Lake Norman & Mooresville

Davidson Day coach wants to teach leadership

Davidson Day basketball coach Jennifer Shiley wants to shape young female athletes into strong leaders on the court as well as off.

That's why the 32-year-old English teacher is offering a new camp this summer that she describes as "unlike anything else in the area."

The one-week camp, called Young Elites, will bring together high-performing female athletes in several sports from across the region.

"We'll use sports to help them develop leadership and team-building skills that will help them succeed and move forward in life," she said.

Davidson Day will host the camp, although it's not directly involved with the camp's planning.

On the first three days of the camp, she plans three-hour sessions where participants will hear from recognizable sports figures in the community.

Guest speakers will discuss how athletics helped shape them as well as answer questions from participants, said Shiley. She didn't want to identify the speakers because no one has been confirmed yet.

On the fourth and fifth days of the camp, participants will split into two teams and compete in a variety of sports for 24 hours straight.

"The beauty of that will be that the girls may not be as comfortable playing in other sports as they are with their usual sport," said Shiley. "It forces athletes to build on that weakness by using each other and seeking encouragement."

Sue Grabowski, whose daughter was the manager for the girls varsity basketball team last year, is helping Shiley plan the camp.

"We see this as a tremendous opportunity for these young women," said Grabowski. "They're going to learn what it means to be on a winning team. They're going to learn skills that will help them successfully navigate through life."

Shiley teaches her student athletes important life lessons every day on the court, said Emmy Roberts, a sophomore on the school's varsity basketball team.

"She's always telling us to always work hard and never give up on anything," said Roberts.

Roberts said Shiley will often use the analogy of a fist fight. When a hand is spread out, it's not useful in a fight. "That's why you have to bring it together into a fist. As a team, we have to come together if we're going to win," she said.

Roberts also said that Shiley has helped her become a more confident athlete and person.

"She's just a lot of fun to be around. You can definitely talk to her about anything," Roberts said.

The camp will be free for its 30 to 50 participants.

Shiley waived the camp fee for its inaugural year. And an anonymous donor paid for all participants' $25 application fee, she said.

She plans to charge participants next yeart. Shiley will set the camp fee for next year based on total expenses this year.

"These athletes are going to be taken out of their comfort zone and pushed to the limits," said Shiley. "Once they've gone through something as exhausting and challenging as that, they'll have new concepts of leadership by the time they leave this camp."