STUDENT VIEW: Mesha’s NFL Combine Experience

Written by Mesha O'Neal

When faced with the decision to select an enrichment trip, I had no idea of where I wanted to go, learn, or experience. Two of my fellow peers from the Winning Edge informed me about the Sports Management Worldwide Football Career Conference during the NFL Combine and encouraged me to tag along. I ended up arriving in Indianapolis, Indiana without my pals as they found other conferences that were better tailored to their personal interest.

On the first day, I attended a mixer along with the many attendees in similar positions as I. Some had aspirations of becoming an agent or scout, but all of us had the common goal of wanting a career in the sports industry. Thankfully at the venue we were surrounded with those who had our dream careers. We were able to introduce ourselves to NFL personnel in hopes of becoming one step closer to our dreams.

The second day arrived and this was the moment that I began to learn things that no one from my past had ever mentioned before. The words spoken by NFL legend John Wooten, Miami Dolphins VP Mike Tannenbaum, and former Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik, made a huge impact on my life. Within one day they answered every question that I couldn’t even think to ask. They helped me pave the road to my dream career and that it’s self is priceless.

I had the honor to talk with those mentioned above along with other NFL personnel that I bumped into at the combine, conference and even Starbucks. Those conversations reassured me that I was on the right track and whether I knew it or not, I was ahead of the game. They were happy to let me know that I was on the right track and had a bright future but they were kind enough to tell me things I needed to work on. Because they were kind enough to give me feedback that I wasn’t able to give myself, I now have a relationship with a handful of important people and now I know exactly what I need to do to take my career to the next level.

If you have the opportunity to attend I would highly recommend it!

Mesha O'Neal

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STUDENT VIEW: 2016 NCAAHPERD Conference

Written by Darius Murray

Going into my 3rd year attending NCAAHPERD Conference in Winston Salem, North Carolina. My expectations where set high to come in first place either in the Case Study Competition, the Student of The Year Award Video Resume Competition or maybe even both.

The past two years at the representatives from my Johnson C. Smith have notwon either competitions. For myself I wanted this year to be different because I was a senior. Bringing at least one plaque back to JCSU was the only option.  Over the years, staying involved with campus organizations and having the opportunity to gain experience through working with different organizations in sports has been important to me.  Submitting my video resume for the competition was no different. I treated it as if it was a job interview.  I had to submit my best work. Participating in NCAAHPERD Conference has helped me with overall, but the area where I see the most improvement is public speaking. I learned skills through attending NCAAHPERD Conference that I couldn’t receive in the classroom.

This year’s case study question was, “How would we improve attendance from the Hispanic community for Charlotte Knights Games?” We had a week to come up with ideas and present it to the Charlotte Knight's VP of Marketing. I felt that our ideas where great and we presented then well.  Unfortunaley it wasn’t enough and we didn’t win. Overall, this was definitely a learning experience for me. Not only did we network with other students from other universities we got to network with the Charlotte Hornets VP of Marketing. After the first competition, he gave the participants some information about his background and some advice about life working in sports. Even though my team didn’t win the case study, we still won.  I say that, because we got to network with the VP of Marketing for the Charlotte Knight's.

Now that the case study was over with, it was time to announce the winner of the video resume competition. Before the winner was announced the speaker announced drum row please....and that’s when I became nervous. For a second I took a deep breath and thought about ways to improve my resume, win or loss. Finally the winner was announced. “Your first place winner is....Darius Murray.” I culd’nt believe it.  It was truly an honor.  The only expression I was able to produce was smile from cheek to cheek.  Understanding all the hard work I put in to improving my resume over the years, this award means so much to me, our sport management department, and my university.

This years NCAAHPERD conference was special not because of my personal awards but because of me and my colleagues represented our department and our university to the best to our ability. Moving forward I will motivate more students to get involved in attending conferences like this. Not only will they have a chance to come back with an award but they get to network with hundreds of people who are in the sport management field.

Darius Murray

STUDENT VIEW: Mesha O’Neal’s Eventful Path

Written by Mesha O'Neal

My introduction into the sports industry came on my 21st birthday in the pressbox of Neyland Stadium. One week prior, I emailed every public relations professional in the city of Knoxville and only one replied. Tom Satkowiak of the University of Tennessee’s Media Relations department replied and offered me a position to volunteer within the department to gain experience in the sports industry. I quit my paying job and began working for free in hopes that the outcome would pay me more than money. I knew nothing about sports communications but what I did know was how to listen and work hard.

Tom gave me access to work; he gave me material to learn and I soaked every bit of it up. I learned transcribing, press release writing, Adobe software, sports statistics, baseball scoring, developing web pages, led media availabilities, credentials, basketball scoring, HTML coding and so much more that I can’t even name. I learned skills within the Media Relations department that I couldn’t receive in the classroom.

I worked to learn all of these skills while balancing college academics and a reward came about six months later. Tom gave me the role of being the Sports Information Director over the men’s golf program. With this responsibility, I have learned even more. I used everything that Tennessee taught me to gain access to different events throughout the rest of the year.

I had the opportunity to work the SEC Women’s Basketball Championship in Jacksonville, Fla. I traveled to Florida and spent a week working the event. I applied all of the knowledge that I learned at Tennessee to this grand platform. I was granted the opportunity to sit down with the commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, Greg Sankey, who gave me tons of advice on how to further my career in sports. While in Jacksonville, I paid the Jaguars a visit and was able hear how some of their communication staff paved their way into the professional league.

In the last days of the tournament, I met now SEC Nation co-host Maria Taylor. Tom previously mentioned that she was the co-founder of the Winning Edge so when we initially met at the tournament, that was the topic of discussion. I kept in touch with both Maria and co-founder Corinne Milien to stay up-dated on openings within the program.

The next event I worked was the SEC Baseball Championship in Hoover, Ala. While working the tournament, I used every skill that I had learned previously but I applied it to the game of baseball. I soaked up as much information as I could so that I would be equally knowable in baseball as I was in every other sport. I picked up more knowledge by conversing with assistant commissioners of the SEC, which has helped me navigate through the sports industry.

I went on to work the biggest game in college football history, the Battle at Bristol. I traveled to Bristol, Tenn. and worked a full 24 hours where 156,990 fans were in attendance. The experience was priceless and being under so much pressure definitely prepared me for the future.

Next, I got on the road to Georgia and arrived at Sanford Stadium. The University of Georgia hosted the matchup against Tennessee and I was able to take a seat in the pressbox. This was one of my favorite events to work because very seldom do students get to travel to away games. This gave me a different perspective and taught me the different ways that media relations is handled throughout the collegiate sports world.

Without access to these events I would not have met such influential people. I have networked with so many individuals and those casual conversations turned into great relationships. Working all of these events showed me so many different pathways that I could steer my career. I decided that I would continue to work in communications but that I wanted to pursue a career as an on-air talent. With encouragement from the Winning Edge, I’ve took on another job with Tennessee’s athletic broadcasting department, VFL Films. The film department has granted me the opportunity to develop my skills at their facility to help me secure a job as an on-air talent after I graduate in May. This would not be possible if it weren’t for the many hands that I’ve shook at the events that I’ve worked.

 

Mesha O'Neal
Tennessee, 2017

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STUDENT VIEW: The Importance of Building Bridges

Written by Khadijah Segura

Having the opportunity to attend an amazing event such as the Pro Scouting School this summer was an experience. Reflecting back on the few months prior to me boarding my flight back to Charlotte from the Pro Scouting School, I told myself I was not going to this event. Throughout the entire Winning Edge (WE) program as a mentee, I was often reminded to focus more so on things I am aspire to become; a sports agent. Especially when it came to my enrichment trip.

TPG Agent School was held in December of 2015 and I was presented with the opportunity to attend but wasn't able too. So as a result, I began to look up other upcoming conferences and reminded once again to revisit my main focus. This process wasn’t easy. So I began to question myself about going on an enrichment trip. This would allow my mentors to help someone else in the program who did know what conference they wanted to go to.

While I tried to find the right enrichment trip for me, I had the chance to volunteer with TPG during their Sports Tank event here in Charlotte. I enjoyed volunteering with this organization and wouldn’t mind doing it again. Well, that opportunity came sooner than I thought. WE Co-founder, Corinne mentioned the Pro Scouting School to me but I overlooked the opportunity because I was too focused on my career goal and looking for opportunities that would benefit my future and I thought that was behind me but I was asked one last time to attend the Pro Scouting Schoot at the Winning Edge Red Heels and Bow Tie Event, by Mr. Charlie Wend of TPG.

After speaking with him, I finally decided to give it a chance and just go. I am always willing to help anyone in need and TPG personally insisted I come. And so I did but I still had the same mindset that the Pro Scouting School wouldn’t have absolutely nothing to do with my career path.

Well once again, I was wrong. Completely wrong... I really enjoyed myself. The Pro Scouting School brought some valuable insight about the sport industry that even agents need to be aware of. The guest speakers were personable and very knowledgeable about the information that they share throughout their presentations. TPG provided a learning environment and many networking opportunities for everyone. Yes, I couldn't always sit down and listen to every single thing as volunteer but when I did, it was well worth it. I was even able to get a few business cards and was asked to attend TPG Agent School this October as a guest. I am truly honored to attend as a guest and it wouldn’t have happened had I not attended the TPG event this summer.

Some important information that stuck out to me was the need to create opportunities I want for myself. I need to surround myself with people who are already in the career field I want to be in. Continue to educate myself on what people are doing and how they’re doing it in the sport industry. The word relationships became the reoccurring theme in everyone's panel. Building on relationships is key. Keeping in contact and updated with things going on is important because you never know what someone could be able to do for you or what you maybe able to do for them.

I’ve closely revised my reality on keeping up with the relationships I have formed. Its been a struggle for me to do but it is a work in progress. I really appreciate all the people involved in helping not only myself but for the other WE mentees to experience an event like I did this summer. These enrichment trips allows for us to be real with our reality and goals in life to ensure we get on the right track and continue move forward.  The relationships we build will help keep us on track when we began to drift away. Now, I completely understand why my mentors continuously stay on me because I needed reality checks here and there. The Winning Edge program has and will continue to provide an experience like no other and has given us valuable tools and information that will benefit us for a lifetime. Please continue to invest in us, the future by continue to build bridges others and one day we will be able to pay it forward and do the same all because you made a choice to build bridges rather than burn them.

Khadijah Segura