by Benny Benton
Among the thousands of student-athletes around the country who have taken part in a leadership academy through the Janssen Sports Leadership Center over the past 12 years, only about two percent have achieved its highest accolade, the Leader of Distinction. That puts Barton’s Riley Bane in elite company.
A junior academically and redshirt sophomore on the women’s volleyball team, Bane reached that prestigious level in the first year of the Barton Leadership Academy. The recognition was awarded based on the very high marks she received from her teammates and coaches in areas of personal leadership (commitment, confidence, composure, character) and team leadership (servant leader, team builder, confidence-builder, re-focuser, and enforcer).
“Riley impressed me from day one as someone who truly cares about her team’s success and is willing to put in the work to make it happen,” said Jeff Janssen, the founder and president of the Janssen Sports Leadership Center.
As a setter—the quarterback of the offense—for the volleyball program at Fike High School and as the daughter of two Barton alumni heavily involved in leadership in their own right, Art and Susan Bane, Riley already had strong leadership skills when she arrived at Barton. However, she said it took the Barton Leadership Academy to help her see that in herself.
“We did a survey about ourselves, and our coaches and teammates took it too, and they put me very high on being a vocal leader,” Bane said. “I put myself mid- to lower. I didn’t think I handled conflict and controversy well, but they thought I did. So having that survey to see what other people thought about me opened my eyes. I’ve learned that other people see me as a vocal leader. Without the leadership academy, I wouldn’t have known that.
“It shows me what other people think of me. Coming into college, I struggled with confidence, and, now, I don’t. It also shows me that other people do believe in me, because sometimes I don’t believe in myself. It shows me that other people know I’m capable of doing it. It makes it easier to have confidence.”
At Barton, Bane plays primarily as a libero—the director of the defense. Her leadership training has played a significant role in her success at the position, providing her the freedom to be bold in her interactions with her teammates.
“I feel like I can express my opinion a lot more,” she said. “I have gotten closer with my teammates, because I’ve learned how each one likes to be talked to. I may have one person where I can get in their face and say, ‘Come on, pick it up,’ and there may be someone else that I need to pat on the shoulder and encourage. So I’ve learned how to talk to my teammates in terms of communication.”
Now in her second competitive season for the Lady Bulldogs (she sat out last year as a result of an injury), Bane’s development has been obvious to fifth-year head coach Jeff Lennox. Her play—but also her leadership—have been key components in Barton’s march towards its first Conference Carolinas title since 1991.
“I’ve had the opportunity to witness Riley grow and mature into a team leader,” Lennox said. “Her unwavering commitment to the greater good of the group has earned her the trust and respect of her teammates and myself. Riley inspires everyone around her to work and play hard with confidence and self-assurance. Her competitive spirit lights a fire in her teammates, leading them to believe that anything is possible.”