Hamilton students take leadership lessons from Urban Meyer playbook

Some of Hamilton High School’s students spent part of their summer break meeting in a first-ever leadership camp at Miami University and produced lesson plans for the upcoming school year.

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It’s an unusual approach to instilling leadership and collaboration among the 1,900-student school but one Hamilton educators are confident it will pay off.

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The new program tapped into the already considerable and well-documented leadership skills of another Ohio university leader – Head Football Coach Urban Meyer of Ohio State University.

The 20 student volunteers who spent about a week at Miami’s main Oxford campus were recruited as leaders of various aspects of the their Butler County high school including academics, performing arts, sports and student government.

“This endeavor started as a result of our participation in the Harry T. Wilks Leadership Conference held by Miami University,” said Hamilton High School Principal John Wilhelm.

“Students came to me and said they want to make changes in the school’s culture while reaching out to community leaders and organizations,” he said.

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“Following the conference I had students want to expand leadership in the building and work to improve our student culture. Over the summer (Hamilton teachers) and I worked with a group of 20 students,” said Wilhelm.

“We read ‘Above The Line’ by Urban Meyer and discussed leadership and culture. At the end of our time together students were able to create nine lessons to be implemented in our building throughout the school year,” he said.

Meyer, who coached the Ohio State Buckeyes to the national championship in 2014 and previously won titles with the University of Florida in 2006 and 2008, is widely regarded as one of collegiate football’s premier coaches and motivators.

Meyer summarizes his “Above the Line” philosophy in the book as contrasting with “below-the-line behavior” which is impulsive, on autopilot and resistant.

On the other hand, behavior that is above the line is the practice of true leaders and successful people. Above the Line, Meyer writes, is “intentional, on purpose and skillful.” It is about control and accountability.

It is the enemy of what Meyer calls BCD: blame, complain, defend.

Hamilton students read the book together and discussed its themes in a series of meetings at Miami. Then the students were assigned the task of incorporating the book’s teachings into mini-class lessons to better expose and instruct their classmates.

The lessons from Meyer’s book aren’t limited to football or even sports, said Wilhelm, “but could be also be adapted and implemented in other organizations.”

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