bunch of strong women figures,” Schulte said. “They would come and give us insight on being a leader and what it takes.”

Moving forward, Schulte said the Lead Scholars will hold weekly meetings and are putting together a culminating project in February for National Girls and Women in Sports Day. 

Lead Scholars will also work alongside the Lead Champions, Schulte said, which is a group of male Lehigh athletes who are dedicated to the same equality and feminist agenda the Lead Scholars prioritize.

Schulte said her overall involvement in Flight 45 has challenged her as a leader and helped her to develop strong time management skills.

“You get asked the question, ‘What could you do better?’ in terms of how you impact the people around you,” Schulte said. “I’ve grown so much as a person through these experiences because you’re not only doing a leadership role, but you’re also learning from so many other like-minded athletes who are brilliant and great at leading.”

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