On July 13, Jada Lewis along with five other GSU student-athletes attended the 2nd annual Clemson Leadership Summit. Hear from Jada herself as she recaps her experience.

I was fortunate that the Georgia State administration recommended me for an opportunity to attend the 2nd annual Clemson Leadership Summit this past weekend. The purpose of the event was to teach young athletes who are considered or consider themselves the leaders of their team, to understand and apply concepts and personal qualities of what it takes to guide others in life and sports.

            The way the summit works is that each school had about five or six student-athletes from different sports to represent their university. For instance, Georgia State was represented by myself, Morgan Hash (court volleyball), Džemila Hadžić (court volleyball), Ben Hood (football), Jabari Aiken (football), and Caitlin Ray (softball). When we arrived at Clemson, there were hundreds of student-athletes from across the country anticipating the excitement we were about to engage in. Before getting started, one of the instructors encouraged us to meet other people, and “get out of our comfort zone.” I thought this was awesome because one of the most amazing parts of the event was getting to know other people and learning their stories. A learning moment for me was that it’s important to keep things in perspective-meaning people come from different backgrounds that are different from our own and at the end of the day, everyone has a story to tell. I enjoyed getting to know others and that simple notion of meeting a new person showed me that there really are extraordinary individuals out there who just want to make a difference.

At the summit, there were a total of six professional speakers who broke down different aspects of leadership. The very first speaker (Dr. Derek Greenfield), who happened to be one of my favorites, spoke to us about diversity and inclusion. A quote I wrote down from him that really stuck with me is “Diversity is counting all heads. Inclusion is making all heads count.” So, we did this exercise where everyone had to form groups of three, and some people were left out, but nobody checked and made sure those people left out had somewhere to belong. In other words, it’s a natural tendency for us to think of ourselves individually, and so as long as were good and satisfied, then nothing else matters. Well, as a leader that’s not good because great leaders make sure everyone has an opportunity and a place to feel comfortable. In other words, they include everyone and make sure each individual person has just as much opportunity to succeed, if not more.

Another speaker I wanted to point out was Dr. Janna Magette. The main takeaway from her presentation was that “learning how to follow is a major step in learning how to lead.” Usually leaders are dominant and feel they know everything, but the best and most effective leaders know how to follow first. I will take that with me forever because although I’m a leader on my team now, there will one day come a time where I will have a boss who knows way more than I do, and in order to be a successful leader in the future, I’ll need to follow and understand what it is that person is teaching me.

Caitlin from the GSU softball team said she learned a lot Saturday.

“It was a unique experience because I got to meet athletes from 21 different universities and we got to share personal experiences and learn things about one another while also growing and developing more skills to better ourselves and teams,” Caitlin said. “My favorite quote of the day was from Mark Trumbo who said, ‘excuses will always be there, but opportunities will not.”

Lastly, my personal favorite experiences were the different seminars we got to do such as figuring out what type of leader you are, and then learning how to be flexible with people who lead a little bit differently. I also enjoyed the food and meeting the other student-athletes. I would like to go again next year, and I want to gracefully thank the Georgia State administrators and my head coach Gene Hill for recommending me to take on an opportunity like this. I also want to thank Clemson University for allowing young student-athletes like me to participate in their 2nd annual Leadership Summit.