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Leadership Safari 2017

Leadership Safari is baseball coach’s choice

Program prepares players for life in the classroom and on the field

Contact: Dan Digmann


​Winners know winners.

So when the coach of the winningest Division I baseball program in the Midwest since 1972 scouts out Central Michigan University's Leadership Safari, he sees something to add to his team's game plan.

For the second year in a row, CMU Head Baseball Coach Steve Jaksa strongly encouraged his incoming new players to participate in the program.

Leadership Safari, a five-day voluntary program, teaches new CMU students how to succeed in academics. Students also see how getting involved on campus helps them lead inside and outside the classroom.

"There are two kinds of leaders. You're either a good one or a bad one," said Jaksa, who is entering his 16th season as head coach. "Everybody is capable of being a leader, and this program and the Leadership Institute here at CMU helps all of our students discover how to be the best one they can be."

Leadership Safari even improves student persistence and retention.

"With everything from the icebreakers to the activities, speakers and meeting with faculty, this program helps them to connect with other students and become more familiar with campus," Jaksa said of his players. "The quicker they become comfortable here, the better they'll perform in the classroom and on the field."

Training for work and play

Jordan Patty is a freshman member of the CMU baseball team who's among the more than 2,100 students participating in Leadership Safari this week.

He described one challenge where his group had to complete a task without saying a word. Patty said learning nonverbal communication skills will help him work with other students on class projects and baseball players on the field.

"There are two kinds of leaders. You're either a good one or a bad one. Everybody is capable of being a leader, and this program and the Leadership Institute here at CMU helps all of our students discover how to be the best one they can be." — CMU Head Baseball Coach Steve Jaksa

Patty said he didn't really know what to expect coming into Safari. But by his second day of the program, he already was more confident about finding his way through his first year at CMU and making many connections beyond the baseball team.

"I know I'd be completely lost if I hadn't had this experience," said Patty, of Midland, Michigan. "It really helps just getting to know other people and to start making friends."

Campus connections continue

These friendships will go beyond Leadership Safari. Just ask Zach Gilles, a sophomore member of the baseball team who participated in 2016.

Even throughout this summer, Gilles said he's been talking, texting and Snapchatting with some of the people he met through the program.

"If I could give advice to anyone, I would say they definitely need to go to Leadership Safari," said Gilles, a biology major from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.

For as much as the program opens baseball players up to other students, it also connects students to the team, said Grant Frazer, a sophomore member of the team and Gilles' roommate.

"It helps us to meet new people, but it helps us get the baseball team out there and show that we're students just like everyone else," said Frazer, an exercise science major from Oconto, Wisconsin.


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