Gathered around the dark wooden tables of Virginia Mason Athletic Center's hospitality suite, local student-athletes listened intently to a panel of Seahawks and CenturyLink executives before them. Parts inspirational and parts humorous, the panel elicited nods of agreement, thoughtful questions, and hearty laughs from the group.
A panel of executives was just a part of the team's 2018 Leadership Summit, honoring this year's High School Athletes of the Week. Nominated by their coaches, teachers, or peers, student-athletes are recognized for their leadership and dedication on and off the field. As a way to kick off this year's Leadership Summit, student-athletes had the chance to not only attend a panel of Seahawks and CenturyLink executives, but attend practice and meet some of their favorite players and coaches.
Many of whom were high school student-athletes themselves, the panel touched on innovation, passion, and the transferability of athletics to the workplace. Speakers included CenturyLink Vice President of Operations Sue Anderson, Applied Sports Scientist Dean Riddle, Senior Vice President of Revenue Amy Sprangers, and Creative Director John Weaver. A three-sport athlete in high school, Sprangers spoke to the great tactics and business leadership skills that were fostered in high school athletics. Growing up on a sheep farm in New Zealand, Riddle advised the group on how his experience made him a hard worker and willing to do anything.
"CenturyLink is very honored to continue to partner with the Seahawks on the High School Athlete of the week program," Anderson said. "The level of persistence, faith, and community involvement that the honorees have is amazing. These kids give shine in so many ways and will undoubtedly go far in all their future endeavors."
Uber-involved in their schools and communities, CenturyLink's High School Athletes of the Week were praised by their nominators for this sentiment exactly – hard work, persistence and a willingness to take on anything. From sports spanning from cross country to football, the recognized student-athletes demonstrated superior academic dedication, community involvement, and athletic performance in their sport.
Each CenturyLink High School Athlete of the Week was rewarded with a $1,000 donation to their school's Athletic Department, an in-school presentation, a custom Seahawks jersey, and game tickets – just to name a few.
Kingston High School senior Leif Whalen expressed his excitement for the Leadership Summit and the experience at VMAC as a football player himself. As captain of the football team, Leif values hard work and community service. The honor of being selected as Athlete of the Week "reinforces giving back to the community - everyone should do something similar," Leif says.
In honor of their incredible achievements, the CenturyLink High School Athlete of the Week program has donated $64,000 to the winners' Washington high schools, impacting over 73,000 students since the program's inception in 2012.
With this large of an impact, student-athletes hope to encourage their peers and others in the community to give back. A senior at Muckleshoot Tribal School, Rosalie Fish hopes her recognition in the program encourages Native youth. Rosalie explains that "having a Native presence among athletes is really important… The program makes me want to do more and pave the way for young native youth."
As leaders in athletics, academics, and community action, this year's High School Athletes of the Week hope to continue to inspire their communities. Echoed in the Leadership Summit, the Seahawks and CenturyLink hope to cultivate the athletes and prepare them for further success.
Leaning forward to the edge of her seat during the panel, Sprangers looks out at the group. Slowly and confidently, she concludes her presentation with some words of advice for the student-athletes going forward.
"The key?" She asks rhetorically. "Always stay curious. Keep on thinking and dreaming outside the box."
For more information on the 2018 winners, click here.
In partnership with CenturyLink, the Seahawks hosted 2018's winners of the CenturyLink High School Athlete of the Week program at team headquarters on Friday, December 14 to meet with club executives, tour the facility, and watch practice.