Chong Talks About Leadership Conference Experience

June 30, 2009

In late May, senior-to-be Laura-Ann Chong spent several days in Orlando at the Walt Disney World Coronado Springs Resort to attend the NCAA Student-Athlete Development Conference. Chong was OSU's lone representative in 2009 at the prestigious leadership conference. Recently, the 2009 All-Pac-10 selection took time to talk about her experiences in Florida.

Rumor has it you spent some time at Disney World this spring. What did you get to do?
'We actually didn't get to go see any of the attractions. The only attraction that we got to see was Disney's Wide World of Sports which was really cool because we got to go out onto the fields and it was really huge. Our last day we were there we went and had like a really big relay race where we practiced the leadership skills that we learned at the conferences and we got to apply those. So it was really neat. The whole conference was split up into colored teams and I was on the green team and then we ended up winning. At first we were two stations behind in the whole relay and everything but once we got to cartwheels I managed to pull ahead. So yeah, it was really cool.'

How did you get selected to this?
'Actually Linda Johnson sent me an email saying that I was one of the four athletes at Oregon State to be nominated for it. I thought it was really cool that I was nominated, it felt like an honor. We had to write an application paper and it basically explained why we are unique and why we should be chosen and what the conference would mean to us if we went. I contacted (former OSU gymnast) Yuki Lamb because she went a couple of years ago and I got some advice about what she wrote in her paper. A few weeks later Linda emailed me and informed me that I had been accepted.'

You were the only one from Oregon State that went?
'Yeah I was the only one. It was a little bit scary at first because I didn't really know anyone there. Coming out of high school I actually went to a leadership conference for the Global Young Leaders and it was in Europe for two weeks and I didn't know anyone there either so I think it helped that I had that previous experience and also just being a few years older.'

What did you do while you were there?
'There were a bunch of speakers that came and talked to us. Two of them were from the Army and they talked about student well being and attention controls and energy management and how to stay true to yourself and make sure you get the most out of everything you're doing. There were a few other workshops where we did stuff like personal branding, so how to network and how to sell you.

'We also worked in our smaller groups, the whole conference had over 630 student-athletes there so we had to break down into smaller teams of about 50 people. Then each team broke down to A, B, C, and D, groups so you broke down into those groups so you could have a little bit more intimate session. We spent most of the first day getting to know each other and finding out what your values were.

'Before we went to the conference we had to fill out a work sheet and work booklet where we listed our most important values or what we thought they were. We also had to interview six other people and get their views on us. You had to do two teammates, two other people who knew you, a coach and an administrator. You had to ask them what makes me a good leader in your eyes. What are my weaknesses? How does that effect what I do on the team? It was really interesting to get that feedback. So we worked with those answers the first day.

'One of the other days we broke up to discuss and try to find answers to four critical issues that are having a dramatic impact on the NCAA. The four issues were sportsmanship, diversity, student-athlete well-being, and substance abuse. So when we got there we had to choose which one you wanted to talk about and I went into the diversity one mainly because I've had to deal with it coming from Canada. It was really interesting to hear what other people have had to deal with at their own schools and also to share my own stories. Once you were in the conferences you got to talk about what diversity meant to you.

'We also broke up into three different assignments. One group would build posters. Another group would write out this letter or kind of like an announcement that they would publish and the last one was a public service announcement where we actually got to do a commercial. I did the commercial which was really fun because we only had 15 minutes or so to come up with an idea, come up with a slogan, and also to film within that time so it was really stressful but it was really fun. They'll take all of those ideas back to the NCAA office and try to come up with ideas for new commercials and how to promote that stuff for next year. It's really cool that they're going to take our influences and our ideas from that. That was mostly what we did.'

What was your commercial about?
'What we did was take the word `diversity' and break it up into each letter, there were quite a few people in our group so there were two or three people to a letter, and we came up with a little slogan or a few words that started with that letter. My group's letter was `R' so our part of diversity was representing everyone. Then at the very end we came up with a big slogan that was really cool, I don't really remember it off the top of my head. It was really cool. It was neat to see how things came together and I'm excited to see what they do with it for next year.'

Were you supposed to come back to Oregon State and tell all the student-athletes what you learned?
'A lot of the people who were there were on their committees at their school so one day we broke up by Divisions (Division I, Division II, etc.) to talk about issues that surround your division. We broke up into SAAC (Student-Athlete Advisory Committee) groups and talked about what was going on with our schools and their groups. What I did was make sure I took a lot of notes because there were a lot of really good ideas going out there like how we can combine Oregon State Athletics with the student body and the community a little bit better. Basically I've already set up a meeting with Mike Miller, who's our new SAAC president for next year (Laura-Ann is also on the executive board for next year), to discuss the ideas that I brought back and I hope to have an executive meeting too. I'll pretty much share what I learned there and then we'll try and figure out what we'll work on for next year.

'One of the ideas that I thought was good that another school has done is to get really involved with the Greek system. With so many budget cuts coming next year, the Greek system, which is huge, along with Athletics could be joined more closely to create a much bigger support system. If we go to their events and support them and they come to our events then we can have a much bigger support system. I think it could be a good idea for both parties, so I'm going to push for that. There were a lot of other ideas that I thought were interesting and helpful.

'It was really interesting to find out what other schools have trouble with that we didn't even think of because they haven't been an issue for me since I've been there.'

What did you enjoy the most?'I guess just meeting the other people who have the same outlook as you and who are aiming for the same goals as you. Obviously everyone who was there was chosen to represent their school and proved to be leaders at their school. It was nice to meet people like that.

'We also took a behavior assessment. It was the DISC assessment and each letter stood for a different behavior. The `D' was dominant. The `I' was influence. The `S' was sensitive and the `C' was conscientious. The concept is to give you a printout of how you behave and how others behave. We could then think about our teammates and it helped to better understand how and why they behave the way they do - because they are whichever letter. So we did a lot of work with trying to figure out how we would behave with this person or how to behave better with that person and understand that. I think that was really interesting because it's all about teams here and you can't have a strong performance unless your team's united. So being able to help get your team more closely bonded with fewer conflicts I think help all of the athletic community.'

Did you figure out what letter you are?
'I was an `I' which stood for influence. The way they described it was interesting because they read out all these different printouts of the letters and they also list out your strengths in other letters so I was a really strong `I' that meant that I like to influence people and I like to inspire them which is really true. I like to hear other inspirations. So that was really interesting and when I was reading my whole write-up I was like this is 95% me. It was interesting to see how accurate it was. It also said I like to have a good time and am really colorful and creative so it was a lot of fun. Most of the people at the conference were `I's' and some `D's' so it was nice.'

Did you think you were going to be an `I' before you took that?
'Yeah, once I listened to it I was pretty sure I was going to be an `I'.'

Will you be able to bring what you learned back to your gymnastics team or just to SAAC?
'Oh no, I'll defiantly be able to bring it back to my team. Right now it will have to wait because a lot of my teammates have left for a little summer break, but we'll be back together soon and I'm definitely going to figure out a time to express what I learned and what I think we need to work on.'

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