Everyone is a Leader

Everyone is a Leader

Two weeks ago, I taught a leadership class at Navy Swim Camp. We played a game called Walking Leadership Bingo, which involved answering a series of questions on leadership with fellow campers. I was playing the game too, but as usual, no one was approaching me. I kept seeking out reluctant partner after reluctant partner until finally, one young woman introduced herself and posed a question from the game: “What type of leader are you?” I quickly answered but was shocked by her response to the same question. I asked, “What type of leader are you?”

Reflections: College Swimming

Reflections: College Swimming

What is it like to swim in college? College recruiting can be stressful and confusing for high school student-athletes across America. As commitments start to come in earlier and earlier, we asked three current collegiate swimmers about their experiences. These swimmers represent a Power Five D-I school, a Mid-Major D-I school, and a D-III school. We asked them to not only reflect on their experiences, but also to give advice to the next generation of swimmers.

Developing a Sisterhood

Developing a Sisterhood

How and Why You Need to Develop a Sisterhood with your Teammates

By: Toni Armstrong, Leadership Educator with Baltimore Leadership Guides and LEAD Sports Summit

“Did you hear about the new girl who showed up to practice the other day?  She just moved to town from out of state and was wearing the goofiest looking shorts! I heard that her best event is the same as yours and that she is really fast.  I wonder if she will swim in your lane…  I wonder if she will take your spot on the relay…  I wonder what the boys will think of her… “

This dialogue was a conversation I overheard about me during my freshman year of high school when I had just moved from Miami, Florida to Louisville, Kentucky.   Traversing the rough waters of a new swimmer is not an uncommon experience in this sport.  The impact of a new person to a group’s dynamic can be challenging and is always followed by that five-letter word that we love to hate and hate to love:  DRAMA.

Showing Up Counts

Showing Up Counts

By Courtney Randolph, LEAD Marketing Coordinator

Every day I make the choice to show up and see what I’ve got, and to try and be better. My advice: keep showing up.
— Des Linden, 2018 Boston Marathon Winner

Keep showing up. It sounds like simple advice. But sometimes, showing up is only half the battle.

At the 2017 LEAD Sports Summit, Confidence Coach Christen Shefchunas talked about the importance of giving ourselves credit. Some days, we show up to practice and see results. As the season progresses, we feel stronger, more confident, and increasingly ready to race. But then there are days (or seasons) where that just doesn’t happen. On those days, we need two reminders more than ever: 1. Keep showing up, and 2. Give yourself credit.


I’m actually learning this lesson as a Masters swimmer of two years, well past the high-pressure days of club and college swimming. More than any other time in my life, showing up to Masters practice has been all on me - every week, I have to choose to drive an hour to the pool on days I go to work and get up early on Saturday to make it to the workout. There’s no pressure from a coach, or anyone else really, to be there.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a competitive person, so it was only a matter of time before I learned to love racing again as a Masters swimmer (about 3 months in, to be specific). It was fun to see what I could do swimming only 2-3 times each week, and I gave myself a blank slate of “new best times” to challenge myself in this new chapter of swimming. This past season, though, was different.

Recently, I showed up to our LMSC’s Zone Meet having already defeated myself. I almost didn’t even sign up for the meet, and when I arrived at the pool, all I could think were negative thoughts, reasons I had been telling myself all season that would prevent me from swimming well:

I’d had health issues for three months.

I’d gained (and then lost) ten pounds since the start of the season.

I hadn’t lifted weights since December.

I hadn’t been training fast.

I hadn’t done enough aerobic work early in the season.

I hadn’t done enough speed work late in the season.

I stood behind the blocks for the 500 free and 200 IM with zero positive expectations - and then proceeded to swim times that were only 1 second per hundred off the times I swam last year when I felt far more physically, mentally, and emotionally in shape. I showed up the next day and swam within 4 seconds of my best Masters time in my favorite event, the 400 IM (yes, I know I’m crazy). None of my races were best times, but I was thrilled - and shocked - that I could be that close after such a rocky season of training.

That got me thinking… if all I could think about was what I hadn’t done, maybe I’d missed an opportunity to do what Coach Christen had told the athletes at LEAD: Give myself some CREDIT for what I had done:


I had shown up to practice, even when I didn’t feel great.

I had gone running at least once a week.

I had made an effort to do ab work and short strength circuits at home.

And I also had two years of consistently showing up to back up my swims.

This will look different depending on where you are in your career. For me, “showing up” now means swimming 2-3 times per week and running and lifting on my own, which is considerably less than the 8-10 times per week I trained in high school and college. But no matter where you are in your swimming career - club, high school, college, or masters - we all have good days in training and tough ones. On the good days, we can give 100% and then some. We can push ourselves and our teammates past what we thought possible. It’s on the days (and seasons) when we feel challenged that it’s critical to give ourselves credit for what we are doing… even if that’s just showing up and diving in, knowing that showing up now will pay off later.

Swimming with Your Sister

Swimming with Your Sister

By: Sage and Terra, LEAD Interns

For those who don’t know us, our names are Terra and Sage. We attended the 2017 LEAD Sports Summit and are now LEAD interns! We have been swimming together since we were little, and there isn’t a day that goes by that we aren’t together. We’ve always been close, but nothing has brought us closer than swimming.

Over the past four years, our daily ritual has started at 4 am, wiping the sleep out of our eyes and grumbling to each other on the way to the pool. Swimming with your sibling can be as uplifting or tiresome as you let it be - it’s all up to you. With Terra headed off to NYU in the fall, we wanted to share a few of our experiences swimming togethers as sisters.

What Kind of Leader Are You?

What Kind of Leader Are You?

Leaders come in all shapes and sizes. Often, we perceive a leader as only being the fastest member of the team or the oldest. But that’s not true! No matter your age or your ability in and out of the water, you should never limit your potential to be a leader! Even if you weren’t voted as a team captain or you are a younger member of your team, you can contribute in so many different ways.

Positive Leaders are Assertive

Positive Leaders are Assertive

It is day one of the long-course season.  You swam well last season, but your best friend swam better.  In fact, she beat you in your best and favorite event for the first time ever.  Although you are happy that she swam well, you’re upset that she swam faster than you.  To top it off, she doesn’t seem to be taking practice seriously and keeps goofing off and distracting you.   Your goal this season is to be more focused and dedicated, but your friend is making it difficult. What is your typical response to a situation like this?  Do you:

A. Ignore her.  When she asks if anything is wrong, you say no.  You grumble to yourself and roll your eyes when she is not looking.  You play little tricks on her to make her feel as irritated as you do.

B. Yell at her.  Tell her that her goofing off is affecting your training, that you’re a better swimmer, and that her win was just a fluke.

C. Have a calm sit-down meeting with her. Explain to her that you want to focus on your training a bit more this season and that her silliness during practice is distracting.  That you both want and need different things out of your training and that’s OK. You tell her that you value your friendship and that you are happy to goof off with her after practice. You then listen to her perspective and thoughts.

D. Do nothing.  Although your friend never seems to consider your feelings, your friendship is important and not something you want to ruin.  You would rather avoid the conflict.

LEAD Announces 2018 Summit Speakers

LEAD Announces 2018 Summit Speakers

The LEAD Sports Summit has officially announced its full lineup of powerhouse female speakers for its second annual event for teenage girl swimmers, which will take place in Atlanta, GA over Labor Day Weekend (August 31-September 3, 2018). Three-time Olympian and LEAD Founder Kara Lynn Joyce created LEAD (Leadership, Empowerment, and Athletic Development) as an opportunity for girls to learn leadership skills from strong, accomplished female mentors.


The core group of speakers at the 2018 Summit will feature 5 female Olympians and 4 female specialists in different fields that contribute to leadership and empowerment. The star-studded lineup joining Kara includes:

  • Elizabeth Beisel, 2-time Olympic medalist and 3-time Olympian
  • Missy Franklin, 5-time Olympic gold medalist and 2-time Olympian
  • Katie Meili, 2-time Olympic medalist
  • Lia Neal, 2-time Olympic medalist and 2-time Olympian
  • Toni Armstrong, Leadership Expert and Master of Experiential Education
  • Jenn Brunelli, Registered Dietitian and Sports Dietitian for the Carolina Panthers
  • Dr. Megan Cannon, Sports Psychologist and Member of the American Psychological Association
  • Christen Shefchunas, Confidence Coach and author of Naked Confidence

“I’m thrilled to bring LEAD to Atlanta for our second Summit,” said Kara. "We are so fortunate to be working with some of the best women in swimming to help mentor and guide the next generation of female leaders in our sport. By expanding our lineup of speakers, we’ll be able to provide the girls even more knowledge and practices for empowering themselves and others, both in and out of the pool.”
2016 Olympic captain Elizabeth Beisel said, “Speaking at LEAD was something equally empowering as it was reflective. I put myself in the girls’ shoes and spoke about leadership in the most honest and relatable terms possible. After speaking at the Summit, it made me look back on my teenage years and wish that I would have had something like LEAD when I was growing up. This makes speaking about leadership even more rewarding because I know I am giving the girls knowledge to inspire not only themselves, but other people around them.


Throughout the weekend, the LEAD Mentors and Speakers will work with participants during group talks, team-building activities, workshops, and small-group, age-specific breakout sessions. Elizabeth Beisel will kick off the weekend as the opening keynote speaker, and will be followed over the coming days by talks on Leadership with Kara Lynn Joyce, Lia Neal, and Toni Armstrong, Sports Psychology with Dr. Megan Cannon, Nutrition with Jenn Brunelli, and Confidence with Christen Shefchunas and Katie Meili. Following her inspirational talk at the 2017 Summit, Missy Franklin will give the closing keynote. The LEAD Team is also excited to announce additional members of the squad joining as Team Leaders in the coming weeks.

The LEAD Summit is the first 4-day all-inclusive leadership and empowerment summit for teenage female swimmers. Registration includes:

  • Full access to 9 top female mentors in swimming and leadership fields
  • 3 nights at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center
  • All meals, including a dinner banquet with all LEAD Mentors and Speakers
  • A trip to the LEAD Gift Suite, courtesy of LEAD’s partners and sponsors (to be announced soon!)
  • Team building activities
  • Swim clinic with the LEAD Olympic Mentors

Registration for LEAD is open to all female swimmers, ages 13-18. Athletes can register for the event and sign up for the LEAD newsletter through the website: https://leadsportssummit.com/.

Please contact Kara Lynn Joyce with any questions at: kara@karalynnjoyce.com and follow LEAD on Twitter: @LEADSportSummit & Instagram: @LEADSportsSummit for updates and announcements.

10 Female Swimmers You Should Know

10 Female Swimmers You Should Know

Positive Leadership Requires Knowing Your History

By: Toni Armstrong, Leadership Educator with Baltimore Leadership Guides and LEAD Sports Summit


On June 15, 1904, nearly 1,000 women and girls drowned in the East River new New York City when a boat caught fire.  The difference between life and death was the ability to swim no more than 50 yards.  This happened during a time when women were not allowed to enter “bathing pools” because of the threat of indecent exposure.  A woman’s place was in the home, and there were questions as to the purpose and ability of a woman to participate in any physical exertion beyond childbirth.  This incident was a turning point for women’s swimming in America. It became the main argument for why American females needed to learn how to swim, should be allowed to enter the “bathing pools,” and should be allowed to wear “bathing costumes” that didn’t weigh them down in the water.

The female swimmers and coaches you hear the most about are in the modern history of our sport--Simone Manuel, Terri McKeever, Natalie Coughlin, and Katie Ledecky to name a few. Let’s dive deeper into the history and highlight some trail blazers that came before them. Leadership and history go hand-in-hand. If you do not know what the world was like before you, you will never fully appreciate where women are today or have the imagination to go further.