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University of Florida MS in Sport Management students Drew Malley and Jessica Pelzel @ Camp Elevate (Colorado Springs, CO)

May 28-31, 2018

Here is Drew’s testimonial:

Camp Elevate 2018 was an unbelievable experience and one that I am so fortunate to have been able to attend.  In a way, this conference was the exact reason I enrolled in the Online Masters of Sport Management Program at the University of Florida.  I wanted to become a college coach and this program would give me access and insight into the profession.  At Camp Elevate I worked with college coaches from all across the country and got to hear directly from them as to what made them successful, what drives them, and what drives their programs.  I got to hear the ins and outs of the recruiting scene from head coaches and industry professionals, as well as the direction that sports psychology is taking the career of coaching.  This was not just a coaching camp, this was a leadership building camp and an incredible investment in myself.  Not to mention I got to see one of the most beautiful parts of the country in the process!  Now, I’d like to tell you a little bit more about my personal experience at Camp Elevate 2018.

I have to admit I was a little nervous leading up to the camp as to how I would be received.  I was not a coach, I was a master’s level student.  Sure, I had a past playing career and years of experience in Division 1 collegiate and professional sports, but I was not a coach.  With optimism I boarded my flight to Denver Colorado out of Tampa Florida.  The only thing in my way was…a subtropical storm.  Yeah, I had to fly right over the top of the first named tropical storm of the season to get to Camp Elevate.  After a few bumps mid flight somewhere over the Gulf of Mexico the weather began to clear the further west we flew.  I left Tampa at a balmy and wet 88 degrees, and landed in Denver to a refreshing 58 degrees.  I Picked up my bags, and headed to pick up a rental car for the day.  Camp Elevate offered a shuttle service from the Denver Airport for the hour and a half ride south to Colorado Springs, but that was the 1st day of Camp and with a cross country fight needed to get to Colorado I would not have made it in time to catch that shuttle so I get in a day early.  With a day to kill I headed due West to the Rocky Mountains.  I drove to St. Mary’s Glacier which sits at an elevation of 10,000 ft and has breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains.  Now according to google, Tampa sits at 48 feet above sea level at it’s highest point.  To say I was intimidated by the 2-lane road with no barricades on the side of a mountain would be an understatement, but I was here for the experience right?  Well experience I got.  As I got closer to the Glacier, it started to snow and there was thunder and lightning coming down with the snow as the temperature in the mountains plummeted to 44 degrees and I was completely out of sorts!  After a couple of quick pictures of the views I decided to get a little lower and out of the weather.  I drove back towards Denver for a coffee and lunch where the storm from the mountains was intensifying.  While getting a Starbucks drink at one of the nicest malls I’ve ever been in (Park Meadows Mall in Denver) I checked the weather on my phone to see what was going on.  I found out that I was now in the middle of a sever thunderstorm warning and a tornado watch!  So to recap, tropical storm?  CHECK.  Thunder and lightning snow storm?  CHECK.  Severe thunderstorm and tornado watch?  CHECK.  As quickly as the weather rolled in it was gone (the locals tell me that is a regular occurrence out there) so I hit the road again.  The weather actually cleared for a gorgeous evening.  I stopped for a quick visit to the U.S. Air Force Academy before checking in to my hotel at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs.  The hotel had gorgeous views of the Cheyenne Mountains and the NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) headquarters.  I grabbed some dinner and bought a beer for the soldier eating next to me (it was Memorial Day and he was really appreciative!) and headed back to my room.  Now, I am in the Online M.S. in Sport Management Program so I didn’t go to bed because I had a Midterm due the first day of camp.  So I stayed up until 1 AM Colorado time to make sure I kept up with my grades while at the conference. 

Morning number two I woke up to the same amazing views of NORAD and Cheyenne Mountain.  I made my way over to check out the Garden of the Gods and it was mesmerizingly beautiful and a total change of scenery than I have grown accustomed to in Florida.  After a few hours I returned my rental car at the Colorado Springs Airport, because rental cars are cheaper when you drive them airport to aiport, and Ubered to the campus of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS) for Camp check-in.  The Campus and my dorm room had an incredible view of Pikes Peak, the Garden of the Gods, and the Cheyenne Mountain Range.  At check-in, we met with Celia Slater, Chief Visionary of True North Sports and host of Camp Elevate, and several of the True North Sports staff. 

Tuesday was check-in day and team color day. There was a solid showing of Florida Gator coaches as well as other big-name D-1 coaches, several D-2 AND D-3 coaches, NAIA, JUCO, and high school coaches.  It was a great mix of coaches and there was even another SPM student from my same program there ( Hi Jess!) too!  We began the camp by performing exercises to get to know everyone there.  We moved around the room in a speed dating type of exercise and got to know the entire camp.  Celia Slater really knows how to get coaches and people to connect with one another.  Within minutes I felt like I knew everyone, and I did not feel like an outcast even though I wasn’t a coach.  Becky Burleigh, the Florida Gators Women’s Soccer Coach was there and she knew who I was!  After we got settled in to Camp we then heard from Dr. Tim Elmore about how to connect to this generation of student athletes.  We learned strategies to better connect with them through the recruiting process, how to motivate them when they’re on your team, and learned about his book series habitudes.  After Dr. Elmore’s speech we headed to the dining area where we were able to eat dinner with a panoramic view of Pikes Peak just southwest of campus.  For a nightcap we were able to listen in on a speaker series that included Celia Slater, retired U.S. Air Force 2-star general Barbara Faulkenberry, ESPY award winner and American hero Israel “DT” Del Toro, (If you don’t know who DT is, you should look him up.  He’s an incredible person!) Dr. Tim Elmore, and UF Women’s Head Soccer Coach Becky Burleigh.  Then the floor was opened up for any and all questions and comments for the entire panel.

Wednesday was the busiest day at camp.  We started in the dining hall with breakfast at 7am before taking a short bus trip over to the Garden of the Gods for a morning hike led by 2-star general Barb Faulkenberry.  The hike offered some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen, and I got to spend some time talking with other coaches and a 2-star general.  WIN!  We got back to campus and got to hear about “The Foundation of a Championship Mindset”, from Eastern Carolina University Women’s Head Basketball Coach Heather Macy.  She was talking about how train your brain for elite competition and regulate your mood for optimal performance in your athletes.  After a short break for lunch we heard from Dan Tudor about how to win the recruiting battles you face as a coach, and we learned how Dan has helped the UF Women’s Volleyball Program.  We then heard an intriguing speech from Dr. Amber Selking with the Selking Performance Group and the University of Notre Dame.  Dr. Selking works with the Notre Dame football program and Head Coach Brian Kelly to mentally train their football players, build a winning culture within the ND Football Program, and set their athletes up for success on the field and in life after sports.  We then talked about ethical issues in coaching with UF Soccer coach Becky Burleigh, Missouri State Head Softball Coach Holly Hesse, Dr. Tiffany Jones, and Tree Beeckman.  These established coaches separated the entire group of coaches into small individual groups and we worked through real issues each coach has faced with respect to making ethical decisions under difficult circumstances.  This was a fantastic way of giving us real world experience of obstacles that coaches at the collegiate level face. 

We broke for dinner after a day full of learning in the classroom.  At dinner we were made aware that there was a bear spotted on campus while we were in the classroom so we had to walk in groups to our evening speaker series.  In this speaker series on Wednesday we heard again from Dr. Selking, Dr. Tiffany Jones (who is a leading sport psychology consultant and works with top programs across the country!  She’s brilliant), UF Women’s Head Volleyball Coach Mary Wise, UF Women’s Assistant Volleyball Coach Shannon Wells, Shimmy Gray-Miller (Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach at Clemson University), A manager of behavioral health from University of Colorado Health, and Celia Slater closed our evening with a speech on gender equality in sport.  After a short question and answer session with the speakers the night fed right into a reception for the coaches where we got to connect over finger foods and drinks.  It was a great ending to a jam-packed day.

Thursday was the last day of camp and began with a panel discussion from all coaches in attendance as to what has made them successful and things they’ve learned along the way.  Shannon Wells from UF volleyball talked about their recruiting strategies, and Shimmy Gray-Miller talked about how she recruits and guides her staff and players at Clemson.  The highlight for me at the camp came from Dr. Tiffany Jones who presented the TCUP Approach, which stands for Thinking Correctly Under Pressure.  Tiffany spoke about how to train athletes to train their minds and how this is more important than athletic training.  We again paired off into groups of 5, and put through mentally and physically challenging tasks to see what we put our players through and see how difficult it is to train your brain.  This is usually the area that makes the biggest difference on the field.  Mentally tough athletes are better athletes that won’t crack under pressure.  The camp then closed with Chief Visionary Celia Slater delivering the final words, and a small gift to keep with us after we left camp. 

All in all, this camp was an amazing opportunity to learn, grow, and network with incredible people.I left Colorado Springs feeling so much closer to the athletic coaches at the University of Florida, the SPM program, Celia Slater and True North Sports, and all of the coaches in attendance.Coach Becky Burleigh from UF invited me to a game they are playing this upcoming season in my hometown of Tampa, and I will be happily attending and supporting her as a friend.She invited me to campus more and made me feel like I really belonged in this group.I am planning a golf outing with a men’s and women’s golf coach from a school in Minnesota when he is in Tampa recruiting, and will remain in contact with several of the coaches I was at Camp Elevate with.Tree Beeckman has featured me in two podcasts since the Camp and I just cannot say enough about how great of an experience this was.I caught the shuttle back to the Denver airport and flew home to Tampa exhausted but fulfilled.I can’t thank Dr. Craig Schmitt, Dr. Sagas, and Dawn Shores enough at the University of Florida for making this Online MS in Sport Management Program a life changing opportunity for me and for making it possible for me to attend Camp Elevate 2018. If there are any Sport Management students at UF or anywhere that have read this reflection to this point in my recap, please try and attend this camp if you are at all interested in the college coaching career and/ or a personal development opportunity.You won’t be disappointed!