WE Experience: 2018 GladiatHers Summit - Atlanta

Have you ever been offered to attend an event for free? I was able to for the first time and it was an experience I’ll never forget. It all started with a Twitter post made by The Winning Edge Leadership (if you are not following them, you need to @TheWELeadership). They were offering to give two students or young professionals a free ticket to attend the GladiatHers Women in Sports Empowerment Summit in Atlanta, GA in January 2019. All I had to do was tweet them explaining why I should attend the event. I did just that and received a DM from the executive director of Winning Edge, Corinne Milien, saying I won a free ticket to the event. I was so excited and thankful to able to go. If it wasn’t for my dearest colleague, Reggie Jennings, I would have never known about this event or the opportunity to attend.

The name of the event captured my interest from the beginning. Being a woman is challenging working in the sports industry dominated by men. It makes it even more challenging being an African-American woman. Ironically, I was eager to meet other African-American women in the industry to learn from their experiences and receive advice. This was the perfect time for an event that would include many women with different backgrounds and journeys that I could meet and learn from. The lineup for each presentation included former Olympians/athletes, current coaches, CEO’s, business owners, and the keynote speaker Sarah Thomas, the first ever female NFL official. Each presentation met my needs and sparked my curiosity about finding out more about myself. The entire experience was amazing from the view of downtown Atlanta, the food, and gift bags, networking with other women and so much more to the point I was not ready to leave. I would definitely encourage all women reading this to look into attending future events. It’s important for us to stick together and help each other learn from the experiences of working in this industry. I am reminded by a quote from Michelle Obama that states: “There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish”. This is very true and we must believe so for ourselves as women. My passion to work in the sports industry developed from my athletic background. I grew up in an athletic family and pursued playing volleyball in college. Throughout my life I discovered my passion to impact lives through teaching, coaching and advising/mentoring students and athletes. My experience allowed me to relate to = current student-athletes as I faced adversities playing as a collegiate athlete. Having ACL surgery on both of my knees which resulted in an end to my athletic career, I knew that was not the end of me. It sparked my passion to be the hands and feet current student-athletes need in order to guide them to make their dreams become a reality.

As a young African-American woman, I use my experience to impact many lives because I know my heart and capabilities. It’s never too late to make your own dreams become a reality regardless if your passion resides in a male-dominated industry. The Women in Sports Empowerment Summit allowed me to be confident by discovering ways to lead and learn more about my natural capabilities. This means I have my own iconic brand and it’s time for me to unleash it as I continue to pursue my dream. I hope what I have shared sparked an interest in attending future events hosted by GladiatHers or any other events that offer some sort of empowerment/professional development advice. I will end by sharing a piece of advice from the first ever female NFL official, Sarah Thomas. Throughout her journey to make her dream become a reality, she instructed us to... “(1) Don’t do it to prove anyone wrong, (2) Don’t do it for recognition, but instead (3) Do it because you love it.” 

Thank you again, Reggie Jennings, Corinne Milien, The Winning Edge, GladiatHers, and everyone else that made this opportunity for me become an experience that I will cherish forever. I look forward to attending more events hosted by both of these organizations as they care to impact lives on young professionals like you and me. 

  

- Haley Major

 
 

Atlanta Braves Join 2019 Retreat as Corporate Site Visit Partner

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Atlanta, GA – The Winning Edge Leadership Academy announced today that the Atlanta Braves will join the 2019 Game Changing Retreat as a corporate site visit partner providing an opportunity for interested cohort members to gain insight while spending time with professionals in the organization.  The site visit will take place on Friday, June 21, 2019 at the Braves’ offices in SunTrust Park providing cohort members a first-hand look at careers in baseball.
 
“When we started planning for our second retreat, I wanted to incorporate another way for cohort members to build their network and gain a better understanding of the various career fields in sports business.  The city of Atlanta, home to first-class events and teams, provided the perfect setting to engage with local organizations, like the Atlanta Braves, who are committed to diversity and inclusion,” said Executive Director and retreat host, Corinne Milien.
 
In addition to their participation as a corporate site visit partner, Adrian Williams, Senior Director of Diversity and Community Marketing for the Braves, will join NASCAR’s Erica Wilkerson and Tiffany Kelly, sports entrepreneur and analytics professional, on an emerging career panel hosted by co-founder Maria Taylor that will stream live on Twitter Friday, June 21.
 
“We are excited to host the 2019Game Changing Retreat at SunTrust Park. We look forward to meeting emerging leaders in the sports business world and we hope to show them different career areas within baseball,” said Atlanta Braves Senior Director of Diversity and Community Marketing, Adrian Williams.

We are still seeking organizations/individuals in the Atlanta who want to get involved as a 2019 Retreat Corporate Site Visit Parter. If you are or know anyone that may be interested, please contact Corinne at Corinne@winningedgeleadership.org

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Where Are They Now: 2018 Cohort Member Ariana Freeman

 
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The Winning Edge retreat could not have come at a better point in my life.

After tearing my Achilles just two days prior I was now forced to focus on being apart of the sports industry in a way other than being an athlete. I always knew I wanted to be a sports reporter and taking part in the retreat allowed me to rub shoulders with mentors who were willing to help those like me  striving to be where they are some day.

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My mentor was Maria Taylor, and I could not have asked for a better role model. Since the retreat I have began stepping out of my comfort zone and stepping into the reporting world. I cover the Charitable Foundation for the Washington Redskins and the Wizards for the Roundball Report. Trying to stay busy and trying to stay focused while finishing my final months of graduate school at George Mason University studying Sport Management. You can’t quite put a price on how valuable having a mentor just a phone call away is when you begin to overthink, over analyze and over worry about all the life stresses a young 22-year-old faces.

*OMG mom just kicked me off the phone plan and I have to find a job in a couple months

Maria has always been there for me no matter how silly I think my question may be or if I just need someone to talk to about planning the next steps in my career. She has helped me feel confident as a woman working in the National Football League and the best piece of advice she has given me is “DON’T STRESS YOURSELF OUT!!!” 

A Dream Come True: Oregon's Ronika Stone

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As I sit here writing my very first blog post, I can’t help but smile. One, because writing for fun was never anything I would ever consider doing before and two, because I am finally able to sit down and reflect on a day that I can honestly say changed my life.

Last week started off as a typical week for me. That changed when l I received a text from the Assistant Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Development, Katie Harbert. She asked me if I was interested in job shadowing Maria Taylor, an ESPN and SEC network analyst and host, for College GameDay! I couldn't believe that she thought of me and I didn't care what my earlier plans were--I was not going to miss out on an opportunity of a lifetime.

College GameDay is a big deal in the sports world. When I found I was going to be a part of it I was thrilled. I couldn’t hide my excitement. I let everyone know I was going to shadow Maria Taylor from College GameDay.

I thought I was going to be following Maria around all day and asking questions along the way. I was wrong. I received an email from Corinne Milien, the Executive Director of The Winning Edge Leadership Academy (look her up, she's legit), that told me to be prepared to run Maria's social media and have knowledge on our [Oregon] football team and the opposing team. I was nervous, but ready.

College GameDay is no joke. I woke up at 4:30 a.m. for the first time since birth. The sun wasn't even up, but the day was just getting started. I was impressed with every little thing Maria did. She took time to take pictures with multiple fans and remembered every person's name. And she did it all while keeping a smile.

The majority of what Maria taught me, she did without answering my questions. She was just doing what she always does. Her job didn't seem like a job at all. What I found most comforting was that she didn't have to change who she was when the lights came on. The on-camera laughs were my favorite because it was unscripted. Maria and her colleagues Gene Wojciechowski, Desmond Howard, and David Pollack taught me that there is a way to joke around a have fun while still getting the job done.

The best moment was being on the sidelines the whole game. The crowd is so much louder on the field than it is in the stands; so much that I thought I was going to lose my sense of hearing after the game. Maria must be really good at reading lips because I'm not sure how she can still hear after doing this every weekend.

In conclusion: Any question that came to my mind, I felt comfortable asking. I wanted to know how Maria’s brain works and how I could somehow make mine be more like hers. When the game ended it was chaos. Maria and I sprinted onto the field, dodging massive football players as they rushed onto the field to celebrate. Through it all Maria remained her funny, laidback self. She seemed unfazed by the score and was prepared for any situation. It was an honor to be by her side and I'm excited to follow the rest of her career.

Thank you, Maria Taylor.

Learning from the Best: Texas A&M’s Jada Walton

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My name is Jada Walton. I am in my second year at Texas A&M university studying Sports Management. I also play on the women’s basketball team. The moment I received word that Maria Taylor was coming to talk with the student athletes at Texas A&M, I knew this was something I could not miss. Knowing Maria’s background, her success and the influence she’s had in the sports industry for both male and female college athletes I knew this would be a great opportunity. I was excited to introduce myself and ask her some questions. She provided answers that that will guide me in the right direction for my future aspirations.

During the chalk talk, she explained how she got into her profession, the things it took for her to succeed and the people that guided her along the way. Initially Maria didn’t know that sports broadcasting would be her path, but ever since she started it became, and still remains her passion.

On Saturday, September 8th Maria Taylor allowed me the opportunity to shadow her for the entire day! It began in the morning on the set of ESPN’s College Game Day and continued that evening on the sideline of  the Texas A&M vs. Clemson football game. I learned so much from not only her, but also the people around her who I got to meet. Throughout the day I flooded her with questions. She willingly spoiled me with knowledge and information about her profession. This experience was one to remember and I am very thankful for Maria and her staff for making this happen.

I love sports and have aspirations of coaching basketball at the highest level possible. I would love to start off at the high school level specifically the one I attended in Decatur, Georgia (Southwest DeKalb High School), so I can encourage and teach young girls who are continuing the legacy. Now with a wider range of knowledge, I am open to other opportunities in the sports industry. I’d feel confident doing whatever is thrown my way in the future. Shadowing Maria was awesome for me because it opened my eyes to different aspects of sport broadcasting. One thing that stuck with me was when she said, “leaving a positive impact on people is huge. You want them to like you even more than they did before they met you.” Maria Taylor did just that.