This past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity of attending the 2009 Mid-Atlantic Regional
 
SAAC Leadership Conference, right here in Atlanta. The conference consisted of members from the CAA, AAC, MEAC, Big South, and Atlantic 10 Conference. I was selected to represent Georgia State as along with Bradley Logan from the baseball team, with our administrative representative Dominique Holloman from compliance.

The weekend consisted of activities to help us learn about leadership, values, branding ourselves, and more. The conference opened Friday afternoon at the Omni hotel, a few blocks from campus. We checked in at 12 noon and received a free t-shirt, water bottle and backpack courtesy of the NCAA. All of the students-athletes then gathered in a ballroom where we did several icebreakers to get know each other. Right from the beginning, I saw a few familiar faces. During the activities, I met fellow CAA women's basketball players Candice Bellocchio, a point guard from Hofstra, and Jessica Cohen, a post player from UNC Wilmington. I also met Sthefany Thomas, a guard from Clemson, who I played against last season.

Next, we piled into the big ballroom where the opening remarks were made with an overview of the weekend. Then we broke out into our color teams in separate rooms and met the people who we would we be spending the majority of weekend with. I had the pleasure of being the Purple Team, led my Katie and Marteze. Again, I was surrounded by more of our CAA athletes, Ashley, from William & Mary track, and Joe, from VCU track. The rest of my purple team members were Abby, Maryland gymnastics; Kyle, Boston College golf; Jenna, Liberty softball; Pearl, Winthrop softball; Anthony, Duke wrestling; Alex, Clemson track; Kamerra, Delaware State, equestrian: Aimy, South Carolina St., tennis; Annie, Georgia Tech, track: and Danielle, Jacksonville, basketball. As you can see, I spent my weekend with a very diverse group of people from a variety of sports teams and different conferences. We spent the next few hours building towards the theme of the conference "Leadership Through Service."

We had group discussions on leaderships, the qualities of a good captain, and how to be that person. We did worksheets in our binders and took notes to refer back on throughout the evening. After the first session we met up with all of the other teams in the ballroom for dinner, followed by a breakdown of what exactly the NCAA is and what they do for athletes. Then we broke up into two big groups, discussed common issues on our campus, and shared ideas from our own schools of good ideas for community service projects. We ended the first night at about 9 p.m. with an ice cream social in the lobby, and again I was able to meet new friends from different conferences and other athletic sports.

Saturday started early with a 7 a.m. breakfast. After we ate, we broke off into our color teams and proceeded with our workbooks. We talked about what we value and what is most important to us in life as student-athletes. This led us into branding ourselves and reaching our full potential in being the person we desire to be. With each activity, we were able to share one-on-one thoughts and experiences with other student-athletes or an administrator and to talk about our values and what makes us who we are.

Next, we took the DISC personality test, which ultimately told us what type of environment is good for us, the type of people we work
best with and our common personality traits. This was by far one of my favorite parts of the weekend. It was the most accurate personality test I have ever taken and taught me many things about how function in a team and social setting. Not only did I learn my strengths, but also how to encompass my weaknesses.

After a vivid group discussion on our DISC results it was time for our surprise community service event. We loaded the bus and headed to Mary Lin Elementary in Atlanta. We each paired up with one kid and did various projects on the outside of the school. My partner Ali and I painted over vandalized boards, planted shrubs, and rebuffed the bark on the playground.

After all the work was done, it was time for the real fun. We played “duck, duck, goose” and “red light, green light” with all of the children, then signed autographs. The day brought back memories of my childhood and made me appreciate the simple things in life we forget about, as we grow older. Seeing the smiles on all of the children and how much they looked up to all of us really made me feel good.

We went back to the Omni hotel, had a reflection session in our color teams, and shared our favorite parts of the service project. After dinner, we broke into groups according to conference and discussed topics with the other reps from the CAA. Our conference meeting was led by Kathleen Batterson (Senior Associate Commissioner), Niki DeSantis (Director of Communications), and Marisa Biggins (Compliance and Admin Intern). We talked about sportsmanship and the new pledge, interaction between CAA schools, and the CAA website. We also learned about what goes on behind the scenes at the compliance office and how much work is done to make sure the CAA athletes stay eligible. Marisa then shared her experience as a current intern in the conference office has a former student-athlete at James Madison.

Sunday was another early morning with breakfast at 7 a.m. We then had the pleasure of hearing from Nancy Lieberman, a former ODU star and professional women’s basketball pioneer. She spoke to us about the struggles in her life to succeed, being a leader, setting goals, and staying motivated. She was a wonderful speaker and inspired us all with her words of encouragement. I briefly met her and took a picture with her and chatted with her. To my surprise she told me about my head coach, Lea Henry, and their playing days going against each other in college.

Next, we had a guest speaker from Duke University talk to us about transferable skills and putting our athletic success onto a resume. We learned some proper skills we need for interviews and life after sports.

We then had our final color sessions, learned about goal setting, then set specific goals for ourselves, and shared them with our color team members.  We tied in everything we learned from the previous sessions and focused on the theme “Leadership Through Service.”

We said our goodbyes, took many pictures and all departed our separate ways back to our campuses to incorporate what we learned.

Overall, it was one the best experiences of my life. Being able to interact with other student athletes while learning about myself was a fun experience. The entire time I was there I was thinking about my teammates and coaches at GSU and how I can use the skills I learned at the conference to be a better teammate.

I will never forget this past weekend and all of the new faces I have met for they have all truly touched my life, as my “Purple Team” is now a part of my family. I hope to now continue working on my leaderships skills and take back all of the activities and information I learned to my teammates as well as the rest of the student-athletes at GSU. All together, it was one incredible weekend. Until next time, BOOM! (A chant we started and ended each session with)