FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Northern Arizona Athletics continues to make its stamp on college athletics as student-athlete Nicole Sherwin had the opportunity to represent NAU among 300 students from Division I, Division II and Division III schools at the recent NCAA Leadership Forum in Orlando, Fla.
Student-athletes selected to attend the Leadership Forum return to campus with invaluable leadership skills, the experience of exploring the relationship between personal values, core beliefs and behavioral styles. Through the understanding of the NCAA as a whole, these different divisional perspectives provide a valuable role of Student-Athlete Advisory Committees (SAAC) all across the country.
"I learned a lot about myself and how to become a better leader," said Sherwin. "I made a lot of really good friends that I still stay in contact with through a Facebook group. I was only there for three days but I feel that I made friends that I will stay in contact with for the rest of my life."
Each conference had two student-athletes represent their respective divisions who were members of their school's SAAC and the athletes were thrown into situations in order to become a better leader. The goal of the forum was designed to place the students in uncomfortable situations, forcing the participants to overcome their fears of being out of their comfort zone.
This opportunity came at the perfect time for Sherwin as she sat out the 2014 soccer season due to an injury. Even though the midfielder was not able to make an impact on the field for the Lumberjacks, Sherwin was able to represent not only the NAU Athletics Department but also the Big Sky Conference.
"The forum was good timing for me because lately I was struggling to find my role as a leader on the team this year," said Sherwin. "I played the last two years but having to sit out this year gave me a whole new perspective on the bench."
With the tools provided at the NCAA Leadership Forum, Sherwin has a new perspective on ways to become a better and more efficient leader not only on the pitch but among her fellow student-athletes.
"I have had to be a leader in a different way and the conference really helped me out," said Sherwin. "At the forum I shared that 'I was going through my third ACL injury' and other athletes said 'No way, I am going through my fifth ACL' and that made me realize that other people are going through the same thing."
Sherwin was able to experience stories from former student-athlete including a particular story from April Homes, who was a sprinter in college whose career came to an abrupt end when she fell between a platform and an oncoming train that she was trying to board and one of her legs was cut off from the accident. That didn't stop Holmes of achieving her dream of being a sprinter as she continued her career by becoming a gold-medalist in the Paralympics.
"The biggest thing I took away was that everyone needs a different leader," said Sherwin. "You have to know your audience and who to yell at or who to reason with. I am able to step out of my comfort zone more and now I can hold myself to a higher standard."
The Leadership Forum, created in 1997, has been a life-changing experience for nearly 5,000 student-athletes, many who have grown personally and professionally, gained a new network of peers and friends, as well as felt the rewards and importance of community service.
Sherwin was recently just elected as the new President of NAU's Student Athlete Advisory Committee and she will look to take these tools that she learned at the forum and apply them in Flagstaff. Sherwin is just another example of Northern Arizona University's student-athletes not only making an impact in their sports but also in their academics and in the community.