Brandon's Blog: An Unforgettable Leadership Trip

May 27, 2012

University of Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon will regularly offer his view on a variety of topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. All his posts, along with links to related content, will be available on his page,, and he is also on Twitter at @DaveBrandonAD.

If you have great athletes on a team, a coach just doesn't send them out and tell them to play. A coach teaches.

The coach teaches better techniques, a clearer understanding of the game, and/or many other nuances of the sport. The coach inspires the team to accomplish the desired results. The coach is the leader...and the teacher.

Coaches always talk about the need for the players to lead. In college, senior leadership is a common sound bite in any coach's message. But good coaches understand how the leadership skills those student-athletes will gain through their athletic experiences will positively impact their lives way beyond their playing days. And, we are blessed to have many good coaches at Michigan Athletics!

This past week, a group of seniors from our Football Team 133 volunteered to take a trip to the West Coast that will have a dramatic impact on their lives. This event was more than just a leadership seminar; it was also a lesson in life skills.

It was the Michigan Football 2012 Leadership trip to San Diego led by Associate Athletic Director Greg Harden and U-M Weight and Conditioning coach Aaron Wellman. It might seem to be a long way to go for a leadership session, but it was an opportunity to learn from and interact with the Navy Seals; it was an educational aspect of these student-athletes' career they will long remember.

The over-arching goal of the trip was to further develop senior leadership.

Coach Brady Hoke provides direction and is the inspiration behind many of our football program's leadership initiatives. In all the years Brady has been coaching, he has invested heavily in leadership development. All of the teams he has coached have participated in workshops and leadership seminars -- some he facilitates himself. This trip was an extension of Team 133's leadership education.

Training sessions, guest speakers, and leading a youth football camp for underprivileged kids were just a small part of what these student-athletes did for three days.

The program took these seniors and created an experience to test and get the best out of their leadership skills. And what better way to do it than listen and work with the incredible Navy Seals.

They were exposed to an elite organization comprised of leaders who are truly battle tested. These Navy Seals put their lives on the line to defend and protect our country. You can't help but be inspired by people who do more than just talk about leadership and determination -- and how they have to work as a team not just to win a game but to accomplish their mission and get out alive.

I can't overstate the value of this opportunity for our senior leaders to spend some time around these special individuals who refine and hone their bodies and minds in a way that transcends what most people can even comprehend.

Mental toughness is so important in life. As each of our senior student-athletes prepare for life after football, their next challenge will require the same kind of toughness they display on the football field. To win in football, or more important, in life -- you have to be tough and you have to understand the importance of working with others. Teamwork on the football field wins games. Teamwork when you are a Navy Seal saves people's lives. Our guys learned a lot!!

The timing of this trip also gave our seniors a chance to thank the Navy Seals for their service to our country. The trip took place just prior to the Memorial Day weekend -- a weekend when every one of us should give thanks and remember those who sacrificed their lives for our country.

Thank you to the Navy Seals who provided our Michigan seniors such a special experience! And, thank you to the all of the members of our armed services and their families -- past and present -- for their service to our country.

Go Blue, Go USA!

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