Center for Sport Leadership, Commonwealth University of Virginia: Interview with Carrie LeCrom and Gregory Greenhalgh

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Q1: What are the major goals of the Center for Sport Leadership at VCU? How did the Center for Sport Leadership get established? Why Sport Leadership is so important?

Without regurgitating what is on our website, the Center for Sport Leadership (CSL) is committed to transforming the sport industry every day. We try to do this a number of ways, but most predominantly via our master’s in education program. Every decision within the CSL is guided by our five core values: empowering, accountable, collaborative, authentic, and global minded.  These core values ensure that we stay true to our mission.

The CSL was created in 1999 with a vision of providing hands-on experiential learning opportunities for the next generation of sport leaders. The use of the term Sport Leadership, as opposed to sport management, or sport administration was a strategic decision. We believe that our students will be prepared to be leaders in the field once they have completed our degree. We are confident the leadership skills students forge and refine during their time in the CSL will be valuable to them throughout their life. Not only will these skills assist in transforming the sport industry, we believe the leadership component of our program is influential throughout all facets of life.


Q2: Can you tell us about your graduate programs like the Master in Education in Sport Leadership? Who is the target group? What is the impact so far? How many of the graduates decide to enroll in your PHD program?

Currently, we have three versions of our M.Ed. in Sport Leadership program: on-campus, distance learning (online), and a dual-degree program where students are granted a M.Ed. in Sport Leadership along with a M.B.A. The target group for the on-campus and dual-degree programs are predominantly students who are looking to use their degree to break into the sport industry. The majority of these students have recently completed their undergraduate degree and have some experience working in the sport industry. Typically, we have 3 or 4 international students each year which help provide a level of diversity to the classroom and advance our core value of global mindedness. The distance learning program, while it offers all of the courses as the other two programs, is comprised of very different students. Each of the students in the distance learning program currently work in the sport industry, providing a much different feel a perspective to the virtual classroom compared to the on-campus classes. Furthermore, due to the geographic flexibility of the distance learning program we have students enrolled from all over the world. Over the past five years we have had students taking classes from: United States, Canada, Germany, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Qatar. Hence, the target group for this version of our program is significantly more diverse than the other two forms of the program. At this time, one of our five Ph.D. students received their master’s degree from the CSL.

Q3: What are your current priorities in terms of keeping offering cutting edge education in the sector? Do you have any plans to expand the courses? Any plans to expand your distance learning curriculum?

We plan to continue to focus on providing our students with hands-on experiential learning opportunities that will shape them into the type of sport leader we will be proud to consider an alum of the CSL. We are always looking for ways to expand our geographic footprint by focusing on our global minded core value. While we have no plans on expanding our on-campus program, we are certainly looking to increase the enrollment in our distance learning program. Currently, we have about 30 students enrolled in the distance learning program and we think that number could be increased to about 50. However, this increase in enrollment will be done strategically as we are not willing to sacrifice the student experience to simply increases enrollment numbers.

Q4: What is your experience so far in bringing your expertise outside the States and what are you future plans at international level?

Most of our work bringing our expertise outside the U.S. has been through coaching education and sport for social change initiatives. We have been honored to receive funding from the U.S. Department of State to support some of our programs in Ethiopia, China, and South Africa, and will now move some of our work into the South/Central Asia region. We have found that the programs have been very well received, and are sure that this has to do with the strong international partnerships we have built. We’ve worked with groups like the Shanghai Sports Bureau, Grassroot Soccer, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Africa, who have had local leaders invited to our training and information exchange. They teach us as much as we teach them, but we help give structure to some of the social changes they want to see in their communities, so we are very thankful to have been able to contribute to things like healthy lifestyles, life skills development, gender empowerment, and other forms of leadership. Our plan is to continue this work into the future in many areas around the globe.

Q5: The Center is very active also at community level with a string of programs like Kickin' 4 Kidz, Turn4Education, Lobs & Lessons Can you tell us a bit about these programs? Is there any challenge in sustaining them in the long run?

Since we base much of our curriculum on servant leadership and developing leaders through hands-on learning, it is important to us to bring those real-life challenges to our students. Each year we have groups of students work on approximately five community based events in our local Richmond community. Kickin’ 4 Kids, Turn 4 Education and Lobs & Lessons are some of those. Our students, in small groups, work throughout the year to turn these ideas into reality. They do everything along the way from recruiting participants and volunteers, to raising money, to logistics and operations, to working with community partners. This is a great learning experience for our students, but just as importantly, it brings quality programs to the youth in the Richmond area. Sustainability can be a challenge, but we try to work with community partners who can eventually take the programs over and run them themselves. That allows us to help be an incubator for great programs, while also trying new things from time to time. We typically impact over 850 families annually through these events.

Q6: You carried out a study on Impact of a cross-cultural soccer coaching exchange”. Can you tell us something about it?

The study you’re referring to is one of the grants that was funded by the U.S. department of state, and was a two-way coaching exchange between soccer coaches in the United State and China. We had such a great time with that program, and were so excited to find that sport is truly a microcosm of society and societal values. All the coaches we worked with (both U.S. and Chinese) learned so much about the other culture through the game itself. It was really fascinating and such a great result of what was already a fantastic program. The growth in terms of cultural understanding that we see through these exchange programs really speaks to the power of sport, and it’s something of which we want to continue to be a part!


Find here the Bios of Carrie and Greg


A member of the Center for Sport Leadership staff since 2003, Carrie LeCrom was named executive director in 2015. As a Lynchburg College undergraduate with a dual major in Business Administration and Sport Management, LeCrom was honoured as an Athletic and Academic All- American soccer player on a team that advanced to the Elite Eight of the 2001 Division-III Women’s Soccer National Championship. In 2003, LeCrom graduated from the Center for Sport Leadership at VCU and, realizing her passion for combining academics with athletics, completed her doctoral studies at VCU in 2007. At the Center, she is responsible for setting the program’s strategic direction, handling academic matters, expanding the global reach of the program, and teaching (Leadership, Research Methods, Global Sports Issues, Sport for Development). Under her guidance, the program has launched a dual degree program (M.Ed./MBA) and a doctoral track in Sport Leadership, and has seen significant growth in terms of competitiveness and national reputation.

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Greg Greenhalgh joined the Center for Sport Leadership at VCU in July of 2011 as the director of student services and outreach. Prior to joining the CSL Greenhalgh taught in the Sport Administration Department at the University of Louisville where he attained his Ph.D. He also has a M.A. in Sport Administration from Central Michigan University and a Bachelor's of Sport Management from Brock University


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