Leaders On and Off the Field

Competitive, always-yelling-at-the-referee dads and encouraging, it-is-all-about-having-fun moms both have it wrong —- the most important part about playing sports is what it can teach your kids. For example, children will learn about friendship when bonding with teammates, responsibility from showing up on time and having good attitudes whether they score their first goal or lose a game. At Leadership Prep School (LPS) Frisco, sports instill one more thing in its players: how to be leaders. 

LPS is a charter school that is currently in its eighth year. Here, students are taught about leadership, values, history, ethics, arts, music, communication and creativity. The mission of LPS is “to inspire students to learn, grow and lead for a lifetime.” This is done through five key areas: parent partnership, leadership development, academics, creativity and excellence. The school has two campuses, the elementary campus for Kindergarten through fourth grade and the secondary campus for students from fifth to eleventh grade, both of which are located on Teel Parkway in Frisco. 

A variety of sports for boys and girls are offered at LPS, including cross country, volleyball, basketball, soccer, golf and track. Although the sports program is only five years old, the LPS Lions have already competed in the Texas Charter School Academic and Athletic League (TCSAAL) for three years. “Our program is unique because we are not as heavily funded as the Frisco ISD, yet our athletes have won quite a bit of silverware — come see our trophy case!” says Thomas Blankenship, the LPS athletic director. “The 2018-2019 school year will also be our first to compete in TCSAAL in varsity, with volleyball and basketball.”

However, the main thing that sets LPS’s sports program apart is its focus on leadership. All coaches at LPS work to emphasize leadership and sportsmanship on the court and field, while also making sure students focus on academics first. During the interview process for coaches, Mr. Blankenship goes over the “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey (be proactive; begin with the end in mind; put first things first; think win-win; seek first to understand, then to be understood; synergize; and sharpen the saw) because LPS’s charter is based on these principals. As a “Leader in Me”-based school, LPS uses the seven habits to emphasize a culture of student empowerment and sets students up for success. 

This unique approach is reflected in LPS’s coaches’ attitudes, as they are equally excited about encouraging students as they are about winning. “I love the culture LPS instills in their athletes and the opportunity I have to inspire and motivate them,” says Christyn Gossett, a coach at LPS. “It is truly an honor to take a program that is so young and use my gift to teach them leadership, teamwork and self-worth.” 

This is Ms. Gossett’s third year at LPS and second year of coaching the girls’ middle school basketball team, cross country and track. Last year, her cross country and track team made it to state. “I see great things in our future at LPS. I truly find joy in coaching,” says Ms. Gossett. “Watching an athlete overcome their biggest struggle, whether that be a layup, a mistake on the court or a grade, is my favorite part of my job,” she explains. “It is not always the success that motivates me, but the growth students go through that I truly find joy in.”

Although classes and grades are important, LPS often focuses on “teaching culture over curriculum,” according to Ms. Gossett. This means students think about not only what they can bring to the court, but also what they bring to the team. This philosophy also spills through to their personal lives as well. One student, Carley Thornton, was recently appointed to the Junior Leadership Board for KidSwing, a nine-hole scramble golf tournament for kids helping kids that raises money for Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children (TSRHC). Funds raised from the tournaments held in Dallas, Trophy Club and Frisco, will be used to build a playground for patients and their siblings at the new TSRHC campus in Frisco opening in October 2018. 

As part of the Junior Leadership Board, Miss Thornton met monthly with other board members to decide on benchmark prizes, soliciting sponsorships from local companies, choosing shirts, hats and bags for golfers, recruiting kids to play in the tournament and more. She became interested in giving back through KidSwing because it combined her love of golf and TSRHC. She has previously received treatment for dyslexia and had physical therapy at TSRHC campuses, and her twin sister also attended the hospital when she had a concussion. Miss Thornton is also passionate about golf, and in a recent middle school state competition, she received third place in the individual category and first place in the team category with her LPS team. 

This year, Miss Thornton was personally able to secure $1,000 for the tournament — $700 more than last year, when she played in KidSwing for the first time. She also recruited two different teams to play alongside her in the tournaments. “Carley has a passion for helping patients at Scottish Rite Hospital,” says Christy Liles, the director of special events for TSRHC. “Her hard work and dedication to our KidSwing Golf Tournament has made a big impact on the Frisco community. She truly fulfills the KidSwing mission of kids helping kids.” 

Graham Holmes, a junior at LPS, contributes to the local community in a different way. At school, he runs cross country, plays soccer and has been captain of the basketball team for two years. “I like playing sports for LPS because it is a fun way to keep me in shape,” says Mr. Holmes. “Also, it is a small school, and we are like family. I enjoy playing sports with my friends and cheering them on.” 

When he is not playing sports, he is busy as an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America. “As an Eagle Scout, helping other people is a staple of who I am,” he shares. “I volunteer whenever I get the chance.”

Right now, the athletic future remains uncertain for LPS students. After all, the first graduating class will not be until 2020. But, like Mr. Holmes and Miss Thornton, most of the students are planning on transferring to four-year universities, where Mr. Blankenship has his fingers crossed that many will continue to play sports. Of course, the most important thing is that young adults who leave LPS will hold on to the lessons of hard work, commitment, friendship, volunteering and leadership that the athletic programs at LPS have given them. If they can do that, then they can achieve anything life brings their way in the future. 

For more information on LPS, visit
www.lpsfrisco.com or go to www.kidswing.org for more about KidSwing.

Sydni Ellis is a freelance writer and mom to an always energetic 8-month-old boy. She loves drinking coffee, traveling with her husband and capturing the beauty of the world through words. 

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