Leading up to the retreat, I didn’t really know what to expect. I heard nothing but great things from last year’s cohort members. So I reached out to my roommate, Candice, ahead of time. And of course, we talked about what we were going to bring along and what outfits we thought were appropriate. Fellow 2019 cohort members Bailey, Brandon, Chelsea, and I were even able to schedule a time to meet for dinner before the retreat to get to know one another. These opportunities to collaborate with other cohort members through text and social media definitely helped boost my comfort level leading up to the retreat.
Upon arriving at the hotel, I got a little nervous. We were staying at the Marriott Marquis in Downtown Atlanta, which was a great location. I made my way up the elevator and into the hospitality room and instantly felt right at home. I was greeted by some of last year’s cohort members, photographers, peers, and amazing support staff. I was handed a backpack full of Adidas gear. I’m sure we all appreciated Beth Bass and Adidas for their assistance in sponsoring our retreat. We received so much gear that I immediately started thinking about how I was going to fit all of it this into my suitcase for the plane ride back home.
After getting settled in for a bit, we went over to the retreat house which had a very interesting and creative set up. It was a comfortable house where we could get our creative juices flowing. Dr. Colin Williams started our retreat off by bringing great energy and smiles with his awesome RISE presentation on diversity and inclusion for minorities. Dr. Leah Turner followed him with a great presentation on how we should use our platform as a student-athlete to our advantage when starting and continuing our professional careers.
Our first day was filled with many introductions and a lot of laughter along with genuine smiles and warm conversations. We were able to start our retreat off the right way by learning from one another while also being able to interact with some of our awesome mentors and other industry professionals.
We started the day with some 6:30 a.m. Trap Yoga outside by the pool to wake us up and get us moving. Watching the sun rise and hitting downward dog while listening to some Cardi B definitely wasn’t a bad way to start my morning. We then made our way over to the retreat house where we started our day off with an amazing breakfast prepared by Comfort Caterers. Erica Wilkerson, Tiffany Kelly, Adrian Williams, and Bryan Harris participated in our Emerging Career Panel following breakfast. They all provided different insights on their professions varying between NASCAR, Sports Analytics, the Atlanta Braves, and Jackson and Spaulding (a PR firm). We took a little break to refresh and got right back to it with one of our amazing mentors, Will Baggett. He gave us a great presentation titled “Emerging Professionals.” Will was preaching facts all throughout the retreat! We had a delicious lunch delivered right before we went our separate ways for site visits. My site visit was with the Atlanta Braves where Adrian Williams and Jordan Walters were great hosts. We took a tour of their facility while also getting an inside look at how they run their organization.
Before I talk about one of my favorite parts of the weekend, I cannot leave out the “wonderful” Atlanta traffic. We were on our way back to the hotel from Cobb County (where the Atlanta Braves facilities are located) when we hit Friday rush-hour traffic. If you know Atlanta traffic, then you know it could have easily taken us 30 minutes to go 5 miles. We immediately started to freak out a bit because we would not have enough time to get ready for our first Dinner of Influence. Special shout out to Maria’s husband for putting the pedal to the metal and getting us to the hotel in a safe and timely fashion. If I do say so myself, my cohort members and I looked pretty darn good after having had only 20 minutes to shower, get ready, and get to dinner on time.
As far as our first Dinner of Influence goes, it definitely exceeded my expectations. There were so many people there. I definitely want to thank our mentors for preparing us on proper etiquette and appropriate ways to approach and introduce ourselves to the industry professionals we were going to be speaking with. For Dinner of Influence number one, the question our table discussion received was, “What was the greatest assist you’ve ever received?” I honestly feel that I took away so much from that dinner, I was almost overwhelmed by all the amazing people that were willing to help me. These people took time out of their day to offer help and assistance to help all of us move forward in our career. I realize that influence is so important, and I was very blessed to be able to have crossed paths with many of these people that night at dinner. Special shout out to my mentor, Shannon Joyner, for holding the table down and leading our discussions.
Day 3 was one of my favorite days because I woke up extremely excited to go golfing. I had never golfed before so our golf lesson at Charlie Yates Golf Course was a great experience for me. Everybody thought they were Tiger Woods once they got a couple of good swings in. We all had a great time. Shout out our girl Noor Ahmed for sharing some of her golf skills with us.
Our keynote speaker for Saturday afternoon was one of our great mentors, Dr. Julie Shaw, who did an awesome job with her presentation on “Breaking the Glass Ceiling.” We must strive to be a UNICORN (if you know, then you know). The biggest take away from her discussion was to tell our stories. When we tell our story, we give others the freedom to tell theirs. By sharing our experiences, we can give others hope to conquer things that they may be dealing with, if they know they aren’t alone. We all are very different but deal with many of the same issues. So helping others and sharing our story and our journey with them can go a long way. We must also always remind ourselves to find different ways to get better. We can always get better by giving an assist and helping someone out.
Megan Perry wrapped up the afternoon with a presentation on how to ace interviews. This was so helpful to many of us who are going to be interviewing for jobs soon, whether they are in person or over the phone. She gave us great insight and mock questions with which to prepare ourselves. If all else fails, remember, your role, your impact, and the STAR format. STAR stands for situation, task, action, and results. We must always remember to follow up with people because hand-written letters never go out of style. Her presentation was extremely beneficial for all of us.
We then went back to the hotel to freshen up again for our second Dinner of Influence. For this dinner, we had a brand new group of guests. It still amazes me that Corinne and Maria were able to bring so many different industry professionals from all over the country to dine and talk with us all night long. Being intentional is so important, and I want to thank all of these professionals for sharing their stories and being so open and honest with us from the start. Sports brings so many people together, and I know all of my cohort members and appreciated all of these amazing people coming out to share their knowledge with us. The number of connections made from one dinner was ridiculous. Special shout out to Talaya Wilkins and Dr. Julie Shaw, along with all of my cohort members that danced the Electric Slide with me and enjoyed Frankie Beverly and Maze’s “Before I Let Go” for some post-dinner fun.
The final day was bittersweet. Jarrod Barnes started us off with a great conversation. He told us that we must define success, evaluate our expectations, and win where our feet are. We shouldn’t look too far ahead, and we shouldn’t dwell on the past. We must bloom where we are planted, and Jarrod gave us some great nuggets to take with us moving forward in our careers. We must always have joy in our journey. Last but not least, Maria Taylor shared some of her life story on how she got to where she is now. Everybody’s journey looks different but one of the important things I took from her is to strive for peace of mind. People are going to try to find ways to poke holes in your journey, but we’ve got to establish a clear vision and keep moving forward.
This retreat was much more than anything I could have imagined for a professional development event. I created lasting friendships and amazing working relationships. To my fellow cohort members, I love all 15 of y’all. To our mentors, Will, Talaya, Maria, Corinne, Dr. Julie Shaw, and Shannon, I love y’all and appreciate everything you did and are still doing. Big thanks to our guest speakers, Colin, Leah, Megan, and Jarrod. Thank you to the amazing support staff at the retreat. Thank you to the 2018 cohort members who decided to give back and guide us throughout our retreat. To Maria and Corinne, THANK YOU! You all are doing amazing things with this program, and I am so happy and blessed that I am able to be a part of the Winning Edge Leadership Family. Let’s keep influencing, and let’s keep changing the game!
Lindsey is a 2017 graduate of Penn State University, where she earned her undergraduate degree in Public Relations. She most recently graduated from the University of South Carolina in May, where she completed her Master's Degree in Sport and Entertainment Management. She currently works at the University of Maryland, where she serves as the Director of Recruiting Operations for Women's Basketball.
Shannon Joyner was her retreat mentor!