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DRIVE: Development, Resilience, Ingenuity, Valor and Excellence.

These are the five core values of Dartmouth Athletics and also the name of Dartmouth Peak Performance's sophomore summer leadership course, which kicks off its fifth iteration in June. DRIVE capitalizes on a unique aspect of Dartmouth's D-Plan, and is an opportunity for sophomore student-athletes to participate in a six-week course that combines classroom learning and experiential exercises to teach core leadership components.

Led by Steven Spaulding, Assistant Athletic Director for DP2 Leadership, DRIVE's goal is to create championship cultures on all teams and to build Dartmouth leaders for life. In five classroom sessions, sophomore student-athletes will have the opportunity to hear from a variety of speakers in different leadership capacities – not just in the athletic realm. In the past, attendees have learned from Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon, Athletic Director Harry Sheehy, professors, head coaches, and special guest speakers from around campus.

In addition to hearing from a notable group of speakers, DRIVE challenges sophomore leaders to step outside of their comfort zone and apply what they've learned in the classroom in four experiential exercises, which vary in both mental and physical exertion.  

“When our sophomores go through the [DRIVE] program, we have seen a direct impact on the culture of the team, and the work ethic, and the entire environment surrounding every practice and competition,” explained head coach of sailing Justin Assad, “The DRIVE program takes those leaders, who have good instincts, and they train them with a set of skills to actually address exact scenarios in a team environment through both the classroom experiences and the experiential exercises.”

Since the inception of DRIVE, the co-ed sailing team has seen much success on the water with a Women's National Championship in the 2013 & 2014 seasons, Top-10 finish in team co-ed racing three out of the past four seasons (with the 2017 season currently on the line), and multiple trophy wins. The sailing team is one of many teams who are actively engaged in the DRIVE leadership program.

“Leadership is what most kids want, but I think it is a lot more challenging to understand, than I think they realize,” said head coach of women's softball Shannon Doepking, “Through DRIVE, it gives our kids the tools that come with leadership. It helps them learn and develop for experiences not just on the playing field, but in life as well.”

The softball team were Ivy League Champions in the 2014 and 2015 seasons and also made NCAA tournament appearances in those years as well. While the focus of the DRIVE is to create championship-driven teams, the program also sets the foundation for life after collegiate athletics.

“I feel that I have really benefitted and grown as a person, and more importantly as a leader through these experiences and discussions, and hope to continue to reflect good character qualities as I venture into the real world. It enabled me to grow as a leader, challenge myself, and meet other athletes on campus in my class that I'm not sure I would have otherwise known,” commented Tara Simmons '17, participant in DRIVE 15x, a current senior leader on the women's golf team and an executive member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).

DRIVE will kick off on Sunday, June 25th with a BBQ and the first classroom session will begin on Tuesday, June 27th. For sophomores who are able to successfully complete the six-week course, they are rewarded with DRIVE certification.

Steven Spaulding challenges the sophomores with this: “You're two years in and you're going to be a junior. Now, the underclassman are going to look at you for leadership. Is that leadership going to be informed and intentional or just a result of being there? DRIVE is an opportunity to develop yourself intentionally on a leadership journey”


Sign-ups for 2017 DRIVE are still open: Check out a promo video for DRIVE 2017 here