19 Game Changing Retreat

An Experience I Will Never Forget - Morgan Robinson


It was a no-brainer for me to apply for the Game Changing Retreat after my brother attended the inaugural retreat last year. I remember picking him up from the airport, and throughout the 45 minute trip home, he could not stop talking about all the amazing things he learned and experienced during it . He was so hyped about his experience and so elated to share it with me. He kept saying, “Morgan, you HAVE to go next year!” After hearing and seeing his excitement, I knew I wanted to be a part of something this special.


On my way to the retreat hotel, I could feel the nerves starting to build. I was getting anxious to meet all of my fellow cohort members. I was not sure if we were all going to click or if it would be awkward, but as soon as I meet the first group of people all of my nerves went away. Every single person was so warm and welcoming. After less than an hour of knowing each other you would have never known we had all just met that day. After that, I knew the weekend was going to be amazing. 

We arrived at the house for the first time, and we were welcomed with open arms by some of the “OG” cohort members and Corinne. Everyone was so excited the weekend was finally beginning, and it was so incredible to be around so many passionate people. By now, all of my nerves were gone, and I was ready to learn as much as possible during this retreat. 

Every single thing we did had a purpose. We didn’t do a single thing just to “fill time” or “to have something to do.” With just four days, it was apparent that Maria and Corinne only wanted us to learn from the best. From the presentations, site visits, golf lesson, and Dinners of Influence, every single event had a purpose. Their effort showed that this wasn’t just a cookie cutter event. They hand-picked everything we did based on the dreams and desires of all 16 cohort members. If that doesn’t show you how much they care and want us to succeed, I don’t know what will. 

The thing I loved and cherished most about the retreat was that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, wanted the best for everybody around them. I’ve never met more selfless and genuine people in my entire life. It truly blew my mind how much people wanted a complete stranger to succeed and that meant so much to me. In a world where there is so much hate, it is incredibly refreshing to know that good people still exist. This was very evident throughout the entire retreat but especially at the Dinners of Influence. 


Going into the Dinners of Influence, I was both nervous and excited to be around so many successful women and minorities in the sports industry. It’s one thing to be told you can do something, but it’s completely different to see someone that looks like you in the position you aspire to be in one day. It’s humbling, intimidating, and encouraging all at the same time. I thought it was going to be an opportunity to learn about their journey and hear their stories on what they had to overcome to get where there are today, but it was that and so much more. Our dinner guests truly wanted to help us and learn more about us. They inquired about our goals and went out of their way to connect us with people they believed could help us reach our goals, the ultimate assist. I never thought they would be so willing and excited to help someone else, especially being in the position they are in. 


My mentor, Dr. Julie Shaw, was amazing. Before we even arrived at the retreat, I knew she was a good one. She was so helpful and wanted to help each of us in every way she could. It was great having her in my corner, especially during the Dinners of Influence. She controlled the flow of conversation to help us get as much out of the dinner as possible. I know she is someone that I can go to throughout my journey, and she will always be available for advice. I’m eager to continue building our relationship for years to come. 

In a weekend full of learning experiences, I would say the most important thing I learned was to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” I heard this saying from different people during the weekend. Even if someone didn’t specifically say this phrase, I know that they had to be comfortable with being uncomfortable from listening to their journey. We all like to be comfortable and take the safe route, but if we want to achieve our dreams, we have to step out of our comfort zone and do things that are going to make us stand out from the pack. No matter how uncomfortable it might make us feel, it will all be worth it in the end. 


I thought I knew what I was going to get out of this retreat. I thought I was going to walk away from it with a great deal of knowledge, some amazing connections, and a few new friends. Not only did I walk away with an insane amount of knowledge, I walked away with a new found confidence that I am exactly where I should be, and I am going to achieve my goals. I am going to be great at what I do. I also walked away with 15 new brothers and sisters that I know will have my back throughout this entire journey and I will have theirs, forever.


Morgan is a recent graduate of Auburn University, where she received her master’s degree in Hospitality Management. She just began working with the Colonnade Group as the Director of Gamecock Suites at Jacksonville State University.

Dr. Julie Shaw was her retreat mentor!

2019 Retreat Experience - Lindsey Spann


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. 

DAY 1:

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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. 

DAY 2: 


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: 


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. 

DAY 4:


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!

2019 Retreat Experience - Darryl Reynolds


“We’re a family now. Like it’s not just the weekend or whatever, you really end looking at each other like family by the end of the retreat.”

That was Haley’s response when I asked what she enjoyed most about the retreat. Honestly, I was skeptical on how genuine her answer was. That negative voice that we all have in our mind got a little louder. “Is she just saying that? How do I know if my experience will be the same? I wonder if they have anymore of those Chick-Fil-A biscuits they had this morning.” 

These thoughts fired off in rapid succession as we wrapped up our conversation. The moment she walked away, I told myself to think positively and let the retreat be what it’s going to be. Why stress over questions that are going to get answered? So, I focused on what I knew for sure: no matter what happened, this weekend would be one of the most interesting stories of my life. 

I spent most of the first day paying attention to what happened organically, and by the time Dr. Collin Williams wrapped up his RISE presentation, I noticed that everything felt natural so far. During conversations, you genuinely cared. During group discussions, everyone hung on to the speaker’s every word. During meals, the laughs came from a place of relief and comfort. It felt like a family reunion, not because The Isley Brothers provided the soundtrack or the person on the grill constantly saying, “See, y’all don’t know nothin’ ‘bout this here,” but in the sense of being surrounded by like-minded and like-hearted (if that wasn’t a phrase it is now) people. 


The second day was undoubtedly the most fun, but it was a marathon. We had the panel with Bryan Harris, Tiffany Kelly, Erica Wilkerson, Adrian Williams; a presentation by Will Baggett; the site visits to the Braves Arena; and Jackson | Spalding or Turner Studios wrapped up by the Dinner of Influence. The panel shined light on something that I thought was exclusive to the media side of sports: everything is about the story. Rather, it was Erica Wilkerson talking how she changes the narrative in Nascar, or Bryan Harris explaining how marketing starts with “a story first approach.” Everything circled back to a story. During Turner, LaRhonda Jackson literally said, “We’re essentially story tellers” in reference to Turner as a corporation. It began to feel like I was being punked, but I’ve learned that if you keep hearing the same thing, it’s probably an invitation to start listening.  


At the Dinner of Influence, Corinne started the night off by explaining how we all came together and what we needed to do as a community, namely after the dinner concluded, and we all went our separate ways. At our dinner tables, we all shared a story on the assistance we received. Consequently, each story explained it’s narrator’s personality, passions, and purpose. That’s when it clicked, we weren’t brought together by our superficial love of sports. What truly tied us together was the overwhelming will to pay it forward. 

The next day started with a golf lesson, we were told the course used to be one of the worst neighborhoods, not only in Atlanta or the South but in America. A place that was formerly known as “Little Vietnam” was now a golf course filled with skilled and open-minded children, lifelong learners of golf, and us, a group that needed a lot of guidance (except Noor, she’s the truth).


Later that day we heard from Dr. Shaw. Her presentation which was my favorite simply because it shoved us out of our comfort zones by addressing our vulnerabilities. I’ve always been fixated on eliminating weaknesses, namely fear and insecurities, but what Dr. Shaw shared was that this could only be achieved through confronting these issues. We all were challenged to share something we feared which at first made us feel like strangers all over again, but it ultimately brought us closer together by the time we all told our truths. 


That night was the second Dinner of Influence. The only glaring difference was the stories told at each table due to a change in who was in attendance and the party that wrapped up the night. As we danced to 90’s R&B and laughed about any and everything, we ended up celebrating a family that just added 16 new members. 

The final day began with a presentation on how to deal with success and failures by Jarrod Barnes, and through all that, he taught us my biggest take away was the quote “success is peace of mind.” Maria followed us by telling us her story, and I think if questioned on it, we would all agree that it felt good hearing that success isn’t linear nor is it easy, but if it’s something your heart’s in it, it’s definitely worth it. 

So, when someone asks, “I saw you were down in Atlanta, how was it?” I’ll tell the story of how we all learned as much about ourselves as we did about the other cohorts. Of how an open mind can set you up for some of the best times of your life. Of how our imagination and ambitions got a little bigger, but through networking and putting our best foot forward, our worlds got a little smaller. Of how the Dinner(s) of Influence reconfirmed that there are no mistakes in who you gravitate towards. Of how true strength is found not in being guarded and closed off emotionally, but in being strategically vulnerable with yourself and others. But most of all, of how Haley was right because by the end of the weekend, the WE Game Change family got a little bigger. 


Darryl graduated from Villanova in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in Communications. Following graduation, he played a year of professionally, but due to injury spent the following year on Jay Wright’s coaching staff. Now he’s preparing to launch his own production company called Stay Tuned Network while hosting several podcasts in the Philadelphia area.

Talaya Wilkins was his retreat mentor!

2019 Retreat Experience - Candice Dominguez

16 Athletes. 6 mentors. 4 days. 1 experience.


*Not to be confused with the Pregame Podcast series, which if you haven’t already listened to, you should pause here and do that*

Let me give a quick breakdown of how this even came into existence. Nebraska Athletic Department’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion, DaWon Baker, said, “Hey, Candice, you should definitely apply for this retreat.” He told me more about it and  sent me the link to the application. I saw that I needed to create a video for the application process and was like, “Uhhh, are you sure I should do this?” 

I complete the application (bloopers of that video available upon request), and ten days later, I got the acceptance email. I was at our athletic department’s annual Diversity and Inclusion Summit when the email came through, so I immediately found DaWon after and said,  “LOOK!” And my next question became, “Uhhh, now what?”

In the months leading up to the retreat, my fellow Game Changers and I received monthly homework assignments (mock interview, webinars, etc.) and ongoing responsibilities such as selecting a book to read from the provided list and studying the individuals who would be at the retreat. This pregame experience helped as much as I allowed it to. Could I have better prepared myself? Absolutely. But doing anything in this time set me up to do well, especially during the Dinners of Influence.

First Quarter – June 20

At 6 a.m., I sent a text to Mom and Dad, “Taking off now. LNK->ATL.”


So. Tired. BUT I had landed in ATL. Called Jacques for shuttle information. Met Jacques and PJ. Headed to the hotel. Check-in. Okay, this was all a normal conference-y type weekend so far. Now came the fun part. Christmas came in June with our presents from Adidas. Yoga mat, 2 shoes, backpack, shorts, polo, socks, leggings, and tank all my size, all ready for me.

This was my first impression of the retreat at this point. In this room, I met some of the people I would be with all weekend, and we shared jokes over Chick-Fil-A within minutes. I hauled my new wardrobe back to my room and texted fellow Game Changer Bri, “I’m in room 336, where are you?” She was at my door literally fifteen seconds later, and I was greeted with a hug and a shared excitement to be where we were.

Y’all are probably thinking, “Okay, that’s nice. She made a friend.” But I will emphasize this now; these people are family. Good people know good people, and we all sensed it from the very beginning.

That afternoon we made our way to the retreat house. Still on the theme of first impressions—wow. The classroom was so cool, and we were greeted by the OGs (Original GameChanging Cohort), our mentors, and everyone else there to help us. We go around making introductions of staff and then ourselves and all seems simple, but everything was done with intention.


Our first session was with Dr. Collin Williams of RISE, and it was probably my favorite (the presentations were all great), as well as an intentional environment setting for the retreat. I think that before you can really learn about other things, you should know about yourself and be comfortable talking about yourself, and try your best to understand yourself. I thought this was a great presentation to learn just that. 

Next was dinner time. This was our first impression of food at the retreat (other than Chick-Fil-A, but that was a given first meal since we were in Atlanta). *insert fire emoji*

Ending the first day, we had another presentation (Dr. Turner, you are great) and a meeting with our mentors. I admit this may be a tad biased, but I fully believe that Bri, David, and I had the best mentor. Will continually showed us that, if we prepare well and take advantage of the situations we are in, we will get the most out of experiences. This first meeting was just the beginning.

Remember how my flight left  at 6 a.m. and I was “so. tired.”? It did not even matter anymore. I was where I needed to be, and it was such a great feeling. I did, however, sleep very well that night.

Day 1, you da best.

Second Quarter – June 21

At 6 a.m., I thought to self, “Wow…yoga…yay…”


Don’t get me wrong, Trap Yoga was awesome, and it was a GREAT start to the day. But you could not have told me I would feel that way at 6 a.m.

Day 2 was solid. We started the day hearing from industry professionals on our Emerging Careers in Sports Panel. Followed by the best mentor’s presentation on Networking and the Professional Presence. 

After lunch, we had site visits that (mostly) related to what each of us wants to do later in life. My group went to Jackson | Spalding, and we were treated to a tour of the office space and two panels. The first panel was a group of former student-athletes who now work at Jackson | Spalding, and they spoke on the transition phase out of athletics as well as the advantages they have over others by having been an athlete. As a recent graduate, I took a lot of notes here. 

The second panel was a group of people who work on the Jackson | Spalding’s sports team. They spoke to us on what’s is like working with and for sports teams and sporting events. I did learn some information here as well, but what was most interesting to me was that only one person was on both panels. It demonstrated that  you did not have to have been an athlete to work in sports. One of the former student-athlete panelists wants to work in sports eventually, but is not currently. He advised that we do the job we want to do in any industry instead of a job we don’t want to do in the industry we want to be in.

Upon returning from the site visits, we got ready for the first Dinner of Influence. I was unsure of what to expect during these dinners. Due to my pregaming, I knew who would be at my dinner table, but I was unsure what the conversation would be like. Moral of the story: I didn’t know…until I knew. Here’s what I mean. 

Along with two other Game Changers, I checked-in at the dinner, and we were the first people there (other than staff, of course). Slowly, people were arriving and it was turning into networking hour, which I loved. While not everyone feels the same way, I am very comfortable walking up to someone new and saying , “Hi, my name is Candice. This is what I do. Who are you?”

Through this, I connected with industry professionals who were not at my table and got real insights on what to expect. This continued throughout cocktail hour and the meal, as Will did very well moderating the conversation and asking our guests very intentional questions. This experience really opened my eyes to how many people actually WANT to help young women and minorities break into the field. We are so often told that we have to do things for ourselves and that is not always the case. The guests at the Dinner of Influence were more than willing to pull out their phones and tell you everyone they know who might be able to help you at all. I didn’t know that, but not because I didn’t think it was possible. I was just never exposed to a setting that made this possible. This dinner did just that.

This weekend sounds great because it was. It wasn’t until the end of Day 2 that I felt even a tiny bit out of place. And wording it like that is even a bit of a stretch. Maria and some of the Game Changers were doing the Electric Slide to the song “Before I Let Go,” and as much as I wanted to join…I didn’t know the dance or the song. In fact, I just had to text a fellow Game Changer and ask, “What was the song y’all were dancing to that one time….?”

While I say this made me feel out of place in the moment, it was only two minutes of my life. And I have learned in all of my experiences that I will not be comfortable all the time, and that is okay.

Day 2, you were good to me.

Third Quarter – June 22

At 6 p.m., I  thought to myself, “Is this really ending tomorrow?”


By Day 3, we were really in the flow of things—playful joking, lots of laughs, and really learning about each other and the world of working in sports. The morning started with breakfast at one of the hotel restaurants then we headed to the golf course. This was…an experience. As an athlete, I like being good at things, and I was not good at this right away, or even kind of good at the end. However, the instructors were great, and I did enjoy myself.

After the golf outing, we returned to the house for some great food and presentations from Dr. Shaw and Megan Perry. During Dr. Shaw’s presentation we got really serious talking about fears that we have as we begin our careers. It was important for me to recognize that yes, I am fearful, but this is what I can do to help combat that fear. The intimacy and safe space already set in the previous days was an added benefit to the vulnerability displayed here.


That night was the second Dinner of Influence. While very similar to the first night, we had a smaller dinner table the second night. I enjoyed the closer connections and more detailed stories this allowed. I also spoke with people that I had been looking forward to connecting with. Walking up to a stranger with the new assurance I had been developing over the weekend was an unmatchable feeling.

Day 3, you made me more comfortable and confident.

Fourth Quarter – June 23

My 6 p.m. text to Mom and Dad, “At the airport :/”

The last day felt like a wrap up, and it ended great. Jarrod Barnes spoke to us on maintaining a championship mindset while Maria shared her own story with us. We had a final meeting with our mentors (BaggCrew to Infinity) where we shared a bit of what we learned from each other in the few days. 

The retreat ended with a BBQ lunch and reflections of the retreat from each Game Changer and what to expect from them in the future. Several people vowed to come back and help in the future…more power to them. I don’t even know what I’m having for dinner let alone where my career path will lead me in the next year.

However, I did (and still do) promise to be the best product of the Game Changing Retreat and Winning Edge. I will do my best to quite literally change the game for women and minorities and women minorities entering the industry. I will leave my mark wherever I am and let it be known how I got there.

Day 4, you made saying goodbye hard.

Post-Game – June 24 & Beyond

I was pretty sad to return to Lincoln. Upon returning home from the retreat, I reread all my notes, went through all the business cards I received, and began writing some notes to people that I met over the 4 days. In doing those activities, I started my immediate reflection. Even writing this is a continued reflection of what I learned and how I can use it in everyday life.

The retreat left me with more than just professional development advice and contacts in the industry. Yes, the information was great and very helpful to the start of my career, but the experience as a whole was much more than that.

I have confidence in what I am doing for a career. It has become less of, “Well, you know it is hard as a woman in the field,” and more of, “Wow, you are going to go far. How can I help?” And it’s not just what other people are telling me that gives me that confidence. It has been meeting and hearing from other individuals who look like me that have had success.  


I have a new friend in Noor. We competed for the same university for two years, seeing each other only in passing and at lunch time. I never had a single conversation with her prior to this experience, and now that we are back in town, we have had a few meals together and even spent the 4th of July holiday together.

I also have 15 other people to celebrate with. We all celebrate things like Jaiden’s girlfriend surprising him or Chelsea getting a job with the NFLPA. These people are family. 

Was the retreat perfect? No. Could I have done more to prepare or get more out of my experience? Probably. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

16 athletes. 6 mentors. 4 days. 1 experience.    1 huge, motivated, happy family.


Candice is a 2019 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she earned her Master of Arts in Business Administration with a specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics. She will soon begin a Player Engagement internship working with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Will Baggett was her retreat mentor!

2019 Retreat Experience: Avery Marz

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Thursday – Day 1


It was a Thursday afternoon; eachcohort member shuffled in nervously to the Marriot Marquis’ highest floor – room 4027. Each member had anxiously anticipated the weekend; with each retreat homework assignment giving us a different insight into what the retreat had to offer. As we all discovered, the retreat was in place to benefit us specifically. Therefore, each homework assignment, live video chat and survey leading up to the retreat was for Corinne and Maria to get an idea about what we wanted/needed as cohort members. After connecting flights, long drives, andbaggage carrying, we each opened the heavy wooden doors to former cohorts waiting to greet us with a smile, along with a generous team from Adidas. They were eager to make us feel welcome while handing us backpacks filled with gear and two pairs of shoes. 

I think it is safe to say that we each received our first pair of Golf shoes, foreshadowing our less than athletic golfing experience that would take place sometime later in the weekend. Noor Ahmed, our sole golfer in the group took playful jokes from other cohort members as she was humbly waiting to show us up on the course by Saturday. Aswe all headed to our rooms to get ready for day 1introductions and roommate conversations, questions of what was to be expectedfilled the rooms. Little did we know, as we interacted with one another we quickly became our own Winning Edge family. As we stepped out of our comfort zones and highlighted our ambitions in the sports world we established the beginning of lifelong friendships with the help of Corinne and Maria. 


After a short van ride, we entered the house where the panels and presentations would be held.We listened intently and took notes in our notebooks as we learned about our strengths and our unknowing connection to one another throughout the RISE presentation from Dr. Collin Williams. By highlighting which strengths, we felt most empowering, Dr. Collin Williams opened our eyes to how sports bring people together unknowingly. With our deepened understanding of the link we all had as athletes, Dr. Leah Turner anchored the night with a presentation on the advantages of being an athlete andhow to use them. All the presentationswere interactive with room for questions and dialogue amongst the group at any time. The presentations promototeda level of vulnerability as open group discussion took place, setting the pace for the entire weekend. We scarfed down flatbreads and ended with an onscreen facetime call with Maria as she drew close to her interviews with Zion and other draftee’s stage-sideat the 2019 NBA Draft. We all played it cool but comeon, what a way to start the retreat!


Friday – Day 2 


Our day began with 6:30 am yoga at the poolside of the Marriot Marquis hotel. We experienced tranquil momentsas we laid our mats.You wouldn’t have known that shortly the city would be hustling with commuters and car horns on the way to work. The first sound came from our yoga instructor and his speaker, “Act up; youcan get snatched up.” Yes, City Girls rang supreme on the deck as our Trap yoga session began. From Chatarunga, to chair, to crow, to backbendsand finally with a relieving sigh to our final pose Savasana (literally laying on the mat). Yoga is no joke, okay? 

Despite the glistening on most of our foreheads, the lesson was a way to get us in tune with our bodies for the day. Friday included a panel on emerging careers in sports live-streamedon Twitter, a keynote by mentor Will Bagget, corporate site visits and Dinner of Influence #1. Taking what we learned from Will in his keynote about networking and professional presence, each group headed to their respective sites. I can only speak personally about Turner Sports, butthe morale after the conclusion of each corporate visit was similar. The Atlanta Braves and Jackson Spalding, like Turner,took valuable time to give us insight intothe sports business and an avenue to see ourselves in the future, as a part of what they do. 

The first dinner of influence was metwith the same anxious feelings we had on Day 1 arrivals. How would we put together everything we learned and juststep into this space Corinne and Maria created for us to network? Everyone went about their first conversations differently, but by the time we got to our respective table's the conversationflowed, assist cards were written,andeach cohort had a new connection to the world we all seek to impact. The night ended with professional headshots, and a small dance party to celebrate our first night together. We started to see ourselves becoming comfortable with one another, and ourselves. We developed the feeling that we were no longerthe minority, but the majority!


Saturday - Day 3

Our last full day together began on the golf course. With a short trip in the vans to east Atlanta, each of us uniformly decked out in a red polo and khaki shorts. The lesson began with a brief introduction with our golf instructor, who is also the only black man to be a part of a PGA father-sonduo. Talk about firsts…he’s still the only. The lessons on hitting off a tee and demonstrations on how to hold a putter had each of us eager to give it a swing. Some of us, Noor specifically,excelled. While others, just enjoyed the experience of a new sport. Though it was a difficult task, all 16 of us athletes quietly competed within ourselves while outwardly smiling and enjoying the experience together.

After golf, we had some downtimeto get our outfits and minds together for the last Dinner of Influence. As the dinner began, the vibe was slightly different from what we experienced onthe first night. Each cohort member was confident and engaged in their discussions as they navigated the room of business professionals, knowingthat everyone was there in support of US. I was particularly biased to Table 1, shout out to them, but each table had their interestingconversations that left each cohort member inspired by the honesty and willingness to help. At the commencement of the evening, we took our final photos and danced just a little bit more, as huge smiles widened effortlessly across our faces. 


Sunday - Day 4 - 


If you ask me, I think they saved the best food for last…. If his stance doesn’t tell you he’s the man, then you’re not seeing the full picture. Every meal was made just for us; dietary restrictions and preferences all considered before we arrived. From omelets to cinnamon rolls from smoked ribs to…I’ll stop before you all get too jealous. You just had to be there! 

As we finished our food onSunday,there was a sense of, what now? The day’s presentations were completed, the first presentation amazingly done by Jarrod Barnes on mental toughness. Two quotes from Jarrod’s presentation stood out to me, “Winning at the right things means disappointing the wrong people” and “We are good at setting goals but not identifying sacrifices.” Jarrod emphasized finding people who will hold you accountable and finding out what you are not willing to compromise on. 

 Additionally, Maria Taylor’s telling of her own “come up” especially resonated with us as the retreat ended. She emphasized that people were going to try and find ways to poke holes in you, but vocalizing your goals, searching for a peace of mind and realizing that no matter the task someone can see your light shining there encompassed the retreats objectives. 

Ultimately, we met with our mentors to discuss career goals, andhow to execute them. The broadcasting and production groups practiced stand-ups,andCorinne and Maria asked us all to stand up in front of the group and pick a highlight from the retreat. As well as, what we plan to do with our new insight and how we will be giving back to the WE Leadership Academy and the next cohort members. Each member had a different story, but all of us were excited to share what we’ve learned with others outside of the retreat. As Dr. Julie Shaw said, “Leaders don’t force people to follow, they invite them on the journey.” 


As PJ said, “looking smoother than the Brady Bunch.” We all found new friends in each other as a part of this one blended family. I can’t thank the former cohorts, videographers, photographers, chefs, andeveryone who had a rolein the retreat enough. Corinne and Maria, you both have found a way to impact us more than you’ll ever know. We’ll continue to give back by shining at our respective schools, jobs, andin life as we search to find our place with new confidence in who we are, and passion for making our mark.  


In the end, it’s important for us to strive together, to ask for what we deserve and to know that our mind is just a barrier. Maria and Corinne used this weekend to give us the inspiration, the tools andthe connections. Now it’s up to us! 



Avery is a 2018 graduate of Saint Joseph’s University, where she earned her undergraduate degree in Communications. She is currently completing her thesis for the Writing Studies Masters program at Saint Joseph’s University, while working as a sports production intern at Turner Sports in Atlanta.  

Maria Taylor was her retreat mentor!