Student-Athlete Leadership Council unifies SLHS sports


Kishore Annambhotla

During the monthly meetings, student representatives and teachers find ways to improve the unification of sports at SL.

Kishore Annambhotla, Editor-In-Chief

Once a month, representatives from every sport at Southern Lehigh High School gather in the board room to discuss leadership and individual development. These representatives comprise the SLHS Student-Athlete Leadership Council, led by Athletic Director Mr. Marc Zimmerman, and the Positive Coaching Alliance.

“The formation of the council has given our student-athletes a forum to work with each other and bounce ideas off of each other,” Mr. Zimmerman said. “It’s been a great opportunity for me to be hands-on with student-athletes, and it’s been a great experience.”

Several years ago, Mr. Zimmerman led a student-athlete leadership program in his former position at Emmaus High School. Pleased by the program’s success, he founded the SLHS Student-Athlete Leadership Council in 2018, his second year as athletic director. However, the involvement of the PCA was a result of sheer coincidence.

“One of the [PCA’s] sales representatives, Brandon Whiting, was a linebacker for the Eagles. He lives in Coopersburg,” Mr. Zimmerman said. “So, he cold called me because he lived in the community, and it all just kind of happened at the same time.”

The Positive Coaching Alliance is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching student-athletes about sportsmanship and healthy coaching relationships. Through online workshops and presentations, the council allows students to speak with experienced coaches and athletes about various topics, including emotional maturity, inclusivity, and positive communication. However, to Mr. Zimmerman, the most significant selling point of working with the PCA was its wide-reaching target audience.

“It was a program that worked with all stakeholders. It provides a kind of a common language for everyone to work with,” Mr. Zimmerman said. “A lot of the things that are talked about with athletes are talked about with parents and coaches when we have those meetings as well. It just gives everyone a common vision.”

The Student-Athlete Leadership Council consists of over 40 student-athletes representing every sport at SLHS. However, students are also allowed to rise among their peers and become, in Mr. Zimmerman’s words, the “leaders of the leaders.” So far, two students have stepped up to lead the council’s monthly meetings: junior swimmer Brianna Wasem and senior lacrosse player Elias Dunham.

For these students, the most essential aspect of the leadership council is the universal concepts it teaches.

“Regardless of the sport you play, the concepts and the goals are still the same. For example, we have all experienced a tough loss in a game,” Wasem said. “We talk about coping strategies on how to handle that loss and how we can handle it better in the future.”

Mr. Zimmerman hopes to continue appointing council leaders and expanding the program, transforming the SLHS Student-Athlete Leadership Council into a fully-fledged, student-led organization. The process is a work in progress, but Mr. Zimmerman is confident in his students’ skills.

“They are certainly dedicated to their academics and athletics side of things,” Mr. Zimmerman said. “The purpose of high school sports is to be better athletes and better people; that’s why they are where they are.”