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To Receive, You Must Give: Creating Value as a Mentee

Being a mentee shouldn’t be taken lightly and is something you should invest quality time into.

Dawon Baker



Mentoring can encompass all of these specific topics and details. (Photo via Shutterstock)

Mentors. We cherish them, we admire them, we search high and low for them. They act as a guiding light for our aspirations and always seem to have the right thing to say. The importance of having a mentor in any industry, but especially in the sports industry, is vital to sustained success. Our own Jake Kelfer described the importance of mentors and how they’ve helped him advance in his career.

There are a number of things that you can (and must) do to be considered a good mentee, but one thing that we hear about often is the phrase, “add value to the relationship.”

Add value to the relationship. Simple, right?

But what does this really mean? We know that relationships should be a two-way street, so there are a number of things you can do to add value to the relationship. You could introduce your connection to a potential business prospect, or introduce them to other like-minded individuals. You can provide feedback on their work. When the two colleagues are linear, or similar in status, it can be a bit easier to add value to these relationships. But how do you add value when, quite frankly, you seem to be the only benefactor of the relationship?

If you are fortunate enough to have a mentor who is successful, who knows all the big names, and seems to know all the answers, how do you add value to that relationship? Of course, this is an extreme example. No one knows everyone, no one knows all of the answers, but it can be a very real thing to have a mentor where you find yourself in position to take, and only take. As a mentee, what are some ways that you can add to the relationship?

Find a void and fill it.

As a mentee, you have the opportunity to fill a void for your mentor. There are ways and opportunities to do so. Your mentor could have some oversight over other employees. Mentoring may be an opportunity for mentors to sharpen leadership skills by providing counsel and guidance for employees and professionals who are technically under your leadership. As a mentee, you have the opportunity to provide your mentor some well-needed experience in guiding others, because there may be a time when this skill is a literal need for the mentor.

For Minor League Baseball’s Manager of Diversity and Inclusion Vince Pierson, that feedback is critical for the mentor just as much as it is for the mentee.

“As someone giving advice, I find value in knowing if the individual is taking my advice and how the outcome of the situation is. It’s not just about doing what someone says but also how the situation plays out.”

Your feedback can be directly used and implemented by the mentor. You can provide feedback about the leadership style of the mentor, or you can even share feedback about your experience with other leadership styles and the mentor can use this and implement key information for themselves.

When filling a void, you are establishing your value because you are doing something that very few individuals have taken the time to do.

One of my mentors has a strong passion for student-athletes, but he no longer works on a campus. One of his other mentees is a current student-athlete, so his mentee fills this void for him and acts as a key constituent for these types of conversations and that experience. Another word for this? Perspective. You can share your perspective, that can create value.

Recognize and Align Your Values


Your Core Values help guide you in your life and your work. They can establish direction and clarity, like a compass. (Image via The Cult Branding Company.)

You and your mentor should be aligned with a core value. As a mentee, if you can recognize (and align) with the values of your mentor, your alignment can help create a stronger relationship between you and your mentor. For example, if your mentor is an alum of your alma mater, and they happen to value giving back to the University, their value and interest in strengthening the alumni base is being channeled through you. 

What is important to both you and your mentor? You can learn this through your interactions and intentional conversation. For Pierson, his energy and his consistent efforts when communicating with his mentors and co-workers allowed him to develop strong relationships.

“One thing people knew about me was that I brought energy to everything. If I had an hour and a half car ride with someone, best believe I was trying to have a conversation for that entire time. In those moments I ask about more than work and I really got to know people, and this can be the start of that relationship that takes you from mentee to friend.”

Aligning with your mentor can be tricky, and some may confuse this with agreeing with everything your mentor does. This is not the case. Alignment does not mean agreement or blind allegiance. For JP Abercrumbie, the Assistant AD for Life Skills and Community engagement for Mississippi State, she wants mentees to understand that alignment and agreement are different, and the difference is critical to understand.

“Understanding the perspective is key. Disagreeing is uncomfortable but there’s an added opportunity for growth there. Having a strong sense of self-worth and knowing your values to a point of not being willing to compromise them in times of adversity is what matters most. In agreeableness, I would fall in line and do as they do, or do as they say to do. In alignment, I can understand the vision, and act in matters that best bring that to light. Alignment is bigger than one individual person, relationship, or set of circumstances with successful alignment being based on my understanding of the environment, our culture & vision, and the resources available.”

Do the work. People are watching.

It seems very simple, but it would be inconsiderate to leave this off the list. But at times, this work gets lost. As a mentee, you usually are someone who is less established in the area, and who is in the position to receive more than you can give right now. The work and responsibility will more than likely fall on you to make the relationship work. How do you do this?

You do this by being prepared for conversations. Come to your mentor with a fresh perspective, come with thought-provoking questions, and come with infectious energy to get things done. Be clear and communicate what it is that you really need, and be intentional and purposeful in your interactions. You don’t have to speak with your mentor once a month for exactly an hour, there is no cookie-cutter way to communicate or build a relationship. Every situation is different, but effort is usually at the core of relationships, and that effort should be apparent and visible.

All of the fertilizer and plowing in the world will not save your crops if you don’t continue to water the garden. Your work and your ability to keep a consistent relationship will speak for itself, and it’s important to remember that people WILL watch you.


Managing relationships is just like watering a garden, and your mentor/mentee relationship is the same. Mentors will help you grow, as long as you tend to the garden. (Image via Beth Hyatt, Total Landscape Care.)

For Lamarr Pottinger, Director of Student-Athlete Development at Old Dominion University, he has a specific phrase he uses to make sure he does his part as a mentee, and his mentees do the same.

“Serve the credibility. When someone puts their name on you and agrees to mentor you, you’re now attached to them, so their name becomes your name and they put their credibility on the line for you when they speak of you to others. A mentee has to represent their mentor and be mindful of what and how they do moving forward.”

Our own Will Baggett speaks of this often, whose jersey are you wearing and how are you making them look?

Serving the credibility takes work. Following up, that takes work. Filling a void, that takes work. The common denominator for all of this is the work.

Our hope is that you can take these three tips and implement them into your relationships today, across any industry with any mentor, but you must be willing to put in the work. Make that call or send that email today. Let your mentor know that you’re ready to work. We think it’ll pay off in the end.

Dawon was born and raised in St. Louis, MO. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri and the 2017 National Champion UCF Knights. He is currently a leadership development professional, working to make sure coaches, administrators and student-athletes are maximizing their leadership capacity and reaching their full potential.

Career Advice

For Ryan Mosher, Working in Sports Has Been the Journey of a Lifetime

Front Office Sports



His latest challenge is just another step in a great career.

Ryan Mosher has enjoyed success at every stop. (Photo via Ryan Mosher)

Nestled at the southernmost point of Seneca Lake in upstate New York sits a town by the name of Watkins Glen.

Eleven months and three weeks out of the year, Watkins Glen is home to just over 1,000 residents, but come the first week of August and the town is inundated with close to 40,000 visitors holding on to hopes of their favorite driver crossing the finish line first.

The reason? The annual NASCAR race hosted at Watkins Glen International.

While popular with racing fans across the world, the world-renowned track also happens to be where Ryan Mosher, Executive Director of Sponsorship Solutions at GumGum Sports got his start in the sports industry.

Growing up in Watkins Glen, Mosher wasn’t shy about his enjoyment for motorsports, and as a high schooler and college student spent much of his summers working security for the track.

Fifteen years later, he credits those summers for opening his eyes to the intricacies of the sports industry.

“Just by doing that, I was able to get a better understanding of what was actually going on and how things actually worked. It was fascinating and exciting all at the same time.”

Not only did Mosher enjoy sports as a kid, he also happened to be pretty good at them and was able to go on to play golf at Shenandoah University before transferring and finishing out his career at Saint Bonaventure University.

It was during this time on the course that he was able to refine his relationship building, a skill that has proved valuable.

“Playing golf is obviously more unique I think because of the fact that you are out on your own and playing with 2–3 other players that you have never met. You are forced into conversation unless you don’t want to talk for four-five hours,” said Mosher. “Business in general and specifically in the sports industry is relationship driven and that was one of the key components I took away from participating in intercollegiate athletics.”

Upon graduation, and while looking for jobs, Mosher went to work for his uncle at a golf course that he owned.

Whether it is fate, luck, or a little bit of both, Mosher was able to land a role in marketing his hometown track of Watkins Glen.

From the young high school student working security, to the full-time employee, things had come full circle for Mosher.

“I would have never expected to start my career in my hometown at Watkins Glen, but it just so happened that they had an opening available the summer that I graduated and I was able to get my foot in the door as a marketing coordinator on the ground level supporting communications and consumer marketing, that I had no experience or background in at all,” said Mosher. “I was forced to learn on the fly, luckily I had great leaders to help me along the way.”

In search of a new opportunity and possibly warmer weather, Mosher relocated to Daytona Beach after almost four years at Watkins Glen to work at ISC’s headquarters helping oversee sponsorships for the 12 tracks under ISC’s management.

“It was risky, but I knew I had to make that move to continue to stay ahead. I have always been thankful that I took that leap and that risk.”

That leap turned into ten and a half years with ISC before he decided to step out of motorsports and into college athletics.

Coming from a collegiate athletics background, Mosher was excited to see the industry from a different side and knew that the opportunity would further allow him to hone his professional body of work.

“I had always had a passion for collegiate athletics and the opportunity to join an organization like IMG College and go outside of racing for the first time was one I couldn’t pass up. It was another opportunity for me to refine my skills and my understanding of the industry as a whole.”

Over the course of the next few years of his career, Mosher jumped from IMG to Repucom before landing at GumGum Sports in his current role.

To others, three high-level jobs in five years may seem taxing, but for Mosher, the opportunities and the ability to further round his professional portfolio couldn’t be passed up.

Now, 11 months later, he has settled into his role at GumGum Sports and is happy with the progress his team has made in such a short time span.

“Having the opportunity to grow something from the ground floor is what was really attractive to me,” said Mosher about his move from Repucom to GumGum Sports. “It has truly been exciting to see where we were Q1 during this year and where are now as things have started to build.”

If you would have told Mosher that he would be in his current role 15 years ago, he probably wouldn’t have believed you, but if you would have told him that it was because of his ability to plan ahead he probably would have seen it as more than likely.

“Always be looking ahead and plan and plot ahead. If you have a vision, plan and map out what you want to do. Every successful business person ultimately knows where they want to be.”

Although it may come down to your plan and vision for yourself and what you want achieve, Mosher not only credited the people he has been surrounded by for his success, but shed light on who aspiring and current professionals should look for when it comes to the people doing the hiring and being hired themselves.

“If you are a hiring manager, hire people who push others to be better and if you are just starting out, look at your hiring manager and the person above them and ask yourself if those are the kinds of people that you believe will get you to where you need to be. They are leading you. You are going to end up being a byproduct of them.”

Mosher has come a long way since his days guarding the media center at Watkins Glen, but by putting himself in positive positions throughout his career, he has been able to keep that spark that was ignited then burning strong and bright.

This piece has been presented to you by SMU’s Master of Science in Sport Management.

Front Office Sports is a leading multi-platform publication and industry resource that covers the intersection of business and sports.

Want to learn more, or have a story featured about you or your organization? Contact us today.

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Career Advice

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help in Your Pursuit of Greatness



Whatever top you want to get to, you will need help along the way.


Human beings have an internal desire to help other humans. While we may not always act on this desire, we all have it.

We all know how great it feels to help someone, so the question is why aren’t we always doing it?

Well, one of the main reasons is… people don’t ask for help. Why? Because, they are scared they’ll be bothering someone, scared to be vulnerable and open to receiving help, scared to be rejected, and the list goes on.

What I’ve found, and experienced, is that people want to help other people succeed. You just have to ask!!!!

You have to put your ego aside and ask for help if you want to be great in life and in your career. This is especially true for students and people looking to start their careers.

For anyone starting out in their sports journey, look to ask for help from the following three groups: family and friends, professors, and alumni.

Family and Friends

Your family and friends are typically the people closest to you, and they are most likely to be willing to help you launch your career. If you know you want to work in a particular aspect of sports or for a specific company, ask your family and friends if they know anyone in that space or at that company.

You never know who your Uncle John might know until you ask or what advice he might be able to share with you.

Don’t wait until you’ve graduated before you start asking for help. The best time to start is now because as a wise man once said (aka my dad), “The only SHORTCUT in life is to START now!” If you want to be great, do your research and then ask for help.

Friends can be just as helpful as your family because they’ll have a completely new pool of people to reach out to. Depending on your relationship with your friends you can ask them for help in different ways ranging from introductions to working at their parent’s company.


It amazes me how few students invest time in getting to know their professors. Professors are some of the best resources! Their job is to help prepare you for the job you want.

Professors in sports management, business, finance, entrepreneur, marketing, and every other specialty are experts in their field hence why they are professors. This means they have experience and knowledge they can share with you. This also means they have connections in their field of expertise. They are literally the perfect people to help you land your dream job.

Don’t think that just because they are your professor they aren’t involved in other endeavors or projects. As a matter of fact, most professors are actively engaged in outside work whether it is research or as board members of companies.

As Nicole Imbrogno, the internship placement coordinator at Syracuse says, “If we don’t know you or what you are looking for, we can’t help you. We want to get to know you too.” Let your professors help you achieve greatness. All you have to do is make an effort to get to know your professor.

Don’t become a brown-noser with the intentions of using your professors for personal gain, but give them a chance and see what kind of relationship you can develop.


Alumni can be some of the best people to ask for help. Outside of family, alumni might be the easiest to connect with as attending the same school is a powerful bond. It automatically gives you and the person you are reaching out to some common ground making it easier to facilitate a relationship.

All you have to do is go on LinkedIn and search by alumni for specific roles or companies you are interested. If you want to learn more about this email me here.

I’m fresh in the journey of life and I know that alumni are always willing to help. Sometimes it’s intimidating, but you just have to go for it!

Life isn’t easy. If it was, we’d all have perfect lives, beautiful partners and no problems. You can, however, make life easier on your path to greatness. It begins with asking for help on your journey! People want to help you; you just have to ask!

This piece has been presented to you by SMU’s Master of Science in Sport Management.

Front Office Sports is a leading multi-platform publication and industry resource that covers the intersection of business and sports.

Want to learn more, or have a story featured about you or your organization? Contact us today.

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Career Advice

An Important Transition

Front Office Sports



Kiaira Talia Cooper and her journey to become an athletic administrator.

For the last two weeks, the word transition has been an ongoing theme in my life. Three Saturdays ago, I packed up everything and moved 16 hours away from home. I packed up the little that I had and moved from Georgia to Western New York to a small town about an hour and a half south of Buffalo, called Houghton.

Now you are probably wondering why in the world did I move so far away. No, it was not a quarter life crisis (I’m 26 years old) and I am not trying to find myself. Well, not exactly!

About a month in a half ago, I was presented with an opportunity of a lifetime; a career defining opportunity. I was presented with an opportunity to be a part of an internship program offered through the NCAA. This grant is called the Ethnic Minorities and Women’s Internship Grant.

According to the NCAA, this grant provides funds to create entry-level job opportunities at Division III institutions and conference offices to help encourage the recruitment, selections and long-term success of ethnic minorities and women.

The internship provides full-time, two-year appointments at institutions for the recipients of this grant. With that, I was selected to take part in this program as the Assistant to the Athletic Director at Houghton College in Houghton, New York.

Throughout my two years, I will have the chance to gain experience in many facets of the Houghton Athletics department as well as have the privilege of participating in many professional development opportunities. As I said before, this program is the linchpin of my professional career as an athletic administrator. These next two years will be essential in my growth and success in college athletics. I’m hopeful that this blog post will give some insight on my experience so far.

You may be thinking, “She has only been on the job for two, going on three weeks, what could she have experienced in such a short amount of time?”

Well, you know what they say, “time is money,” but what I say is “time is success, so don’t waste it.” I only have two years and I’m looking at that as a challenge to learn, network, and experience as much as I can. There is no time like the present and I am going to live in it.

These past two weeks have been packed with a personal and professional transition. As for professional, I’ve been able to learn so much and it’s because I’ve been thrown into the deep end. Let it be known, that I was hired on as a full-time intern but I have not been treat as a typical intern. What intern has her own “corner” office with a boss view? And that’s not even the half of it. In the last two weeks, I’ve been able to attend a SID conference meeting and a leadership conference. I’ve also been able to play an essential part in compliance prep for the upcoming season.

As preseason begins, I get to conduct my very first compliance meeting for our fall athletes. Talk about being thrown in the deep end. Don’t worry, I have floaties!

I’ve only been on the job for a short amount of time but I am starting to find myself little by little every day. Remember when I said this wasn’t a, “let me find myself, sort of” move. Well, that “sort of” refers to this move being about figuring out what path I should take in my career.

I know I want to be a college athletic administrator but what exactly does that path look like? Every day I am getting closer and closer to that answer.

The great thing about this internship with the NCAA at Houghton College is that I have my hand in just about every facet of the department. I am literally getting experience in compliance, sports information, game management, diversity programming, coaching, etc. I am super pumped about what these two years have in store for me at Houghton. I have a really great feeling about this new gig.

Although I am a little nervous, I am super excited to get to continue to pursue my dreams to become the best administrator where I am at. Although the athletic season hasn’t even started, I feel like I’m on the right path. So I guess you could call this my first impression or gut feeling. Either way, these feelings of nerves, anxiousness, and excitement are a good sign that I am on the path to success. Wish me luck!

— Kiaira Talia Cooper, @kiairatalia

This post is part of the #YPSportsChat Blog Series! This series will give young professionals an inside look at the intricacies of the sports business world and advice on how to navigate it.

Front Office Sports is a leading multi-platform publication and industry resource that covers the intersection of business and sports.

Want to learn more, or have a story featured about you or your organization? Contact us today.

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