DURHAM, N.C.— I recently traveled to Ohio to attend the Athletes in Action Women's Basketball Captains Academy. When I think about this academy the first word that comes to my mind is incredible. I learned so many things about leadership, my personal walk with the Lord, and the intersection of the two. The speakers and activities were effective in showing how what we learned applied to team situations; highlighting different ways people can lead.
I didn't know what to expect going to Ohio, since I had never been. My connecting flight to get there was delayed so I missed introductions for the Academy, but I got there a few hours later. When I got off the plane in Dayton and was waiting for my bags, I had some discussions about my leg (you know the brace is always a conversation starter haha).
As a man was telling me about his leg injury years ago, I noticed a tall couple holding a baby, thinking to myself “wow, they are definitely not going to have to pay for the little ones college.” I got my bags and was met by an incredibly sweet AIA staff member, Jenna, who drove two ladies from Oral Roberts University, whose flights had also been delayed, and I to Xenia, Ohio (about 30 minutes from Dayton) where the Captains Academy would be held.
The Athletes in Action campus is a hidden gem in Xenia. It had multiple different sports field that was high-quality, a ropes course, and they are planning to add on more state-of-the-art facilities within the next couple of years. It used to be a place for orphanages back in the 1800s for children who lost their parents in the war, and it is also where the very first marching band in the nation was created. There is a lot of history to the place and I highly recommend going to see it for yourself.
There were a total of seven athletes there, where the year before the attendance was in the 20s, but I think the smaller numbers only enhanced the experience even more for me. We all got to know each other really well over the four days we were there and will continue to keep in touch, updating each other about our seasons. There were also great staff members who did a wonderful job putting together the Academy and organizing the events.
On day one we all had breakfast together and one of the staff members shared the Thought of the Day, which over the four days came together as an acronym for LEAD: Love, Empower, Advance, and Develop. Following that we did some great team building activities that helped us get to know each other better and communicate.
Each activity had symbols in it and required us to work together in order to achieve a goal. After this Tamara Stocks, former professional and University of Florida player, spoke to us about perception and the way we think, teaching us about the unhealthy ways we think and how to fix this thought process. She was a great speaker and person; she actually stayed in the dorms with us the entire four days in case we needed/wanted to talk to her, which I thought was really nice. This was followed by lunch and a fantastic session, entitled Real Colors, with Stephanie Zonars.
I loved Real Colors because Stephanie was breaking down temperament and why it is important. I won't go into detail about it, because I would need a whole other post, but it was eye opening and I learned a lot from it. Dinner came quickly and was followed by our last event of the evening, a Skype session with Maya Moore. It was awesome to be able to speak and do a Q&A with a three-time WNBA champion, especially as she took the time out of her day while they were still in training camp to speak with us. She gave us advice from how to grow physically, mentally, and spiritually in her profession to resources she uses like study Bibles, books, and videos to become her best self, so that was amazing.
That was a taste of the types of events and activities we did each day. I would go through every single one, but I would then be writing a novel. Throughout the other three days of the academy, a few things highlighted my time in Xenia.
First of these was a talk by former Ashland University head coach Sue Ramsey called “Great Teams Have Great Teammates.” Coach Ramsey's energy and love for her team and the sport truly inspired me. I believe every team should hear her speak, because she is an incredible woman. The same day we all attended the Athletes in Action Night of Champions Hall of Faith Induction Ceremony where each year they choose a male and female athlete that exemplifies what it means to be a Christian Athlete. At this ceremony, they acknowledged the Captains Academy and we all went up to the stage and my roommate Rachel and I each shared one thing that stood out to us during the academy.
On the last day Tamara spoke to us again, teaching us about the power of influence and choice. She also told us to change the way we think because it all starts with our mindset; our thoughts influence how we feel, which influences our actions.
Later that day we had a service opportunity at a women's prison, which is an event I was personally terrified of, but I conquered the fear and it was an experience that really made me think about a lot of things differently. Many of the women in the prison were extremely nice, but because they made a mistake they now have to deal with the consequences. It really made me think about what Tamara had told us about choice and the power it has. Lastly, we ended the last day with another Skype session, but this time with Tamika Catchings. She was very encouraging and motivating in her talk with us; leaving us with these three things:
1. Find what you are passionate about
2. Learn how to speak in public and always be presentable when you are out and about, because you never know who you are going to meet/see
3. Seek opportunities around your passion
Overall, I had a blast at the academy and it was an incredible experience! To be able to learn more about faith-based leadership was a blessing and I met some remarkable people along the way. I highly recommend all female basketball players to attend the AIA Captains Academy, whether they are Christians or not. The staff and people you will meet are great and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything else. I cannot rave about it enough and I hope you will attend, or if you can't please at least tell someone about it, because it really changes you and empowers players to go back to their teams and make a difference.
Also a HUGE thank you to Bobby Sorrell for telling me about this opportunity to attend! You are awesome and greatly appreciated for all you do!