Sloane Stephens is your 2017 U.S. Open Tennis Champion and I love it! As she played against Madison Keys, this was deemed as the battle of the future of American tennis. Prior to beating keys though, Stephens beat the legendary Venus Williams. This was the victory that people called a passing of the torch. We see it all the time in student leadership. After that talented senior leader graduates are our clubs, Greek lettered organizations or other positions ready or will they fall apart.  Sometimes it is an amazingly successful transfer and at times that torch is dropped. Sloane Stephens’ victory gave us a few key moments about leadership potentially changing hands.

Embrace The Diversity
We have to always make sure the faces in the room are as multifaceted as possible. Regardless of race, gender, religion, socioeconomic status and more, your leaders passing and receiving the torch should be incredibly diverse. We can’t overlook Sloane Stephens being an African American champion in a sport dominated Eastern European and White women. Madison Keys herself is of mixed race. Create programs on your campus that are inclusive of all. The torch shouldn’t be carried by the same type of hand year after year. 

The Torch Doesn’t Have To Be One Person
Sloane Stephens just might be the new face of American tennis. Alongside her are other future stars. Madison Keys and Coco Vandeweghe are two other women who played a great tournament and look ready to take American tennis to the next level. Get your team ready. Don’t look to build a few, be prepared to create many. The more torches being passed the brighter the path to success. We run the risk of over saturating our leaders when the focus is only one a couple. They get so tired and overwhelmed that they can’t even lift or carry the torch passed to them. Coalition building is key.

Leaders Can Coexist
Passing the torch doesn’t mean the end of the road. Everyone is talking about Sloan Stephens being the


next great star. As true as this might be, don’t get it twisted. Momma Serena will be back and so will Venus for that matter. It’s great to see the veterans and youth coexist. Encourage your senior level leaders to find some mentees. Create shadow programs to help keep organizations alive. The group I advise on campus has a system in place in which being president is a two-year commitment. You have to be elected as a VP first, learn the role and get prepared to be the president the following year.  We have our student government officers find at least two student leaders who are interested in shadowing them, to keep the flow of leadership constant. Cultivate the relationships that will help make the full torch pass a smooth and effective one.

Competition And Compassion
We often see a student run for office and lose. Then after the loss, they give up on leadership. One of my

(Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

favorite moments of Sloane Stephens’ winning, was the long embrace she initiated with Madison Keys.She was consoling a friend instead of gloating. When transitioning leadership, surround your new torch bearers with friends and fellow leaders who will be along for the ride but also take lead on that ride as well. My group of orientation leaders this past summer were for the most part not heavily involved and didn’t know each other too well. Not only have I watched them build a bond through friendship but they are talking about how they can run the campus, together. Leadership to the left and leadership to the right. They know that if run into one another in an election or for a position, it’ll never get ugly because love and compassion are in the room.

Comeback leaders
Sloane Stephens went from being ranked 934 to a winner. There were surely many moments as she was injured and lowly ranked that people gave up on her. She missed nearly a year with a foot injury and was forgotten about in some circles. Stephens during her championship acceptance speech talked about the support of her team. Be that team member for students. There was a first-year student I worked with who looked poised to be the next great leader on campus. After doing great work, I found out she had a 1.9 GPA. Instead of giving up on her, a team of educators had her back. She took some time away from extracurricular activities and came back with a 3.3 GPA for her second semester. She’s back this semester and is already showing that she can be focused in and out of the classroom. We will see many students who go through tough times but we can still cultivate them into taking that leadership torch. Leave space for the comeback.

Let’s get our leaders geared up and ready to go!




JeffDess is a the Co Founder of Trill or Not Trill. He’s also a writer, professor, public speaker and emcee of Haitian descent. He is an author of 5 books of poetry, including his latest, Trill Motivation With over ten years of performing and student affairs experience under his belt MrJeffDess continues to strive towards helping students reach their highest potential. For booking information, contact MrJeffDess at or