Mentorship is a critical element of both personal and professional development. And as athletes, we often have potential mentors interwoven into our lives without even realizing it. These mentors may take the form of our coaches, our teachers, our athletic trainers, or even other teammates and peers. As our mentors pour into us, we should also give back and pay it forward to the next generation. Given 73% of kids list an athlete as their primary role model, second only to their parents, we can use our influence as athletes to be mentors and role models, reinvesting our time, energy, and resources into the communities that gave so much to us.
During the eighth installation of Trey Athletes’ Fireside Chats, we heard from two former college athletes — Desiree Powell and Carla Rosenberg — who are doing impactful community-driven work in Dallas, TX. Desiree played basketball at the University of Texas at Dallas, and she is the Founder & Creator at BlckSpces, a Dallas-based urban planning and design firm. Carla played tennis at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and she is currently the Senior Vice President of Charity & Events Management at SportFive, a global sports marketing agency.
During this session, Desiree and Carla shared stories of how mentorship has helped to advance their development, along with their general philosophies on role models and community responsibility. We’ve outlined three of our most salient lessons from the Fireside Chat below:
- Characteristics To Look For In A Mentor — The presence of a mentor is invaluable, but many young adults don’t know what to look for in a mentor/mentee relationship. So we’d like to help by identifying characteristics of people already in your life who may be excellent mentors, including those who:
- Provide teaching and exposure to their struggles, which help you to benefit from their learned experiences.
- Offer challenges in positive ways that help you to transform and build to the betterment of yourself.
- Give you the opportunity to learn and grow in ways that you may not be able to without their influence.
Carla mentioned that one of her primary childhood mentors was her tennis coach, as he was highly influential in her development as a young person. He helped her with discipline, work ethic, and goal-setting; and he challenged Carla to be a champion both on and off the court. Today, 29 years later, they still have a great relationship — and she’s still learning from him.
- It Doesn’t Have To Be Formal — Honestly, mentorship typically happens pretty organically. Sometimes people influence you in a profound way, and the remnants of their feedback and role modeling stick with you, powerfully impacting your worldview. So… do you have to go up to someone and awkwardly say “will you be my mentor?” for you to experience mentorship? The answer is very clearly “no”. These mentor/mentee connections usually emerge naturally, without force.
Additionally, oftentimes you might not have ever met someone who you consider a mentor or role model. Desiree noted that Allen Iverson and Nipsey Hussle were role models for her. There may be people who inspire you who you haven’t met or who you don’t engage with regularly, but who you consider to be role models or mentors. And that’s the same on the flip side — as an athlete in your community, there may be young people who deeply look up to you and who are watching you evolve into the best version of yourself. These folks in your community are likely to be inspired by who you are, how you carry yourself, the moves you make both on and off the court or field, and who you’re becoming as you develop and grow. Be sure to keep that in the back of your mind. There are people who are watching your every move, taking notes, and you may not ever know it.
- Be Open & Embrace the Challenge — Mentors can expose you to spaces and places in life that may have been otherwise unimaginable. Brian Reynolds, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Trey Athletes, mentioned that at Trey they often talk about how you have to “see it to be it”. Mentorship can help to expand your lens by seeing representation that increases your confidence for achievement. Both Desiree and Carla discussed how mentors helped to push them beyond their comfort zones in positive ways, and that push was often felt in the form of tough love. They discussed how they were open to the challenges that their mentors laid out in front of them, and how those hurdles ultimately led them to become stronger individuals.
Through this session, we learned that mentorship is incredibly powerful; and having people in your corner who truly have your best interest at heart can help you to pave a path to success that would not have been possible if journeyed on your own. Be open to mentorship, and don’t skimp out on being a mentor to those who look up to you. Use your power and influence as an athlete to help those who look up to you, want to learn from you, and be inspired by you.
Camille McGirt is a former collegiate women’s basketball player and current MBA student at Harvard Business School. Camille holds sports close to her heart and loves the fun, grit, and tenacity of competition. She has a social enterprise that she started in 2011 to enhance the health/wellness of black girls, Healthy Girls, Inc. Additionally, she recently launched EXTA, a mobile technology that allows athletes to get personalized mental sports performance support. During those times when Camille isn’t working, she’s likely hanging out with family/friends, traveling, working out, or trying out new delicious food!
Emanuel McGirt played football at NC State as an offensive tackle from 2015-2020. He is now working as a Project Coordinator for the NC Department of Administration and is also the co-founder of EXTA, a mobile technology that allows athletes to get personalized mental sports performance support. Emanuel experienced two injuries while playing college sports and feels very passionate about ensuring that all athletes have the tools they need to get their physical body and mental psyche in shape — always ready to play! In his free time, he enjoys freelance writing, working out, and playing Call of Duty!