Earlier this year, an idea for an award was conceived by Sports Information Director Rob Schabert to recognize deserving student athletes for their intangible abilities to lead their teams on and off the court. The name for this award would become the Unsung Leader Award.
In March, nationally renowned speaker Becky Bedics came to Tech as part of an OVC initiative to increase an emergence of leadership among the athletic department, coaches and players. The Unsung Leader Award was a link that connected the meeting with Bedics to Tech’s student athletes.
The inaugural Unsung Leader Award was given to senior Ellen Conti, a member of Tech’s volleyball team. Despite spending a majority of the season on the sideline due to a shoulder injury, Conti still excelled in leading her team to a spot in the OVC Tournament for the first time since 2010.
“Since I’ve been injured, I can’t show my leadership the way I have the past couple of years,” said Conti. “So I have been doing all I can off the court to lead and encourage my teammates and teach the ones in my position”
Ellen was expecting to be a starter for the team, but instead has proved to play a crucial role in preparing and coaching up the freshmen that are having to step up in her place and has really embraced the position she’s in as a teacher and a “big sister” to her younger teammates.
“During practice and in the huddles I do all I can to offer encouragement and point out all the good things the players are doing so they can focus on getting better,” said Conti. “Having two younger sisters, I have always seen myself as a big sister. Now that I’m a senior, I have an opportunity to be that big sister again.”
According to the proposal for the Unsung Leader Award, someone deserving of the award “will motivate his/her team and teammates to achieve the highest levels of performance everyday.” Also, leaders will be those who “keep learning, growing and improving, follow through with excellence, accomplish more than expected, and inspire and motivate others.”
So far there have been two awards given out, the other recipient being senior Austin Tallant, a safety on the Tech football team. The team’s strength and conditioning coach, Casey Kramer, nominated Tallant. Tallant has shown great leadership on and off the field, especially in the weight room, motivating his teammates.
“Both Ellen and Austin, over their entire careers, have displayed leadership qualities that we desire to see out of our student-athletes here at Tech,” said Schabert.
Ellen was recognized as the September winner of the Unsung Leader Award at the men’s basketball game Nov. 15. Athletic Director Mark Wilson and Tech’s volleyball coach Dave Zelenock were there to present the award to Ellen. Austin, the October winner, will be recognized at the men’s basketball game this Saturday.