In June of 2022, we welcomed a group of Academy participants to our hometown of Minneapolis, MN!
We kicked off August with a Leadership Retreat and Weekend Gathering in our homebase of Minneapolis, MN! This weekend capped off the Training Experience for Team 26 and we welcomed 12 new members into USG. These individuals are now connected with our whole network of sport industry leaders through the USG Connect App, they have access to attend professional and spiritual development conferences, overseas missions trips, and much more!
The weekend was full and life giving! We started Friday off with a tour of Target Field with Twins baseball curator, Clyde Doepner. Over the years Clyde has collected and preserved historical documents, jerseys, baseballs, bases, trophies, and the list goes on, for the Twins and is in charge of displaying these artifacts around the stadium. Clyde’s advice was to ‘find something you love, and learn as much as you can about it,’ and always say ‘thank you.’ We then jumped across the skyway to Target Center where we met with Jeff Munneke, VP of Fan Experience with the Timberwolves. We had lots of Q&A time with Jeff and picked up many tips for the job search, interviewing, interning, and much more. Jeff has a contagious smile and energy about him, his encouragement to us to push yourself to be your best everyday for yourself and those around you. We wrapped up the day at TopGolf watching a lovely sunset and eating tacos!
Saturday started early with breakfast and small group devotions before heading to the University of Minnesota Athletes Village. At the University of Minnesota we met with Ryan Livingston, Assistant Athletics Director for Basketball Operations, and his son little Ryan. They showed us around the Basketball practice facility, weightroom, and locker room. The focus of what Ryan shared with us was for individuals interested in coaching at the next level He shared the importance of building relationships, coaching as many camps as possible, and attending conferences (like the Final 4 and NABC). Staying connected with someone is as simple as a ‘good luck’ or ‘congrats!’ text’s on game day. While at Athletes Village we also met with former Gopher soccer player and current goalkeeper coach for the Gophers, Tarah Nupson and former Women’s Hockey Coach and current Assistant Director of Annual Giving for the Golden Gopher Fund, Laura Halldorson. Tarah and Laura shared their personal testimonies about how the Lord has worked in their lives to challenge and grow professionally and spiritually. Both of their stories are reminders that we are called to humility and service, as we are faithful to the Lord, he will be faithful to us.
Our next stop was the University of Northwestern at Saint Paul with Director of Athletics Dr. Matt Hill. Again, he emphasized humility and service in the way he leads his athletic department. Northwestern is a Christan university and Dr. Hill has created an athletic program that embraces that everyday. The Eagles Compete with Purpose and their core values are Place Christ First (Matthew 6:33), Invest in Relationships (1 Corinthians 16:14) and Pursue our Best (Colossians 3:23). He shared tips for what he looks for when hiring into his program - clean up your social media, care more about the job and people involved more than winning, character, and diversity in experience.
After touring Northwestern we went back to the hotel where we participated in an activity to learn more about the Gallup Strengthsfinder assessment and how to better understand our uniqueness in regards to our strengths. The next session was with Joel Maturi, former University of Minnesota Director of Athletics. The unofficial ‘official’ title of Joel’s talk was “Lessons Learned as a Student-Athlete, Coach, and Athletic Director.” Through his vivid and humorous storytelling, Joel walked us through his life as a walk-on football player at the University of Notre Dame to establish buy-in to his mission, vision, values, and belief as the head of the Gopher athletic department.
The night was capped with another humorous and faith filled discussion with Pastor Dave Gibson, Grace Church Missions, and Tom Lamphere, Vikings Chaplain. Again, the theme of humility and servantship was highlighted by these two guest speakers. They highlighted the importance of blooming where you’re planted, praying over team rosters, opening and reading the Bible, and going MAD (make a difference).
Sunday morning we had another small group devotion before heading out into the city for our outreach event. We walked through the city in small groups and handed out impact bags and prayed for individuals. These outreach opportunities are challenging and a great way to grow in the Lord and spread the Gospel. To wrap up the weekend we attended Wooddale Church where the message sent us off with the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).
Elyssa Melton Reflection
As I reflect on the weekend, I can’t help but think that God is so good. In this life I have been blessed in many ways but especially by USG. This was my second trip with USG and one thing stands out to me: if you never challenge yourself, you will never grow. As someone who is quite reserved, signing up to go on a trip with people I have never met is not something I would typically do haha:). But after forcing myself to get involved and build relationships with a new group of people, I have seen the biggest growth in myself spiritually, personally, and professionally. And for that Uncommon Sports Group, I am eternally grateful.
Josiah Filegar Reflection
“My greatest takeaway from the weekend was the importance of seeking out strong Christian community in the sports industry. Meeting sport industry professionals that share the faith while being surrounded by USG leaders and other aspiring sports professionals was extremely encouraging. I cannot wait to stay in touch with those I met as we strive to make a difference for the Kingdom!”