Stacey Dales

The Extraordinary Senior Leader

by Stacey Dales February 13, 2009 in Women's Basketball

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Four years later.  For some, like it was for me, five and feeling ancient, even though at times, still just a baby.  You’re a senior in college, and a great one at that.  Why are you great?  You’re great because you’ve got that special something.  You’ve become the one that others looks up to when they need guidance, and the one they look down on when things don’t go as planned.  You’ve earned that responsibility.  Get used to it—you should have by now.  You, are a senior in college—you, are a leader.  What an honor it truly is!

Leadership has become a part of your mantra.  You were born with it, and it was instilled in you over the years through sweat and sore muscles and a tired mind—through highlighters and binders and keyboards.  Leadership is tied to your internal make-up, the raw energy, the quick thinking, and the emotional reserves surging through you when you need it most. These ingredients are part of a recipe that makes you great. 

There are few so privileged to have what you have—an innate presence that others outwardly fish for, but can never quite get their hook into.  And so, they follow you upstream, over the rocks and through the weeds.  They follow when the tides are too strong and the slopes too steep to challenge.  So, you naturally guide them.  There’s no time to take a break, no time to hit the off switch—your light is always on so others will see.

This is what it means to be an extraordinary, senior leader—you must always be ‘on’.  Taking it a step further, leadership is driven by your heart and character, even when no one is watching. Your own personal adversities, and what you do when you’re alone, will be major contributors towards being the best.  This habit of excellence, which becomes a practiced way of life, will influence others to follow your example.  And, while some leaders may be loud and some may be silent, the result always transcends the limits. 

Through this personal dedication will come confidence. Confidence becomes enshrined in your character, the essence of who you are, and your unique presence grows like a spreading vine. Your internal fiber continues to mold everything that you do and touch.  Your extraordinary tactfulness is felt in every aspect of your college life.  You become competitive on and off the playing field, and especially, in the classroom.  Your leadership presence is felt by not only your team and classmates, but the entire community that surrounds you.  What an honor it is, to be you, a leader.

I can share these sentiments now, because they so vividly reflect my own experience at the University of Oklahoma.  Developing into a leader and captain of a basketball program previously thought to be doomed for failure, was a key life experience in shaping my personal growth.  From tearing my Anterior Cruciate Ligament just a minute into my first game as a Freshman, to five o’clock morning preseason workouts, to missing my family over 1500 miles away, to helping to build a program that recruited me and others from humble beginnings, the leadership component of my life was spawned and subsequently, flourished. 

It wasn’t until I became a senior at Oklahoma that I realized how much I’d grown into the person that was always dormant within. The combination of my work ethic in contributing to a Final Four, my devotion to those around me, and my keen focus on academics, carried me into post-college life bristling with confidence and ambition.

Being a key spoke-in-the-wheel in helping to guide and represent a top Division I program is a uniquely rewarding feeling.  It feeds your desire to be better and it fuels others’ desire to walk with you.  It is something at the end of the day that you can never lose, even through the lows that we refer to as adversity.  So, for those that have made the choice through personal commitment, be grateful, be eager, be aware—for you are what it means to be extraordinary—a leader.