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Recapping 2014 NCAA Emerging Leaders Seminar

Mark Burns recaps his experience at the NCAA’s annual Emerging Leaders Seminar.

Last week, roughly 200-plus graduate assistants and college athletic department interns descended on Indianapolis for the annual NCAA Emerging Leaders Seminar held at the NCAA’s Headquarters.  If you didn’t think there was competition to work in collegiate athletics, seeing a few hundred young professionals in a large conference room certainly does the trick.  The three-day seminar included professional development sessions, talks from current athletic administrators, a state of the NCAA address, and numerous key points everyone could take back to their campus or conference office.

Perhaps two of my favorite sessions of the week was one on social media/personal branding and the other on leadership, self-awareness, and ethics.

Jessica Smith, a Social Media Strategist/Assistant Director with the NCAA, gave the first talk.  A 2009 graduate of Auburn University, Smith discussed how you can leverage social media to improve your personal brand, so to speak.  During her presentation, she displayed a number of screenshots from some of the students’ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Linkedin profiles.  I think everyone realized, myself included, that anyone is one Google search away from finding your social media accounts and discovering what type of behavior you exhibit online.  As Smith said, “Your digital footprint is a living, breathing resume…You have to understand people will look you up online.”

Smith suggested for audience members to begin participating in Twitter chats as a way to further one’s understanding of the sports business industry and to connect with like-minded individuals.  My biggest takeaway from Smith’s talk, though, was her line that, “It’s all about adding value to the conversation, not just adding noise.”  This definitely applies to Twitter, where there is an unlimited amount of potential for engaging with followers, sharing great content, and really utilizing the social media platform for professional purposes.  For me, personally, I would not be where I’m at in my career without having used Twitter and Linkedin.

Georgetown University Athletic Director, Lee Reed, delivered the final talk last Friday.  He touched a lot on leadership and attempting to have a work-life balance when working in college athletics.  I really liked his phrase, “Being a leader ain’t about you.  It’s about the people you serve.  It’s a privilege.”  Reed also stated that, “Successful athletic programs are coach-driven, student-athlete centered, and administrator-assisted.”  It was certainly refreshing having someone be open, candid, and very real about his past experiences along with his advice for those in attendance.  He stressed the importance of understanding who you are first before you can lead others.  Finally, Reed discussed being authentic in your leadership of others.

Overall, the few days spent at the NCAA were extremely worthwhile.  I would highly suggest anyone considering working in college athletics to attend the annual event.