When working with UNC athletes, it's those "Aha!" moments that give Senior Associate Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Development Cricket Lane joy.
Part of this excitement began in her high school days, when she took a psychology class that would go on to inspire her to earn her undergraduate degree in psychology and her master's and doctorate in counseling. After being asked to teach a workshop about alcohol education while working at the University of Detroit, Lane used this experience to fill numerous roles in college athletes' social and academic development.
Now almost 20 years into her tenure at UNC, Lane still has the same enthusiasm that brought her into the profession.
Lane meets with athletes after team practices or one-on-one in her office to discuss leadership strategies and ways to balance their busy lifestyles. Additionally, with mental health becoming more prevalent in today's culture, she strongly encourages each athlete to be more self-aware in managing stressful situations before they turn into crises.
“You go to a doctor if something hurts,” Lane said. “You can't see this, but we know it's hurting.”
According to Lane, mental health should be each athlete's priority when learning to be a leader. Learning to reflect and take their own behavioral temperatures allows them to know what triggers them and what motivates them.
“It's great to learn it that first time, but how are you going to make it work for you?” Lane asked. “We always talk about how the best leaders know themselves.”
Lane is also the lead instructor at the Carolina Leadership Academy's CREED program, which focuses on first-year athletes. In these workshops, students can focus on topics ranging from advancing their career goals to gaining leadership skills to participating in community service.
Senior field hockey center back Madison Orobono had one of those "Aha!" moments while applying what she learned in the Leadership Academy to her team. Inspired by Lane's teaching, Orobono took the initiative in bringing mental health advocacy groups like Morgan’s Message to campus with the help of fellow Tar Heel athletes.
“My freshman year I didn't have the confidence to say ‘Okay, Maddie, you need to speak to someone,’" Orobono said. "Now, it's like I want to go. I want to be able to talk about my day, even if I don't have anything truly going on. I think that's huge.”
Over the past year, Orobono started to develop a closer relationship with Lane. Lane has helped Orobono, a media and journalism and exercise and sports science double major, in her career development by working with her on her resume and helping her to network.
“She honestly is, like, one of the people who always has a smile on her face, always laughing, always willing to be the best person in the room,” Orobono said.
Madias Loper, a fifth-year thrower on the track and field team, said he's inspired by Lane’s authenticity. She encourages Loper to be his true self, establishing the groundwork to grow into the leader he wants to become.
Loper won the diversity and inclusion award at this year’s RAMMYs ceremony, but he gives Lane all the credit since she pushed him to step into his leadership role.
“I think she really allowed me to use my voice and work to my strong suit,” Loper said. “It's really brought the best out of me and taught me how to be not only a better leader, but a better person.”
The moments Lane lives for couldn't happen without her generous spirit leading the way. The comfort she effuses allows UNC's athletes to open up and reflect on the knowledge they've applied.
“She embraces and embodies compassion, leadership, authenticity,” Loper said. “She is the definition of what it means to be a Tar Heel.”
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