After playing basketball as a student-athlete at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Danielle Donehew found she could continue to work in basketball, even when her playing days were over. Now the executive director of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), Donehew wants to help more young women find their career in the sports world.
She will gather with other women working in powerful positions in basketball for USA Basketball with the support of the Atlanta Hawks at the Oct. 12-13 Women in the Game conference in Atlanta. The USA Basketball Women in the Game initiative aims to help expose conference attendees to different career paths in sports and offer practical career advice.
“So many times our young people may only consider being a professional athlete or a coach as career paths, but there are so many more careers within our athletics ecosystem,” Donehew said. “I'm excited to play a role in helping the audience be able to see that there are lots of exciting careers that support the business of athletics. Hopefully, these young people choose one.”
Before taking on the job with the WBCA, Donehew worked as an associate commissioner with the American Athletic Conference and the Big East Conference. She also worked in different positions within the WNBA. She found her background in sports prepared her well for working in the sports business world.
“One of the benefits of being an athlete is you learn so many life skills,” Donehew said. “You're able to learn how to be resilient. You learn how to work as a team, how to be strategic. How to take direction from authority. How to win, how to lose. There’s so many skills and qualities that come from participating in sports, and competing in sports, that are easily transferrable to whatever career you eventually pursue.”
There are few people in basketball who have made more of an impact than the late Pat Summitt. Her University of Tennessee Lady Vols won eight national championships, and her assistant coaches and players went on to have impactful careers in basketball. Donehew spent six years working as Summitt’s director of basketball operations.
“Pat had tremendous vision, and Pat outworked everyone,” she said. “She led by example, and also had incredibly high expectations for herself, and for all those around her. She always saw what you could be. She tried to help you get there. She also was a tremendous decision maker. Very decisive. It was a lot of fun to work with her, because she didn't see any gray area. To Pat, everything was black or white.”
The USA Basketball Women in the Game conference will not only offer different sessions to expose attendees to careers in sport, but will also offer attendees a chance to apply for mentorship. Donehew sees mentors as practical advisors in building a career.
“One of the greatest roles of a mentor is being a truthful advisor,” she said. “It's important a person that is being mentored that they have a realistic view of themselves, and their talents and their skills, and what they bring to the table,” she said. “A great mentor will help them see where their skills and talents overlap opportunities that could be out there. It's really important in being a great mentor that you're helping guide someone to have a realistic view of where they can put their talents. Into a career where they won't only be successful, but very fulfilling as well.”
Women’s basketball in the United States is in a strong position. The USA women women's national teams are ranked No. 1 in the World by FIBA and are the defending Olympic, World Cup, U19 World Cup and U17 World Cup champions. The WNBA is enjoying higher ratings and increased media coverage. The 2019 women’s Final Four in Tampa broke attendance records.
As the head of the sport’s coaching organization, Donehew knows the WBCA has a crucial role in helping the sport continue to grow.
“Our next steps are to take where we are and continue to build on it,” she said. “When you look at our game today, our student-athletes and our professional players are more talented than they have ever been. And there are more of those talented players than we have ever had. It's important we continue to enhance and support the role of our coaches as they are teaching our next generation of young players, and our professional players.
“Our coaches are our communication line. They're our ambassadors. They're our examples. Our motivators to help our players reach their potential and exceed their potential. For our game to continue to grow, we have to focus on enhancing and continuing to develop our incredible coaches around the country so they can continue to pour in at an even greater level into these young players and so they can be all that they can be.”
October 2019 USA Basketball Women In The Game
The USA Basketball Women in the Game initiative educates high school girls, college women and young professionals about career paths in the sports industry and how to turn a passion into an opportunity. Guest speakers from a variety of sports business fields will share their personal career journeys, essential characteristics to succeed in their roles, practical strategies to get started in the industry and how to sustain a position in a highly competitive sports industry.
The program includes lecture sessions and interactive group discussions to broaden perspectives on working in the sport industry.
The lineup of speakers for the USA Basketball Women in the Game conference Oct. 12-13 at The Paideia School in Atlanta includes: Narcis Alikhani, Atlanta Hawks & State Farm Arena senior manager, marketing strategy; Andrea Carter, Atlanta Hawks vice president, corporate social responsibility & inclusion; Danielle Donehew, Women’s Basketball Coaches Association executive director; Nell Fortner, Georgia Tech women’s basketball head coach and 2000 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team gold medalist head coach; Rebecca Greenwell, Atlanta Hawks operations assistant, community basketball programs and a two-time USA Basketball gold medalist; Dr. Kensa K. Gunter, clinical sports psychologist; Ericka Hill, Atlanta Hawks director of player development; Lauren Holtkamp, NBA Official; Michelle Leftwich, Atlanta Hawks vice president, salary cap administration; Nancy Lieberman, Team Power (Big3) head coach, former NBA assistant coach, FIBA World Cup gold medalists and Olympic silver medalist; Mary McElroy, Atlantic Coast Conference women’s basketball senior associate commissioner; Corinne Milien, Winning Edge Leadership Academy co-founder and executive director; Michele Roberts, National Basketball Players Association executive director and USA Basketball board member; Kirsten “KK” Salmonsen, Atlanta Hawks brand activation and events manager; and Joni Taylor, University of Georgia women’s basketball head coach and 2018 USA Basketball Women’s U18 National Team Trials court coach.
Registration and more information is available online.
Maggie Hendricks is a freelance contributor to USAB.com on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.