"We are all Madeira," Leadership program motivates athletes

October 26, 2020

Athletics worldwide may look a little different this year, but at Madeira, our students are still working hard, practicing every day, and taking part in an innovative leadership program led by Madeira’s new Athletic Director, Tavis Laws. 

Coach Laws came to Madeira after a successful tenure at Congressional School, a co-ed independent school in Falls Church, Virginia. He has spent his entire professional career organizing, supervising, motivating, and coaching athletics and is ready to do the same at Madeira by continuing and expanding Madeira’s Athletic Leadership Program. 

“I believe that a successful athletic program includes dedicated coaches and staff, active support from the student body, leadership opportunities, and most importantly, a great sense of pride fostered by the entire community,” said Coach Laws. “The athletic program should be steeped in rich experiences that teach athletes to play hard, play fair, dedicate themselves to be the best they can possibly be every day, and have fun! These important life values will serve our girls well beyond the gates of Madeira’s campus.”

This year the Athletics Department has made the leadership programming more intentional and has made it an opportunity available to all students. In addition to daily traditional practices and training, athletes step away from the fields and workout rooms once a week to participate in mindful leadership discussions. They work with Madeira staff and outside experts on achieving the athletic core values, commitment, positive mistake response, and gratitude. The goal of these talks is to create better players, teammates, and leaders. 

During the weekly leadership Zoom sessions, students break into groups and discuss several prompts/questions. Within each group, the athletes utilize the prompts for personal reflection and growth (positive mistake response). 

“I like how decisive and introspective this program is!” said Sarah Abara ’21. “Through small group conversations, the program teaches us to dig deep within ourselves and connect with our team as if we are one big family.” 

The Athletics Department has also partnered with Heidi Lewis, a successful field hockey coach with a passion for helping athletes realize their potential. Coach Lewis is currently the Director of Operations for Beyond Sticks Field Hockey and is the USA Women’s Field Hockey National Masters Player/Coach.

“After talking with Coach Lewis, and learning about her coaching background and experiences, it was clear that she was a professional that we wanted to introduce to our athletes,” said Coach Laws. “She brings a wealth of leadership and player development knowledge to the table and we are excited to have her working with our program.” 

Students aren’t simply going through the motions; they already understand the lasting value of what they are learning and how it will impact them in the future. Senior Emelia Marshall has used the leadership program to get out of her comfort zone and plans to use her leadership skills after graduation.

“I wouldn't be who I am without the leaders that came before me. The field hockey and lacrosse captains my first years at Madeira showed me what it meant to ‘sweep the shed’ (put in the work, no matter who you are), and they encouraged me to go beyond my comfort zone,” said Emelia. “With their support, I have been able to do things I never thought possible. I want to be that for someone else, and I hope to bring that experience to everyone I meet beyond Madeira as well. This program gives me the tools I need to step out into the real-world and lead. Emphasizing the concepts of positive mistake response and growth mindset in the athletics program remind me to utilize these skills in all aspects of my life, which ultimately make me a better player and person.”  

Oliva Carnot ‘21 admits to feeling uncertain of her leadership abilities at first, but as she progressed through the program, she’s learned to embrace the lessons she learned.

“When I first heard of the leadership program at Madeira, I was hesitant to go because I never really thought of myself as a top-level athlete or a leader on the team,” said Olivia. “A fellow friend and teammate convinced me to go one day and I learned that leadership is not just for athletes but for everyone. The leadership program at Madeira has taught me lessons that have helped me in everyday life and I have found my place and role in each team, community, or class I am in and I am forever grateful for the values I have gained.” 

The Madeira leadership program has allowed students to focus and succeed in goals and values that will last them well beyond any gameday win and their days at Madeira. The Athletic Department and the entire Madeira community are committed to the ongoing success of the program and can’t wait to see how the program evolves.

“I believe that developing athletes of great character is equally, if not more important, than any win you could ever gain,” said Coach Laws. “Teaching young athletes how to win at life and overcome any challenge they are presented with is a true victory.”