KINGSTON, R.I. - The Atlantic 10 Conference hosted its second annual Student-Athlete Leadership Summit last month in Washington, D.C. bringing together 28 men's and women's basketball student-athletes, representing each of the 14 conference member institutions. With the 2018-19 men's and women's basketball seasons quickly approaching, redshirt junior Christion Thompson and junior Erin Jones look to use what they learned from the two-day event within their respective teams. The two were selected by their head coaches and embraced the opportunity to represent Rhode Island at the summit, along with retaining valuable information for not only their team, but themselves.
"Being selected and having the opportunity to go to a retreat such as this is going to help me a lot for this team, and for my future in general," said Jones.
The summit included sessions on self-evaluation, leadership mindset and habits, emotional intelligence, creating success plans, and creating a culture of team building. A-10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade welcomed the student-athletes and led a session on leadership opportunities and career launch.
"We learned a lot of good information about how to be leaders, like how to better your teammates and better yourself," Thompson said. "I also took the opportunity to learn how to use other people as resources."
Former collegiate and NBA coach Kevin Eastman facilitated a seminar providing strategic instruction on leadership development and growth. Eastman, a former collegiate champion and NBA champion with the Boston Celtics, led the 28 basketball student-athletes through a discussion about leadership both on and off the court. Eastman has had the privilege to work alongside many great basketball players throughout his career, and the student-athletes took notice.
"My biggest takeaway from meeting with Kevin was when he said 'Your values will set your culture,'" said Jones. "I took that opportunity to evaluate myself and our team, and thought, 'Do our values match our culture?' Sitting in with Kevin, he taught us that having a successful culture goes hand in hand with having a successful team."
Jones, who will make her Rhode Island debut this season after sitting out last season due to transfer rules, has embraced the leadership role that comes with being one of the older girls on the team.
"I took advantage of the opportunity to learn a lot about leading, developing a culture, buying in to our program, and understanding its values," Jones said. "All of these things can be incorporated in my everyday life."
A big focus of the summit was leadership on the court. For two days the student-athletes were in meetings with guest speakers and sat in on panels discussing what it takes to become a great leader and how developing that attribute can help your team become successful.
Thompson, who sat out last season while recovering from an injury, said a lot of what was discussed at the summit was reinforcement of skills he was already working on as one of the upperclassmen on the team.
"Learning little things like how to lead the different personalities on our team is something I find myself doing every day," Thompson said.
He mentioned how he can talk to teammate Jeff Dowtin a certain way, but for the freshmen, it's a little different.
"They're so new to everything and are still adjusting, so I'm learning how to get through to them and have them understand what I'm saying as a teammate and leader," Thompson said.
A unique aspect of the summit is the opportunity for competitors on the basketball court to come together as peers united in their desire to become leaders off the court.
"One of my favorite parts was meeting all the student athletes and being together in this type of setting," said Jones. She added that although the student-athletes didn't know her on the court, she was happy to introduce herself and looks forward to facing them come conference play.
Thompson shared the same feeling.
"I'm a very social person so being able to make the connections and meet all these new people was something I enjoyed," Thompson said. "To this day I still text some of them and we talk about how practice is going and how the season's going. It's important to keep that connection because you never know what they're going to do outside of basketball. Being able to maintain that relationship, you never know what type of doors that can open."
The 2018-19 season officially gets started this week for both the men's and women's teams. On Tuesday, Nov. 6 the men host Bryant for tipoff at 7:00 p.m. The women's team opens on Thursday, Nov. 8, hosting the ACC's Boston College at 7:00 p.m.