MARQUETTE – Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Service Agency held a student athlete leadership conference for the first time this year.

Student athletes from many sports and high schools in the area gathered in the Wildcat Room in the Berry Event Center at Northern Michigan University to learn about how to be a better leader in their school and their community.

“We want them to be the positive leaders that can change kids that are on the fence and pull them with them to the positive side so they’re doing positive things,” said said MARESA educational consultant Charles Yeager.

Four speakers at the conference spoke to the students about how to be a leader. Westwood High School basketball coach Ray Reichel talked about different scenarios and how the students would handle them. The scenarios included hazing, eating disorders, gambling, relationship abuse, discrimination, alcohol, anger, depression, sexual assault and academics.

“All of these scenarios are something that the students could run into as a leader on their team or a leader in their community,” Yeager said.

Each group was given a scenario from each category and they had to discuss how they would handle the situation, if they would step up and if they would tell their coach or a teacher.

“Most of the time as a coach, I don’t know what’s going on outside of practice with the kids unless somebody tells me,” Reichel said as he was speaking to the students. “So if you know what’s going on you can let the coach know and he or she will be able to go a little easier on them during a practice or will be able to talk to them.”

Another exercise that the student had to do was to list the qualities of a good leader. Some of the answers: honesty, trustworthiness, leadership by example, positive attitude and good decision making.

“Each group had to make their own list and it was surprising that they were all very similar, which is really good,” Yeager said.

MARESA asked each school in the area to send six to eight athletes from different sports of their choosing to the conference. The 46 students at the conference were nominated by their coaches and athletic directors.

“One of the reasons we picked athletics is because 60-80 percent of kids in a school participate in athletics,” Yeager said. “That’s a very high percentage, so if we can develop good student leaders in athletics then that will translate to other areas of the school.”

Negaunee High School Senior Clara Churchill, who participates in cross country and track, was one of the students nominated to attend the conference and she said she found it beneficial.

“I feel like I’m more inspired to be a leader now,” Churchill said. “I learned more about the effects of drugs and how to be better at leading my team.”

She said she was hoping for more hands-on activities and groups working together, but she would still suggest it as something other students should attend.

“I think they would learn a lot and it would be helpful in many ways,” Churchill said. “I think they would learn more about leading and be more conscience about what they eat and do around others.”

Other speaker at the conference included former Northern Michigan University and Michigan Tech University football coach Bernie Anderson and NMU Athletic Director Forrest Karr.

Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243. Her email address is