Chapin leadership group teaches skills for success on and off the field

Posted 11/16/23

Chapin football defensive coordinator Ryan Cole had always told his players they needed to be leaders, but one day two years ago, he realized they had never been taught how to do it. 

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Subscribe to continue reading. Already a subscriber? Sign in

Get 50% of all subscriptions for a limited time. Subscribe today.

You can cancel anytime.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Chapin leadership group teaches skills for success on and off the field


Chapin football defensive coordinator Ryan Cole had always told his players they needed to be leaders, but one day two years ago, he realized they had never been taught how to do it. 

Cole felt that their players were not equipped with the tools to understand what it meant to be a true leader, so he went to head coach Justin Gentry with an idea on how to change this. 

Cole, who was a safeties coach at the time, took his six players and started meeting with them to discuss the qualities and responsibilities of a leader. Eventually, those players were asked to invite other players on the team who would benefit from the program. 

Now, the Chapin Athletic Leadership Institute consists of over 90 active members from all of the school’s sports.

“It really makes me happy that, number one, kids want to come and learn, but that it’s grown to where it is now,” Cole said. “They’re inviting other people. They’re finding out that it’s important and they want to embrace it, which just makes me feel good that they are getting an impact, and then it’s disseminating through the team.”

The group meets at 7 a.m. before the school day begins and discusses leadership in sports, business, education and government. The group even met with South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster to hear his thoughts on leadership.

Another way the athletes expand their knowledge in leadership is by participating in book studies. Most recently the group read “The Power of a Positive Team” by Jon Gordon. On Nov. 7 Gordon spoke to the athletes via Zoom. 

“I think everything he said, you could tell how much he cared about it,” soccer player Darcy Ahern said. “I think that hearing about his past and all the challenges and everything that he came from, only makes it more important and makes his message altogether more meaningful.”

During his talk, Gordon emphasized sayings such as “love over fear”, “commitment is key” and “we over me.” 

“I think you can apply that to your family, you can apply that to your team, you can apply that to your classmates,” Cole said. “It’s more servant leadership. It’s more about the we instead of just me and what can I do? It’s we. What can we do together?”

The athletes had the opportunity to ask Gordon their own questions relating to problems that have challenged their team. Players from both girls and boys sports teams posed questions about ego, relationships and success. 

“My biggest takeaway was that I think being able to push through adversity, being able to do that will lead you to become better in all things that you do,” said Griffin Burns, a football player and one of the founding members. 

Cole hopes that the lessons these athletes learn through the institute translate to their lives outside of sports. Gentry said it is important to develop young leaders to create a positive future. 

“We can’t have too many leaders, and right now, we need positive leadership,” Gentry said. There are so many negatives out there and it’s going to take the youth to get it turned around. We’ve got a lot of faith in them, especially our youth here in Chapin.”

The players have given Gentry reason to be faithful. Since the start of the institute, he said he has seen progress. 

“Leadership comes in cycles. You’re going to have some years that are better leaders than others,” Gentry said. “This group right here got a strong foundation of what it’s like to be a leader from a lot of what was discussed starting last year during football season when they started it up.”

The athletes themselves have noticed a change in their overall perspective of leadership and the ways they approach situations.

“I’ve definitely learned to become a better leader, and I think it’s important that you don’t necessarily have to be a vocal leader and be out loud, yelling, doing all that,” Burns said. “If you’re a leader and people see what you’re doing, they’re going to take after you, and so if you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, if you’re leading the right way, people are going to take after you and do it that way.”

Some of the athletes have already begun applying this knowledge to situations outside of the athletic environment. 

“I work at a sandwich shop in Chapin, and leading co-workers to stay on task or get the job done, it’s helped that way too,” football player Brogdon Ambrose said. “Also just not being bossy. I have a younger sister and younger brother. When I ask them to do something, it’s not me yelling at them, it’s us trying to complete a common goal, like cleaning the house, and just trying to get stuff done.”

Both players and coaches are appreciative of the group for what it’s created at Chapin. Even with the already massive growth, everyone wants to see the group continue to expand. 

“I think it’s important because being able to develop leadership skills as a young man, young woman, whatever it may be, I think that’s important for being able to become successful, not only in the classroom and on the field, but, I mean, once we go to college, once we have jobs,” Burns said. “Developing leadership skills now, you won’t have to worry about that later in life.” 


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here