In July, I attended a week-long summer institute as part of my program at Northeastern. It was 5-days of being in class from 8:00am-5:00pm with 45 other students that formed our cohort. This whole summer institute had a reputation that proceeded it. I kept hearing things from “It’s the longest week you’ll ever live – good luck!” to “It’s so much fun!” to “You’ll have to stay up till midnight to keep up with all the work!” So, needless to say, I was nervous before it even started – too many unknown factors to anticipate. One thing that was making it less anxiety-provoking, is one of my friends from the program, Nichole, was staying with me for the institute. Given the early start time of class each day, it made the most sense for her to just crash with me. So that first morning wasn’t too bad since everything’s better when you have a friend with you.
I won’t bore you with too many nitty-gritty details, but I will say that Summer Institute definitely made me feel better about I’m on the path I’m on. I literally walked away from a full-fledged career to go back to grad school in a completely different field. I felt like I’ve had to defend my choices to several people – including some I would call friends. Since I came back in January, I’ve been trying to get people to understand the mission I’m on, but when I was at Summer Institute in July, it was the first time I didn’t feel like I had to explain what I wanted to do. Instead, I was prompted to think not about being in the sports industry, but what kind of leader I’m going to be in the field. A lot of this challenge came from the instructors for the week, Peter Roby (Athletic Director at Northeastern University) and Robert Prior (full-time faculty for the Master of Sports Leadership Program at Northeastern University). The classes/lectures were designed to have us examine current issues in sport and society and provide the opportunity to consider how our personal leadership skills and assumptions can offer solutions for change. We discussed the areas of equity, creation of organizational culture, the sport media, and the influence of money in sport. One of the most influential comments made by Roby during the week, was when he said, “The question is, do you have values of conviction or values of convenience?” As soon as he asked this question, suddenly everyone was sitting up in their seats and looking around, realizing that we all needed to examine ourselves before we answered. The second thing that stood out to me that week was when Roby said, “Culture is created by shared experience, but it is the leader who initiates this process by imposing his or her beliefs, values, and assumptions at the outset.” He shared this to have us think about what kind of culture we’re going establish as we become leaders in sport, but I think he also showed this by example throughout the week. He was the leader who helped create the culture for our shared experience throughout the week.
The last comment I’ll make about Summer Institute is that the week revealed the importance of the people you choose to surround yourself with. I went into the week knowing maybe 10-12 people who were in classes on Boston’s campus throughout the winter and spring quarters. I came out of the week with a small army of new comrades who left me inspired to go forth and be a leader in the sports world. It really is true what they say – that if you surround yourself with like-minded people who are after the same thing you are, your energy and inspiration will increase greatly. It was a long week of lecture, projects, writing, and thinking, but we all came out as closer classmates and better people on the other side of it. I know that I am motivated to keep after what I want to do, and that there is a group of people who will help get me there. And for that, I am grateful.