WESTERVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) — It’s no secret that chemistry and leadership are crucial parts of successful sports teams, and those are elements that Westerville Central’s football team are making priorities.
“We really believe that the culture is just as important as the x’s and o’s,” said the Warhawks head coach Brent Morrison. “I think a big wave in athletics right now is pushing that culture and leadership.”
Before Westerville Central dispersed for spring break, Morrison had his players sign up for a new app so the team could start building their chemistry. When spring break extended out beyond the single week, and then transformed into remote schooling and no extra-curricular activities, the Titan Leader app became a communication lifeline for the Warhawks.
“This is one of those tools that’s helped us keep that going in this weird time,” said Morrison.
“Basically, it sends me notifications on what I should do for like this week,” explained Westerville Central junior Zeke Healy. “It’ll say like, ‘Selfless Tuesday’ or something and basically it tells you to do something out of your way like help your family with something.”
Charles Buchanan came up with the app idea while teaching business classes at Ohio State. Buchanan specializes in teaching leadership business skills and realized the benefits of young people learning these lessons in high school – particularly athletes.
“I started working with high school teams and working with them, developing leadership with them,” he explained. “Sports is a great place to teach leadership.”
Buchanan said his biggest challenge was finding a way to make these lessons and techniques accessible on a large scale.
“I’ve been working to figure out how to give access to everybody, especially those who couldn’t afford it or didn’t have the resources to get to it before,” he said. “If they have smart phones, they can get access to this so that’s what we’re trying to provide them with.”
The app has different formats depending on your role. When you download Titan Leader, you select if you’re a coach or a player and then the content is tailored towards your needs.
“What we’ve done is designed those to point at each other so that the coaches and athletes are being prompted for practices that they’re working together on certain skills,” Buchanan explained.
That open communication has been critical for many teams since stay-at-home orders went in place. Buchanan said the app has seen explosive growth with coaches trying to find ways to connect with their athletes.
Morrison said he’s already seen the benefits with his players having used Titan Leader for the last few weeks, particularly with accountability and their mental acuity.
“The physical piece they can see it, they can set the time, they can actually feel it. Whereas the mental piece, I think it’s really hard to create that structure for yourself at such a young age. So this app has really allowed us to facilitate that for them,” he explained. “If someone shares a goal with you, number one you have to hold them accountable. And then number two it’s also your job to help them kind of achieve their goal. So it’s created a neat dynamic on our team.”
Healy shared that, from a student-athlete perspective, it has created a bond with his teammates despite the fact they are unable to train together.
“This year we’re trying to go far and it all starts with the accountability and everybody being on the same page so this app helps us be like all together – especially during this time of being off,” he said. “It’s helping us a lot because we’re not so separate. If we come back, when we do, we’re not so separated. We’re still on the same page, like we’ve been keeping up to date with each other.”