ILR Student Athletes

Leadership skills developed through Division 1 sports
ILR Student Athletes
Thursday, November 1, 2012

Nick D'Agostino '13, a defenseman on Cornell's ice hockey team, has been drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins and plans to become a lawyer following his pro hockey career.

Anjelique Parnell '14, who runs women's indoor/outdoor track, holds the record for third-best long jump in Cornell history. After graduation, she hopes to work in training and development for a large corporation.

Although their sports and academic pursuits are very different, these ILR student athletes have both seen how leadership in sports translates to leadership in the classroom, and vice versa.

"Along with the analytic work we do, ILR puts an emphasis on teamwork, developing leadership and people skills," Parnell says. "I've learned how to develop talent, how to lead and how to work in teams."

"When you're a leader in sports, you learn to put yourself in other people's shoes and make decisions in the best interest of the team," says D'Agostino, who is team captain.

"In the classroom, you can be a leader in small ways—by speaking up or invoking participation. That's what I've tried to do in my years here."

According to Kevin Harris, ILR's associate director of student services, student athletes often end up in leadership positions once they graduate.

"Through competition, they've learned grace under pressure," he says. "They're good at meeting deadlines; they're good at adjusting to changing tactics to meet a goal or achieve a win-win situation; they're good at rallying other people around them and building their team."

As student athletes on an Ivy League campus, D'Agostino and Parnell have also learned the importance of time management.

"Division I sports are very time consuming," says Parnell, who practices three-and-a-half hours a day, is a resident assistant in a dormitory and works two days a week at Student Disability Services.

"You have to know how to prioritize, because although academics come first, you also want to be a top performer, especially in an individual sport."

In addition to playing sports, many ILR students are interested in the sports industry—an interest they and other Cornell students nurture through ILR's Sports Business Society.

Formerly known as the Sports Management Club, the group brings industry speakers to campus. They include ILR alumni such as Gary Bettman '74, commissioner of the National Hockey League, and Tracy Dolgin '81, president and CEO of the YES Network.

The group meets weekly, maintains a blog, hosts a weekly radio show and produces Sports Inc., a magazine. Every semester, members attend at least one major sports conference.

Harris, who has reviewed ILR admissions applications for the past decade, has witnessed applicants' growing interest in the industry, as well as their desire to be involved with the sports business organization.

He attributes that interest to the skill set developed by ILR students.

"By virtue of the curriculum, they get a good idea of how to run an organization effectively," he says. "These skills, along with the grounding they receive in collective bargaining, arbitration, negotiation, economics and the crucial relationship between labor and management, are directly applicable to the sports industry."