UT senior Khayyan Norfork
Nov. 3, 2010
By Mary-Carter Kniffen, Media Relations Student Assistant
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - University of Tennessee student-athletes Khayyan Norfork (baseball) and Natalie Pluskota (women's tennis) served as UT's representatives at the inaugural 2010 NCAA Student-Athlete Leadership Forum, which was held Oct. 21-24 at Disney's Contemporary Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
This fall marked the first time Division I, II and III regionally-based leadership programming took place at one site on the same weekend. The NCAA anticipated 400 student-athletes to attend.
During the four-day program, Norfork and Pluskota took part in numerous leadership-related activities, including team-building exercises, NCAA and Divisional Governance sessions, service activities and more.
Pluskota, a junior from Newnan, Ga., has earned All-American status in each of her two seasons at Rocky Top. She and Caitlin Whoriskey finished the season as the No. 1-ranked doubles team in the nation last year, and in October of 2009, the two captured the Riviera/ITA Women's All-American doubles championship. A two-time Academic All-SEC selection, Pluskota is pursuing a degree in sport management.
"I was impressed with how much fun it was," Pluskota commented on her overall experience. "We didn't really know what to expect, we learned a lot and we got to meet a ton of new people. It was a lot more interactive, where we broke into teams and discussed what we had learned."
Going into the program, Norfork wasn't sure what to expect either.
"I thought we were going to be in the classroom for most of the day, but it was mostly about meeting people and that was the best thing," Norfork said.
A senior from Ripley, Tenn., Norfork is in his second year at Tennessee after spending his first two collegiate seasons at Jackson State Community College. In his first year in Knoxville, he quickly earned a starting position as the team's second baseman. During the 2010 campaign, he hit .261 with three home runs and 25 RBIs, in addition to swiping 14 bases in just 17 attempts and committing just seven errors in 53 games.
Both of the student-athletes stated their favorite part of the experience was the service project, where they got to show their true Volunteer spirit. Everyone divided up into groups and worked together to design and make bikes for underprivileged children.
"The leaders told us that bikes were the most needed and wanted gifts at Christmas," Norfork said. "It was perfect timing."
The bikes were donated to two organizations in the Orlando area.
Leadership was the topic of discussion for majority of the forum and both student-athletes felt they learned a lot of helpful information that could bring back to their both their teams and in the classroom.
"I learned how to deal with different people," Norfork said. "I have 30 teammates and not every teammate is motivated by the same thing. I can find different ways to communicate with my teammates."
Pluskota echoed similar sentiments.
"There are different types of leaders and people lead in different ways," she said. "Some people are more vocal and some are listeners. I learned that it is important to recognize what type of leader they are and not just assume all people are the same."