North Carolina High School Athletic Association


The 2024 NCHSAA Student Leadership Conference “Athlete-Identity” brought together more than 40 NCHSAA Member Schools and over 300 student-athletes, each representing their respective school and learning what it means to embrace the differences between who we are with and without our sport(s). Schools were represented all across North Carolina and came to the Towne Bank Center on April 26th for a full day of learning, networking, and collaboration. This event is of no expense to schools or students in attendance. 

The conference began with our opening speaker, Dereck Whittenburg, who was on the 1983 NC State Men’s Basketball National Championship team. Now a member of the NC State faculty, Whittenburg spoke about who an individual is on and off the court and discussed the crucial role of sportsmanship in athletics and what student-athletes can do to contribute to this positive impact. 

Following the opening speaker, student-athletes could go to three different breakout sessions. These breakout sessions were facilitated by Omari Pearson, Cricket Lane and Leslie Barnes, and members of our Student-Athlete Advisory Council(SAAC). Omari facilitated a discussion about the future. He guided students through an activity where they got to reflect on the present and look forward to future opportunities. Omari founded his own company called Passion to Purpose. Cricket and Leslie both led a breakout session, facilitating a discussion centered around how we collaborate and the qualities that student-athletes bring to the table. Lastly,  members of our SAAC team led a discussion centered around who you are as a “student” and then “athlete.” The SAAC team also broke attendees into smaller groups to discuss how to start a SAAC team, athletic events ideas, and the work that the NCHSAA is doing to promote sportsmanship, unity, and competition. 

During lunch, attendees had the opportunity to enjoy the fresh air outside with seating in the stadium as well as go outside to connect with other attendees while playing games. Followed by lunch, attendees heard from representatives from NCAST and Athletes Forever. NCAST works to promote safe transportation and Athletes Forever is an app created to provide support and information to an athlete whose athletic career is ending. 

Student-Athletes had the opportunity to engage with and ask questions to a college athlete panel facilitated by now Green Hope Coach, Coach Richard Howell. The student panel included NC State Student-Athlete Jaiden Thomas and William and Peace Student-Athletes Will English and Reagan Stewart. They provided a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities that student-athletes face in their academic and athletic journeys.

Our closing speaker, Coach David Pyper, provided an energetic and meaningful message to end our conference. Coach Pyper discussed athlete identity through the lens of the mind, spirit, and body. Coach Pyper stressed the importance of not getting caught up with their mistakes, but athletes should celebrate the opportunity to support one another and embrace who they are outside of their sport. Coach Pyper encouraged the attendees to remain curious, ask questions, and always strive to be the best student-athlete you can be. Coach Pyper left the student-athletes feeling motivated and excited about the work they do and the growth they can show. 

NCHSAA Director of Marketing, Development, and Student Programs, Evan Sauer, thanked the student-athletes in attendance, the speakers, breakout room facilitators, the videographer Cody Pyper the administrators and athletic directors, the TowneBank Center Staff, and most importantly the NCHSAA Student-Athlete Advisory Council. 

As a post-conference activity, schools in attendance could have chosen to receive tickets to the NC State baseball game on the afternoon of the 26th. Schools received these tickets at no expense.