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Robert C. Witman Leadership Academy

Leading with Commitment, Confidence, Composure, and Character

Launched in the fall of 2016, the Robert C. Witman Leadership Academy is the centerpiece of our intentional work to develop our student-athletes beyond the arena of competition. The Academy is named for Bob Witman, who served as Country Day's head football coach for 25 years before retiring from that position following the 2014 season. He continues to work in our program as an assistant track and field coach.

Janssen Sports Leadership Center

The Academy is administered in partnership with the Janssen Sports Leadership Center, a group that has been at the forefront of leadership development for student-athletes for the past two decades. Jeff Janssen and his team of facilitators have worked with over 250 schools and colleges around the world to deliver programming in the areas of leadership, team building, mental toughness, and coaching. Their leadership academies at some of the nation’s top colleges have set the standard for leadership education in college athletics and we were one of the Center's first secondary schools to adopt their programming.

Program Goals

The goals of the Leadership Academy are to:

  • Present our student-athletes with various theories of leadership.
  • Assist our student-athletes in the identification and development of their own leadership styles.
  • Provide our student-athletes with safe spaces to practice their leadership skills.
  • Help our student-athletes employ leadership skills within the context of their teams.
  • Encourage our student-athletes to extend their leadership beyond athletics.

Program Structure

Participating student-athletes spend their first year in the Emerging Leaders program, which focuses on developing self-leadership and leadership of teammates through individual interactions. They then graduate to the Veteran Leaders program, where they learn how to be vocal leaders and build healthy, team cultures. Graduates of the Veteran Leaders program are eligible to participate in a new Student-Athlete Leadership Council.

The principle we've learned that has stayed with me the most is the concept of leading by example. I've learned to stop, think, and evaluate before I handle a situation.

SophiE Francis '19, founding member of the Robert C. Witman Leadership Academy
committed to swim at the University of California, San Diego


The Curriculum is designed to develop four aspects of leadership that are key to strong individual and team performance in sports: commitment, confidence, composure, and character. Six classroom sessions over the course of the year include lectures, discussions, and activities that introduce theories and practical applications related to these four topics.

The program teaches you how to deal with adversity, evaluate your role on your team, handle yourself in tense situations, and several other key aspects of being a successful leader. I definitely take it very seriously.

Tyler Rigot '19, founding member of the Robert C. Witman Leadership Academy
committed to play baseball at Bucknell University

2017-18 Program Participants

John Archer '20 Emma Hatlem '20 Susan Richards '20
Johnny Bingham '20 Will Jeffries '19 Sadie Riddell '20
Mary Thompson Charlebois '19 Nick Kleiderer '20 Ash Sharma '19
Josiah Connors '19 Kate Kosmicki '20 Parker Shelton '19
Quentin Cooper '20 Emily LaFar '19 Thomas Shields '20
Emily Cory '19 Alfred Letts '19 Will Shircliff '19
Arden Davies '20 Elle Lewis '20 Brenden Slomka '19
John Demas '19 Christopher Manzano '20 Katie So '20
Elizabeth Edwards '19 Sarah Martin '20 Sophie Spada '20
Kyle Evans '20 Will Martin '19 Matthew Story '19
Twan Flip '20 Erin McCollum '20 Ellie Sutker '20
Adrien Gergouil '20 Rylan McLaurin '19 Sarah Swank '20
Clarkson Graham '20 Connor McPhilliamy '20 Charlie Veronee '20
Cameron Grainger '20 Triston Miller '19 Charlotte Vogel '20
Kennedy Grier '20 Margaret Moseley '20 Caitlyn Waters '19
Kate Harbrecht '19 Stephen Payne '20 Stokes Yarbrough '19
William Harris '20 Elizabeth Redvanly '19  



“Our athletics program is one of the many vehicles we have at our disposal in schools to develop the leadership capacity of our students. Using sports for this purpose has the distinct advantage of presenting them with real-life situations that require them to immediately translate leadership theory into practice. We think of the on-the-field experience as our leadership laboratory; our Leadership Academy provides the classroom instruction necessary to make that lab experience more intentional.”

Abe Wehmiller, Director of Athletics