Striving to be Your Best – Andrea Valentine on Character-Driven Leadership

Strive: How You Lead Matters is a Wilmington, DE based nonprofit that looks to fill the leadership gap growing in high school and college organizations, especially athletics. Their most recent fundraising event is a virtual 5K.

The Strive: How You Lead Matters virtual 5K uses the term “run” loosely. In fact, Strive Fall Festival Virtual 5K participants can walk, bike, or swim to complete the race! Teens and adults from Delaware to New Mexico have registered to participate anytime and anywhere on race day: October 26, 2016.

Read the full original article from Town Square Delaware.

Strive Executive Director Andrea Valentine is excited to see how the race shapes up, and she says it’s all about the spirit of healthy athleticism, discipline and having fun.

Andrea Valentine moved to Delaware in 2015 to join the ranks of Strive’s leadership team.

With 19 years of success and repeat camper customers year after year, Strive is a unique sports/leadership non-profit organization headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware, that Valentine hopes to strengthen and grow in the years ahead.

Town Square Delaware caught up with Valentine as she put the finishing touches on the virtual race-day details.

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Town Square Delaware: Strive has been around for many years — 14 summers, in fact, at St. Andrew’s School. But not everyone is aware of this unique program. Please give us a glimpse into your organization.

Valentine: Strive combines sports and character-driven leadership into a powerful program that develops high school athletes, collegiate athletes and coaches in ways that traditional sports programs do not. We’re all about helping our students become strong, self-aware leaders. Our program actually celebrated its 19th year last summer.

Our residential summer program, Sports Challenge, offers athletic and mental conditioning across three sports disciplines: soccer, lacrosse, basketball. Our days start early with a 7 am dose of “Vitamins,” which is actually speed, strength and agility training before breakfast. The kids really love that early morning workout — they are together toughing it out!tsd-sc-1

Sports Challenge integrates leadership development and sports psychology classes throughout the day – every minute of the program is designed with the student-athlete’s needs at the center.

We were delighted that Town Square Delaware visited the Strive Sports Challenge program at St. Andrews this summer to see first-hand the positive impact our curriculum has on the high school athletes and the incredible coaches who administer our summer program.

Many of our Sports Challenge participants have returned for 3 summers or more, and we are proud that our coaches — all of whom teach courses on leadership and character development — find the program to be gratifying and rewarding.

One of our big areas of focus is reaching kids from underserved communities. The many programs we offer are designed to develop character-based leaders and apply the same rigor of sports training to the practice of leadership.

TSD: Please share a bit about your your personal experiences which have influenced your work with Strive.

Valentine: I am originally from Delaware and graduated from Tower Hill in 1989. I have always been passionate about sports, having played them since I was a young child.  While at Haverford College, I was selected as a Regional All-American goalkeeper on the varsity field hockey team. When I returned to Wilmington after college, I spent 13 years at MBNA America in a wide range of managerial roles.

In 2000, my husband and I moved to Bethesda, Maryland. Shortly after leaving MBNA, I joined Teaching Strategies, a leading curriculum and assessment provider for educators in the birth-through-Kindergarten market. I held a number of positions at Teaching Strategies, eventually assuming the role of Chief Operating Officer in 2009.

The Teaching Strategies team’s commitment and passion for improving the lives of students and support for early childhood educators are some of the values I bring to my role at Strive.

TSD: What are the professional experiences that led you from the halls of a successful banking institution to the soccer fields and basketball gyms of today?

tsd-middle-school-leadership

Valentine: Early in my career, I realized how much I had learned about the practice of leadership through athletics. These experiences taught me the importance of communication, teamwork, energy, grit, empathy…all of the skills employers value and that contribute to building strong cultures in the workplace.

Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to have several excellent mentors who modeled the type of character-driven leadership we teach at Strive. They generated exceptional results by prioritizing the growth and development of their staff, being visible and accessible, and holding their teams to high standards. That approach works equally well when coaching young athletes.

When I met the staff at Strive it all clicked for me. I am thrilled to be in a position that helps others tap into the power of character-driven leadership.

TSD: Do you feel that schools and businesses place an appropriate level of emphasis on leadership training?

Valentine: Schools are under tremendous pressure to produce outcomes that satisfy their high stakes testing requirements. As a result, the development of social and emotional skills like self-regulation and self-efficacy are increasingly viewed as non-essential. Ironically, these skills are essential for students to be better, more engaged learners.

They’re also the skills that employers seek in new employees.

Businesses have constant pressure to generate profits and they often don’t realize that that they’re bypassing steps that cultivate positive values and behaviors. Critical steps like thoughtful communication, collaboration, and mentoring are overlooked while teams chase a short-term win. Yet these often-missing factors are the ones that help companies achieve lasting success.

To get the best results, whether in sports or business, it takes grit – patience and persistence – and teams that are empowered to do their best work on all levels.

TSD: So does Strive help fill in the leadership gap?tsd-sc-2

Valentine: I’d like to think so. We have a fantastic team at Strive. Pam Herath, Strive’s Director of Curriculum and Programming (who recently wrote a whitepaper on the Strive difference), and Jeremy Edwards, Strive’s Delaware-based program manager and co-founder, possess deep expertise in the field of leadership training. They are active in developing customized solutions for our clients, leading workshops, training coaches and other program facilitators, and ensuring that Strive consistently grounds its programs in the best and latest research.

My job is to help more people access our team’s expertise by building capacity within Strive, developing key partnerships, and spreading the word about what Strive can do for schools, teams, coaches, and other organizations. While much of what we do will be Delaware-focused, Strive works with organizations around the country, so we maintain a national network of coaches and facilitators who can meet a wide range of needs.

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