Wellesley’s Department of Physical Education, Recreation and Athletics (PERA) Launches a Program to Prepare Varsity Athletes for Roles Beyond Athletics

student athlete leaders
Photo provided by Julia Monaco ’19
November 8, 2017

Wellesley’s student-athletes have always taken pride in the hours of physical training they put into preparing for competition. This fall, the Department of Physical Education, Recreation and Athletics (PERA) is offering them a new type of training program designed to prepare them for life beyond athletics, hosting the inaugural session of LeadBLUE, an athletic leadership academy with an emphasis on programming for first-year student-athletes.

Modeled after similar, highly effective programs at Columbia University, Carnegie Mellon University, and Amherst College, LeadBLUE is designed to teach leadership development and provide educational opportunities while enhancing the quality of team culture, student leadership, and the athletic experience at Wellesley. The program began with a September workshop entitled Leading in Transition. Sessions will run once a month through the school year.

“There are so many leadership lessons that come with being a student-athlete, but for first-year students in college athletics specifically, it is the first time they are out of their comfort zone, doing something familiar, but in new surroundings,” said Lauren Schoenberger, Wellesley’s head lacrosse coach and facilitator of September’s workshop.

Schoenberger, who was involved in implementing a similar program while coaching at Ithaca College, has worked with Phil Jennings, head coach of cross country and track & field, and Rebecca Kimball, Butler Director of Sports Performance and Fitness, to develop LeadBLUE over the last two years.

“We want to teach [our student-athletes] how to be engaged not just with their teams but in other surroundings,” said Schoenberger. “There are a lot of things that are unique to Wellesley, and the hope is that these lessons will help them here but also extend beyond as they move into the workplace.”

The program is the next step for a department whose mission is to help student-athletes achieve their potential while taking a holistic approach to their development.

“I was expecting it to be more lecture-based and informative in a sense of ‘this is what a leader is,’” said Ella Matticks ’21, a first-year soccer player who attended the opening session of LeadBLUE. “It was different because it was a lot more interactive, and you talked in groups and got to see multiple perspectives. It wasn’t that there was just one way to explain leadership or there is one way to go about things, but more that each person has a different perspective. It was more specific toward Wellesley and how first-years were feeling.”

Matticks and 47 other first-year student-athletes attended the first session, whose facilitators included eight members of the Athlete Mentoring Program (AMP). AMPs are upperclasswomen who support incoming first-year student-athletes in their transition to college athletics, fostering a fun and positive environment during a year full of changes. (One of the session’s AMPs was Matticks’ older sister Zoe Matticks ’18, a soccer player.)

“I feel like the point of the session was to show that even a first year athlete coming in can be a leader and feel like they are making an impact on their team or in their sport”

Zoe Matticks, an AMP since her sophomore year, pointed out the positive effect that this program has already had on the athletics community and other leadership roles for student-athletes.

Schoenberger agrees, and she hopes LeadBLUE will continue to facilitate those bonds and opportunities. “We anticipate that the program will only continue to evolve as first-years become sophomores and get involved with other programs like SAAC and as AMPs and help lead in the development of the class that follows,” she said.

Once fully implemented, LeadBLUE will reach 150 first-year and sophomore students annually, as well as 35 student team leaders, members of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and the Athlete Mentor Program, and up to 65 additional students and athletic staff. For more on LeadBLUE programming this fall, visit wellesleyblue.com/leadblue.