Leadership cues

Rhagen Smith, a junior forward on Indiana State’s women’s basketball team, says she learned a lot about herself at a recent NCAA leadership conference.

Good leaders must be good listeners.

That’s Indiana State University women’s basketball player Rhagen Smith’s biggest takeaway from participating in the 2015 NCAA Student-Athlete Leadership Forum in April.

The junior forward was one of two Missouri Valley Conference representatives taking part in the four-day event in Orlando that included more than 300 participants from all three NCAA divisions.

“We learned a lot about leadership skills and developing our leadership style, and there was a lot of reflection,” Smith said. “They split us into different groups of 25-30 people where we really dug in and discussed issues we were having on our team. Some people were able to solve each other’s problems, and there was a lot of conflict resolution.”

Team-building activities focusing on communication may have had the most impact on Smith.

Rhagen Smith poses with paraolympian April Holmes while at the NCAA Student-Athlete Leadership Forum.

Rhagen Smith poses with paralympian April Holmes while at the NCAA Student-Athlete Leadership Forum.

“Some people weren’t allowed to communicate; we had different stipulations. We played a game called ‘traffic jam’ where you could only move certain directions. You had to constantly be in communication. It was very difficult to do and finally we got it down,” she said.

Already a leader at Indiana State as one of two women’s basketball players on the university’s Student Athletic Advisory Committee, Smith said she is excited at the prospects of implementing some of the leadership skills she has learned with her Sycamore teammates and other students.

“It was a very good learning experience for me. I’m usually the type of person that’s always talking. It was nice and very humbling to just kind of sit there and listen to others and learn,” she said. “I kind of stepped back and re-evaluated my own leadership style, things that I need to work on as a leader. I need to listen more. Whenever I do listen, I’m very understanding, but in order to have people listen to you, you have to be willing to listen to others. That’s the biggest thing I learned.”

Don’t worry, Smith said she will continue to be vocal on the court “to get everyone fired up,” but overall, she plans to be a better listener for her teammates.


Students constructed a memorial to Lauren Hill, a freshman basketball player at Mount St. Joseph University who died from brain cancer.

The leadership forum had a community service component in which Smith’s team took second-place in a “construction” event using cans of food that would be donated to a food pantry. The team constructed a memorial to Lauren Hill, a freshman basketball player at Mount St. Joseph University who died from brain cancer in Cincinnati while the Orlando event was taking place.

The event even lead to a change of career plans for the nursing major.

“Within the weekend I realized that I wanted to stay involved with sports,” she said. “The plan was for me to go on to get my master’s, become a nurse practitioner and work in family practice, but I’ve decided to go into orthopedics. I want to be involved in sports medicine.”

Smith thanked Angie Lansing, assistant athletic director, for nominating her to attend the forum, calling it an “amazing event.”

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