Southern University Games: Edition One: How university students can “Be the Influence”

University students at the Be The Influence workshop get creative (photo: Davis Harrigan)
University students at the Be The Influence workshop get creative (photo: Davis Harrigan)

(This article was first seen here, for Australian University Sport)

Australian University Sport (AUS) hosted the third of five leadership workshops for university students on Wednesday.   The workshop was held at the Australian Catholic University (ACU), Melbourne campus, involving 45 students, team captains and a number of university staff who will be attending the 2014 Southern University Games in Wodonga next month.

Tackling the major issue of responsible alcohol consumption, and reducing high risk or negative behaviour among the university cohort, the workshop activities focused on equipping the students with strategies to provide leadership and teamwork, both individually and collaboratively.

These students are the leaders or managers of teams, organising equipment, uniforms and other items that will benefit the squad come competition time.  Additionally, mentoring and guiding the first year students is another aspect of the job.

This is the second year that AUS has run the workshop series nationally, attracting a bigger audience and more participation from team managers and students this year.

The first task of the workshop required groups of students, who prior to attending the workshop were unfamiliar with each other, to use 50 straws and a role of sticky tape to construct an object, using creativity.

Taking voting honours for the day was a group who created a “stubbie/longneck” design, highlighting the importance of monitoring the amount of alcohol which is consumed, and how it can often be difficult to keep track of what a “standard” drink is.  Underlying all of the designs created was the significance of taking care of teammates, whether they are from the same university or another competing team.

Stephanie Hough from Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) came in to present a session on the applications of leadership, and how businesses, brands and “captains” can take charge of their personal brand or profile and successfully present what they want to be known for to everyone in their circle, including potential employers.

Beginning in just under four weeks, the Southern University Games represents a major opportunity for these students to be role models in front of their teams and sporting community.  One of the resounding themes to arise from the group discussions was that a positive and strong team culture has the ability to create a bond between all players.  Such a bond usually results in everyone having a positive event experience on and off-field.

Hough emphasised the beneficial involvement that PWC has had in the Be the Influence Program since the organisation came on board.

“I think it’s been fantastic for PWC to get involved to help develop young leaders, and I think that’s what AUS is all about, bringing together the sports captains, who have identified leadership potential.”

Some of the creative straw contraptions (photo: Davis Harrigan)
Some of the creative straw contraptions (photo: Davis Harrigan)

Having students engaged in such a program is an important driver in confidence and increasing personal skills, Hough said.

“For PWC to be able to talk to the students about the importance of personal brand, it’s been really important and valuable for me as well.

Many of the student leaders at the workshop are now looking at prospective employment in their chosen courses, and Hough declared she would like to see the partnership with AUS strengthen into the future.

“I think PWC have a lot to give this particular program.  There’s really nice linkages between the types of students that come through the Be The Influence program, and the types of students PWC end up recruiting.

“I think it’s important that we try to develop the potential in our leaders…not just for them individually, but for them to help and motivate and inspire their team.”

One concept that was presented was The Golden Circle, by Simon Sinek.  The idea is that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.  As a leader, by communicating your “why first” – whether that be leading a team or promoting a product – rather than “what”, it makes your message more inspiring to others.

This group of student leaders were encouraged to establish clear goals and team agreements around what is acceptable behaviour for their teams prior to attending the event, and go into the competition with a positive mindset and united squad.  With almost two thousand students attending Southern University Games, there will be plenty of opportunities for the students to put their newly acquired leadership strategies into play.

Davis Harrigan is a La Trobe University Sports Journalism student working with Australian University Sport at Southern University Games. Follow him on Twitter: @Davis_Harr


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