Building Leadership through Sport

Building Leadership through Sport

In our new Upper School FOCUS course, “Leadership & Wellbeing through Sport,” students in Classes 10-12 closely examine the leadership skills necessary – specifically for women – for a career in sports and to excel in a global society. Taught by Associate Director of Athletics Marisa Maccario, the course also covers how one can intertwine a career in this field with disciplines like math, science and technology.

During their initial classes, students discussed the historical context of Title IX and its significance to the evolution of women’s athletics. Students researched various career opportunities within athletics and chose a woman excelling in the industry to do a deeper dive on.

Students’ work in this course is supplemented by guest speakers, the first of whom was Batouly Camara, a former collegiate basketball player for the University of Connecticut, with whom she made three final four appearances, and professional player in Spain. In 2017, Batouly founded Women and Kids Empowerment (WAKE), a nonprofit that “aims to educate, equip and empower young girls through sport, education and social entrepreneurship.” In 2020, she was named to Forbes’ 30 under 30 sports list. She is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Sport Management.

On the afternoon of April 22, Batouly joined the class via Zoom. “Hello, everyone!” she began with a smile. “I was born and raised in NYC, like many of you, but I went to Blair Academy [in New Jersey] for basketball.”

After sharing a bit about her life and love of basketball, Batouly detailed a typical day for her as a college athlete which consisted of workouts, stretches, film, academic classes and practice.

Batouly noted that students gain myriad life skills through sport, like resiliency, leadership, teamwork and confidence, which can directly benefit their education. “Girls show higher rates of academic success when involved with sports,” she remarked.

“Do you have any advice for someone who wants to be play sports in college?” one student wondered.

“You’ve got to be a competitor,” she stated, noting that one should always possess the “three C’s: Condition (you have to be in shape), Confidence (always believe in yourself) and Competitiveness (be motivated).”

Pivoting the discussion to her nonprofit, Batouly said, “I started WAKE in 2017 after the first time I visited Guinea. I held basketball games and every day more and more girls would come.”

“I kept thinking about those girls after I left,” she continued, underscoring that every girl should have access to resources and sports. Ignited with a desire to make a difference, Batouly has since worked with over 700 kids, helped to build two basketball courts in Guinea (she’s currently working on a third), held a women’s tournament (the first of its kind in the country), and met the President of Guinea. WAKE is currently working on the launch for one of the first all-girls elite boarding schools in West Africa.

“What were the challenges in creating WAKE?” another student asked.

“Funding, finding a good team of people and being a young girl,” she shared candidly. Despite people not always taking her seriously, she believed in herself and surrounded herself with people who lifted her up. This, she emphasized, is so important.

To close, Batouly posed a question to the students. “What are your ambitions?” she asked, encouraging the Upper Schoolers to share their dream job or what field they’d like to study. A few responses included sports psychology, behavior economics and a doctor. One student, who’s not entirely sure what she wants to do yet, shared that she’s inspired by her parents who started their own business.

“There are so many niche areas in sports,” Batouly said enthusiastically. From sports/fashion, sports/data, Artificial Intelligence in sports, sports writing, to sports and the environment, she stressed, “Find your creative market and pursue your passions with purpose.”

At the end of the hour, students bid farewell to their guest and offered immense thanks for her time and wisdom.

Batouly Camara