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Jamie Coleman | Detroit, Michigan

Former Alabama State University Volleyball Player

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Written by Malik Brown

I've always been involved in sports. I've always been involved in so many things. I was going from here to there every single weekend, and that's literally what I am doing now. I played every sport except for softball, and I haven't been in any dance classes. I was a skater, swimmer, and a bowler. I played basketball, ran track, and then I settled on volleyball, which almost did not happen, but shout out to my mom for getting my dad into making me. 

 

I’m a coach’s kid. My dad played football at a local high school and was an All-American, then he went on to Michigan State and played in the league. Once he finished his career he started a whole bunch of like 7-on-7 programs and football camps, so I used to run the ladders, and jump the bags at Michigan State every summer. I wanted to play football, but he would not let me, unfortunately. 

 

Sports for me was a default. I had no option, and you just got thrown into it. I'm forever thankful for what sports has done for me because they taught me a lot of things around teamwork, commitment, and discipline. I think a lot of it is delayed gratification as well, which is a big part of my story, but it teaches you how to stay committed, even when things are really rough. I think the pressures you get, and the highs you feel when things are great, but the pressure and the lows you feel when things are just going really bad is what I learned. I tore my leg at one point in my career, I got rejected from a team I have been playing on for years at one point, but I overcame all of that stuff. 

 

It was a very strategic play of how I got into Google. I saw the movie The Internship, and that was what first put Google on my radar. I had no idea what I'd be doing, but the perks in the movie sold me. That was my freshman year of college. So I applied for the internship, and a recruiter got back to me and said, “You're far too young, but here's a program for sophomores that you may be interested in.” I applied for their Bold Immersion program, got into that, and went to Google's headquarters for 10 days. That kickstarted the internship interview. I did three interviews for the internship, got that, and then that became a full-time offer. I did not start out wanting to go into tech. I just wanted to work at Google. Prior to Google, I wanted to be a news reporter.

 

We built 7th Ave in the time of the pandemic. We wanted it to be the Black Clubhouse, so purely a social audio space, but for people of color, because when the pandemic happened, we had no safe spaces digitally. We raised just under $4 million to start this project, which was phenomenal for all Black investors outside of Twitter. We were very proud of what we were doing, but we quickly realized that was just something that people really did not want. We completely pivoted to something, which now functions towards the creative economy. That's for anybody that creates TikToks, newsletters, podcasts, and things like that. What we have provided is an end-to-end solution for creators that will allow them to consolidate their digital identity, deepen their relationships with their current followers, and then sell directly to them. 

 

It's very important for me to empower and feel like I can create a space for Black folks, just because I understand a lot of the privileges that I've been able to acquire over the years. Even with me being a full-time athlete, I was able to still have internships and study abroad and even work at Google. It was only fair that, given the space that I'm able to walk into, I'm only able to open the door for others that come in behind me. I've always believed that we as Black folks are not dumb, stupid, or lazy, we just typically lack the resources and exposure, so if I'm able to provide that in any capacity, I'm always willing and wanting to do that. 

 

I created culture therapy as a way to create a vulnerable, safe space for people of color, or really just anyone that comes across it to say, “Hey, this is my story, this is my truth. And because of that, I'm able to heal and kill these curses and create new cycles of wealth.” That could be mental wealth, financial wealth, freedom, or whatever. It really just started from me making a podcast. I was telling my story, and I'm having some great conversations with friends. I was seeing that we were all going through the same things where our family were not our biggest fans but our biggest kryptonite. That was because we could not talk about certain things in public and realized that I was really trying to seek therapy. My mind goes into the point of killing Black ignorance and providing voices for people who may not have the language to say how they feel, and this is the outlet for them to know they are not alone.

 

Traveling for me has always been an exciting part of my life. I played club ball, so it was always really exciting when you got to go to the different states and play at the different tournaments. When I was in elementary school, I was always in the multicultural classrooms, which means foreign exchange students or people that came from different countries got placed in my classroom. When I was in first and second grade, my best friends were Chinese. Then you move into third or fourth grade, my best friends were Indian, Chinese, and Korean. I was very fascinated with Asian culture overall, and that's where it started. I had these books, and I was learning Mandarin. I got to college and I knew I wanted to travel abroad. My first international trip was to Barcelona where I studied abroad. I was there for two months, and I came back and had to do spring volleyball. Since then, I've been to about 22 countries. 

 

I've always enjoyed proving people wrong and that might be a bad thing. I've always enjoyed showing people that the impossible is possible. For me being at Google, people were like “If you go to an HBCU you won't get into big tech.” I was like, “Okay, watch me.” It was the same way with volleyball. All the different internships I was doing or me studying abroad and missing a couple of weeks of camp and things like that, they told me it would affect my play. I had an agreement with my coach where as long as I showed up, I balled out, and I knew what I was supposed to do, let me go do what I need to do because for me, I always understood volleyball was a means to an end, and I will be damned if I did all this work and then at the end I ask myself “What am I going to do?” I saw that happen to so many of my teammates, friends, and other people. They make you prioritize the sport. I can't harp on it enough the importance of athletes being able to advocate for themselves and find ways in which they can allow all these things to exist now. 

 

I live my best life now, and it was well worth it. It's a matter of priorities and balance, and really just reaching out to these companies and being very proactive. I wanted Google since my freshman year, and it was a plan to get it. It wasn't like I just woke up one day and was like “Oh, I want to go work for Google.” It was literally four years in the making. My biggest thing is to learn how to advocate for yourself against all odds, because they do not care about you the way that you think they do. Advocate for yourself, be very proactive and realize what priorities you have.

 

I probably have a different perspective on purpose finding. I don't believe I've found my purpose just yet, and I'm not necessarily looking for it at the moment to be very transparent. I think once you found purpose, you no longer serve your purpose here and it's time to go home. While I'm here, I'm walking in purpose, but I haven't necessarily found the entire purpose of why I exist just yet. I think it's a journey. I can tell you the things that I enjoy doing and why I think I've been gifted with different skill sets, but for me to say I am in purpose will be a misleading statement on my behalf. I don't know my purpose, but I know what I enjoy doing. 

Creative Credits

Creative Direction: Nia Symone / Tyrone McClendon

Director of Photography: Scoot Took It

GFX & Video Edits by: Ethan Garner

Story Written by: Malik Brown

 
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Chris Palmer | Atlanta, GA

Former Emmanuel College Lions Basketball Player

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Written by Malik Brown

I started playing basketball when I was about seven years old, just because my older brother played. I fell in love with the game. I played football for four years, tennis a couple of years, and then baseball. I did a couple of different sports, but basketball was always my passion growing up, and I loved the competitiveness of it. I wanted to develop my game and play at the college level.

 

Going into my freshman year of high school, I was a 5’10 shooter, so I wasn’t a big or athletic player, but I knew I worked hard. I really wanted to put everything I could into the game. Going into my sophomore year when I grew a little bit, I just made it a priority to reach out to as many coaches as I could, probably almost 1000 colleges. I was just writing personal letters and doing everything I could from a responsible standpoint off the court, as well as training myself and just trying to become the best player, in the hopes of one day getting a scholarship.

 

Coming out of 2016 to now, it's gotten harder for recruiting because you have the transfer portal, and everything's going crazy because of COVID. Because of all of that I really tried. I really tried my best to be proactive and reach out to coaches and try to go to as many elite camps and clinics as I could. I just tried to stay on top of the ball and control what I could control. Luckily by my junior year, I wasn't firm on just going division one or going to a certain school, I was open to some different options. I'm thankful that I was able to get into a school that I was able to develop as a person and as a player, both on and off the court. 

 

I didn’t know too much about Emmanuel College. My older brother played at Toccoa Falls College which is in Toccoa, Georgia, and it's about  45 minutes north of Emanuel so I think I went to go see them play. I was a sophomore in High School. First thing that stuck out to me was they had a great facility, so I looked into that. I started to do some research on it and realized that they had 10 straight years of 20 plus wins, so it was a winning program. I kept an eye on it, and then as it kind of trickled down my list of who was interested and who I was interested in, they were the ones that stuck out to me the most and fit my core values. 

 

I went into college not knowing what to expect, specifically in the classroom. All the deadlines, and there's no one holding you accountable. It's on you. There's going to be consequences, but no one's going to hold your hand and get you through that. At the beginning, I was just focused on going to the gym every day at 6am like I was doing in high school and just working as hard as I possibly could. I think midway through the year, I was able to balance out school and basketball in a more time effective way. The people at Emanuel were great. Love my teammates. Love my coaches there. They taught me a lot. It's a school with about 1000 people in it, so everyone's pretty much an athlete and can relate to each other. The relationships I built there were nice. I would say overall, it was a good experience.

 

From a basketball standpoint, and a lot of people will see this when they go into college, you're not as good as you think you are. You’re playing against bigger and faster players. I think that was the first roadblock of adversity when it comes to being on the court. You have to humble yourself and find ways that you can get better and control what you can control on the court, so I would say that was the first roadblock. I would definitely say my sophomore year I had a lot going on. My dad was diagnosed with cancer that year, so in the middle of the season that was a very stressful time. Mentally, that year was a bit tough, and then just other stuff going on. It was a hard year for sure. 

 

I didn't really know anything about mental health or battling adversity because nothing crazy had happened until some of those moments in college. I would say something that helped me during my sophomore year was taking up yoga and doing some meditation. I had no idea what to do, I was just going on YouTube and doing some random stuff that helps. I also reached out to family, friends, people that I trusted, and was able to open up to them at a level that some wouldn’t be comfortable doing. That was very important for me.

 

At nine-years-old, I knew I wanted to be a college coach. I wanted to get into basketball, so I actually did my first camp when I was 13 years old. I ran a basketball skills academy. I advertised and did a basketball camp, not really knowing what I was doing, so it started there. Then when I was in high school around 16 years old, I started training some kids in our organization that were younger, and I started charging $10 an hour. With that I built some clientele throughout the time I was in high school. During the summers in college, I came home and then I had some high school players that I was working with, and I believe somewhere during my sophomore year, I started working with my first overseas Pro. As time went on those high school players started playing in college, and I kept those relationships. Going straight out of that last year of Emmanuel College when I was coaching, I didn't think I would go straight into being a GA somewhere or trying to get an assistant spot somewhere, but it was the summer COVID happened. When that happened, I just went back home and I worked with all of the clients that I built relationships with. I was pretty much in the gym from 7am to 7pm doing whatever I could to help people get better. Through those relationships. I've built the passion to continue to help those people grow. 

 

I think my purpose is to honor Jesus in everything I do. I think my purpose on this Earth is to be a light in someone's day and to help out when things aren’t going well and stay by people's side. I want to try to bring as many people up to heaven with me.

Creative Credits

Creative Direction: Nia Symone / Tyrone McClendon

Director of Photography: Scoot Took It

GFX & Video Edits by: Ethan Garner

Story Written by: Malik Brown

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Brea Elmore | Stone Mountain, GA

Former Memphis Basketball Player

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Written by Malik Brown

I was born and raised in Stone Mountain, Georgia. I followed in my big brother’s footsteps. He was an active person in sports and played football and baseball. I didn’t just want to sit back and do nothing, so I started off with cheerleading. Then I picked up the basketball and ever since then I never put it down. 

 

I was five when I started playing basketball. My dad helped me grow that competitive edge. We'd be in the backyard almost every day until the sun was down. Sometimes he'd throw the ball across the yard and make me so mad. But I had to go get it, and I had to play. It really helped me stay competitive and build that strong grit in me.

 

When I first started playing basketball I was very nervous and very uneasy, just having to step out there and play. Your parents are in the stands, and the yelling gets to you as well, so just stepping into that confidence was tough. Gradually as I got better, I was more confident, and I started believing in myself.

 

I try not to look at other people as my competition, but as myself. So when I'm playing basketball and I mess up on a play, I just have a mental conversation with myself like, “That's okay. Next play.” I'm my biggest competitor.

 

I can't pinpoint the moment that I knew I could make basketball out of a career. When I talked to my brother he said he saw it in me. I was just doing what I love to do, so I never really saw myself going to college for this. It just all kind of came, but to pinpoint it I would say middle school. That's when I think I said I'm pretty good at this. 

 

I hated the recruiting process. I hated taking the visits because I was in my shell and I was having to break out and talk to these coaches and I’m like, “Oh my God.” It was kind of overwhelming, but at the same time, I enjoyed it. I don’t remember my first offer, but I do remember that Memphis came for a house visit. It was so funny because when they left, I told my brother I wasn’t going to Memphis and I was very headstrong on that. But I was so tired of the recruiting process. I was like, let me go ahead and commit. It wasn't like I wanted to go because I liked the school, it was because I was tired of the recruiting process. 

 

I'd gotten this card from Memphis and I put it on my dresser. One day I got home from practice, and I just looked at it. I was like, “Okay, I'm gonna go to Memphis.” I feel like if it was another card I probably would have selected that school. It sounds crazy, but that's the truth.

 

As a four-year athlete at the University of Memphis, I would say it was one of the toughest journeys of my life thus far. Just coming in as a freshman, I was really confident, and then the confidence dropped and I started questioning if I could play. I lost my love for the game after my sophomore year because it was tough. I felt like there was a difference between coaching and tearing the player down. A lot of us freshmen felt like we were getting torn down. It was tough. It was a battle. Every time in practice, it would be the upperclassmen versus the underclass, and we were going at it because we wanted to play.  I went home, got in the gym, and got my confidence back in my junior and senior year. Those were great years, but those first two were rough. 

 

I would always call my mom complaining, but I'd say counseling was definitely an option. I didn't use it until my junior year. Freshman and sophomore year, it was either parents or teammates. Sometimes it was hard to trust teammates, so it was really parents. I was definitely depressed and going through it. 

 

Losing my mom made me start going to counseling. I was dealing with that, and everything that came with basketball. My grades were slipping. I wasn't going to class. I wasn't doing work, because I wasn't there at the time. I remember just going into the office, and somebody told me “Try to bottle that up and put it in a box.” I felt so disregarded and disrespected. After that, I checked out and I went to counseling. It helped, but I still struggled.

 

I talked to my brother. We always talked, but moving forward, it was really hard. I felt numb for a very long time. I lost direction, but when I started my clothing line, I feel like that's when I was able to come back. Mind you, I lost my mom in 2016, and I didn't start my brand until 2020. That was four years of just feeling numb through life and not really knowing how to navigate it. I’m not in counseling right now, but I know how to journal and go outside and do different things to get myself back to myself. 

 

I would definitely say journal, write it down, because holding that stuff in doesn't hurt anybody but you. So get it out, write it down. If I don't want to write sometimes, I'll just prop up my camera and just talk. Sometimes I'll cry, smile, or laugh, but I'm getting those emotions out. I would definitely say meditate, sit with yourself, get your answers from yourself. It's hard sometimes to go and get that advice from other people because only you can fix you, but sometimes you get your answers from yourself if you just pay attention and listen. 

 

I play in the AEBL, and this is my first year with them. I haven't played organized basketball in two years so it's nerve racking. I came from overseas, and I was playing in front of a lot of Caucasian people. Now I'm back in a Black audience and you hear the crowd getting excited. It's different, but I love it. 

 

When COVID started and they sent us home, I was like “What am I going to do?” I kept having thoughts of “What do you like to do?” I like to eat, and I want to be a chef. I like to get dressed. But I needed a message behind my brand. When I lost my mom to breast cancer, one thing she always just told me growing up was the only person that can stop you, is you. I took that and ran with it, and I started November 5, 2020. I never stopped and it helped me grow spiritually and mentally in life.

 

I think one of the things that I've carried over from basketball to my business career is leadership. When you're an athlete, you have to have that motivation to get up and do it. Nobody is going to tell you to get in the gym. If you love it, you do it. I took that mindset and shifted it to my business. I didn't know anything about building a brand, so I would just wake up and do research. 

 

I feel like I haven't found my purpose because life is a journey. I'm always learning new things every day and I feel like nobody has one purpose. I feel like we're here to serve and do what we can to uplift people and bring them up. I feel like the more I go on my journey, the more I'll step into different roles with my purpose, but having just one purpose, no. 

Creative Credits

Creative Direction: Nia Symone / Tyrone McClendon

Director of Photography: Scoot Took It

GFX & Video Edits by: Ethan Garner

Story Written by: Malik Brown

 
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Byron Johnson | New Orleans, LA

Former SELU Football Player

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Written by Malik Brown

I was going to see Black Panther with my cousin, and when I went to see it, I saw the impact that it was making. People were really affected by the movie and kind of felt like God was picking me to try something new, but I really didn't think it was acting. A few weeks later, my aunt had sent me a casting call for an independent film in Louisiana and I ended up getting the lead two months later and had an agent. I  booked my first thing out here in Atlanta, and had been doing it since then.

 

My whole family is pretty much from Louisiana. I grew up in New Orleans, and we all were in the same city. Growing up, it was my mom, my dad, and my younger sister two years younger. I experienced Mardi Gras and I was a Saints fan. We ended up staying there pretty much until Hurricane Katrina hit.

 

I think for me, Katrina taught me not to be so materialistic. At a young age you have life as you know it. You have a house, cars, all types of stuff, and then it gets taken away. You can get all of that back. We got another house, other cars, all that type of stuff. The year after that both of my biological grandfathers and my dad passed within that same year in 2006. I think it gave me an outlook on how to cherish the people that I have in my life.

 

During that time, I got rooted in my faith. When you get a chance to experience God for yourself, and you go through those trials and tribulations that kind of put you in the place where you have to actually live that out, it hits differently. So for me it did. I remember during that time really being rooted in my work. When my dad passed, I think more than anything I was at this place where I kind of gave myself an ultimatum like, you can either use this as a crutch, or you could use this as fuel to move you forward, and I chose it as fuel.

 

Football came by just playing at recess playing with my friends. I went to a certain school uptown New Orleans, and after that, I just started playing, and I liked it. I asked my mom if I could play and I’m still surprised she said yes, because even when I was in college, she didn't like me getting hit. 

 

I had a good time at Millsaps College. Going back to my senior year of high school, I had played receiver for only one year. I grew late and was really trying to figure out the game. I didn't have a true position. Millsaps and another school were the only two that had offered me a scholarship. So when I went, there was an offensive coordinator and he just believed in me and gave me a lot of confidence. He saw a lot of things in me that I don't think a coach had really seen or let me know that was in there for me. 

 

I was always a believer in betting on myself so that was something that I did always have, but sometimes we don't have the confidence to click with that ability, and that year kind of gave me that. When I decided to make that jump to go to Southeastern, it was a scary thing, just because when you’re walking on and you leave a program where people know you, you don't really know what's going to happen, but I really did have that faith that things are going to work out.

 

I really did believe in myself and trusted that the process would work out for me. What's crazy is I know a lot of guys who did walk on after that, and seeing the favor that I had in that position, it did show me that God was really looking out for me during that time. It also allowed me to know that I was tough enough to fight through for the things that I really wanted. If I had the will to work through whatever just to get to that place, I knew I could do it.

 

I knew that if I was getting a chance to go against the best players that this team had to offer and obviously kind of seeing what the team was becoming, which was a conference championship caliber team, I had to stand out against those guys and show the coaches what I'm made of. For me, it was going as hard as I possibly could every single day, and I really tried to make that just my MO. Nobody was going to outwork me. I might not be the most talented guy or the five star recruit, but there was not going to be a person on the team starting that was going to outwork me.

 

I remember one time that our game was going to be on ESPN, and I didn’t play particularly well the week before. I remember I called my best friend and I told him I was going to quit, just because of the ups and downs, being a walk on, and not feeling appreciated. It really started getting to me for like the past, like, month or two. He told me “You never know what God has for you, just stick with it.” I kid you not, I didn't think my coach knew my name. I walked into a special teams meeting and he was like “Is Byron in there?” I’m looking around, and at first I thought it was grades or something like that. I went to his office, and my receivers coach was there as well. He sat me down and said “I want you to know, we're going to put you on scholarship in January, is that cool?” I was like, “Oh, snap,” and I had this internal moment where I was just like, “God, I was about to quit 16 hours ago.”

 

One of the things that I'm most grateful for is I think what's allowed me to kind of transition even to this new field is that when it came to football, I know a lot of people who didn't really give their all. I gave it my all and I always could have peace in knowing that I squeezed every little bit of ability out of myself that I could, so make sure you're doing that, don't try to do it to be on Instagram for a post.

 

It’s going to be times where you feel like life is overwhelming or you feel like it's a lot. My friend told me “You can lay down, just don't unpack there.” That was a really important thing. I was going to have downtimes, but it was my family, friends, Jesus, you know, and the people that are closest to me that kept me going. That reminded me of my faith, that reminded me of what I stood for during that time. 

 

Byron Johnson II, he's a believer. He is someone who really wants to make the world a better place in any way that he can. He's somebody who shows empathy towards people and to situations and really tries to be a light in every way possible.

 

I think I've found my purpose a long time ago. I think my purpose is to lead, motivate and inspire. I was doing it as a football player, coach, and now I'm doing it as an actor. I’'ve seen myself do the same thing in multiple ways, I think it's just the platforms that you get to do it. I think it's just understanding what that platform is at that certain point.

Watch Byron's Interview

Creative Credits

Creative Direction: Nia Symone / Tyrone McClendon

Director of Photography: Scoot Took It

GFX & Video Edits by: Ethan Garner

Story Written by: Malik Brown

 
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Montavious Coleman | Decatur, GA

Former Morehouse College Track Athlete 

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Written by Malik Brown

I'm still a student getting my master's but I'm also a physical education teacher at Southwest Dekalb High School where I serve as a strength coach for all sports. I’m also an assistant track coach. 

 

Community means everything to me. I got active in the community when I was going to Rainbow, and I was right across the street from Southwest Dekalb. They always came to my school when we had our little drug free pep rallies and I would see the football players. The blue and gold uniforms and my granddad taking me to games was kind of an attraction. Being in that community was an attraction for me and all the great sports athletes that came from that community that stuck around and coached through my times in middle school at Chapel Hill, and then going into high school. It was always a close knit community, and that high school stood for greatness in the southeast part of Dekalb County.

 

Travis Harris was our coach at Chapel Hill middle school, and he was a legend at Southwest Dekalb. He went to University of Florida and played for the Miami Dolphins and the Tennessee Titans. He was like our Black God. He owns a couple of businesses in Atlanta. He was kind of like the pioneer for us in my generation, seeing him come back with nice cars and things of that nature.

 

I started playing sports as a young child playing football. I think about every young child that was a boy that played football. I got into track and field in middle school. My coach, coach Sheppard, wanted me to do the Shot put when I was in the seventh grade. So I got involved  through her seeing that vision in me. I wasn't good technically in middle school and seventh eighth grade doing Shot put, and I was probably the worst one. I kind of stuck with it as I got into high school, and I started doing some great things. 

 

Sports mean everything to me. I think sports teaches kids and adults responsibility because it’s something that you want to do in life, so you have to be accountable and responsible for your actions if you want to succeed. If you don't want to succeed or if you're not good, it shows in your work ethic. So whatever you put in, you'll get out, whether that’s going to work, school or anything you want to get in. I used those same concepts through life and that kind of helped me get into sports and be able to go through something organized. Seeing something disorganized, winning, losing, I was learning all those things through sports instead of not loving them at all and then experiencing them as an adult. I felt like I had the upper hand.

 

I knew in high school what I wanted to be. The only sports goal I had was to go to the Olympics. That's the highest pinnacle and track and field that you can go to. If that wasn't gonna happen, I knew that I wanted to come back to my community and be a coach. That was instilled in me from eleventh and twelfth grade to when I was at Morehouse doing sports. I understood my assignment, and I wanted to come back to be a coach. I had to be a PE teacher of some sort, so I kind of navigated my pathway towards that.

 

My first trainer was Kevin Wilson, he's a Southwest Dekalb and UGA alum. He's like one of my brothers now. I also worked with a guy by the name of Ted. I was seeing how we lacked so many fundamental things on the East side when it comes to training, and kids were unknowledgeable at working out. A lot of the stuff on the East side was just kids being superior athletes, so I wanted to take it upon myself to actually learn what personal training was, and then when I went to Morehouse, I kind of indulged more into strength and conditioning, which is the upper scale of personal training. When you go and play sports at a college, you have a strength and conditioning coach, not a personal trainer. It's a lot more work and it's a lot more knowledge. The biggest thing with that is I just wanted to give my students and my athletes a way to actually train the appropriate way without doing crazy stuff and getting hurt. 

 

That was the biggest thing for me because I got hurt at Morehouse, and we didn't have the fundamental training there. We didn't have a strength and conditioning coach. I got introduced to a strength and conditioning coach when I was there named Jason, who was a professor at Georgia State, and I went to his program and it made me realize I always knew I wanted to be into training, but I wanted to move to strength and conditioning. It's more work, it's more knowledge on scientific stuff, and you have aspects of personal training, but it's just more in detail. That's why I knew I wanted to go that route as soon as possible, and it aligned with what I did with track and field. 

 

When you mentor the right way, it means a lot. Me being a mentor, I kind of show my students and my athletes my failures. I'm not a guy that's going to mentor you through all the right things. I want to let you understand that sometimes you have to not listen and witness stuff for yourself, and then be able to come back and I can tell you, “Yeah, I told you that you were Tgoing to do that.” But you have to go through there to get better. Growing up, I saw a lot of mentors trying to paint the perfect life. 


As a mentor, I always try to teach my kids the wins and losses, not just the wins. The biggest thing is just seeing my kids adapt to that. A lot of my mentees adapt to the wins and losses, and they come back and say, “Dang, coach, I remember you told me that.” I still try to have mentors at this age to where I can say, “Hey, I'm going down this path. I want to do it this way.” But I know there's going be a lesson behind it. I still want to be able to still educate myself. Even though I'm mentoring, I still need to go to my mentors, and that's the biggest joy for me.

Creative Credits

Creative Direction: Nia Symone / Tyrone McClendon

Director of Photography: Scoot Took It

GFX & Video Edits by: Ethan Garner

Story Written by: Malik Brown

Latrice Lewis | Kennesaw, GA

Former Team USA Handball Athlete 

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Written by Malik Brown

"My dad is the elite soccer player, and he wanted me to get into activities. So he decided to teach me soccer when I was five, and that was my first sport ever. I started to bond with him, and I started to watch a lot of sports. I got the attention from him because he was teaching me sports. I wanted more attention, so I decided to watch sports with him, and this kind of developed into a competitive thing.

 

I tried out for my first elite soccer team when I was eight, and that was the first time ever I didn’t make a team. I remember going back to my dad, and he sat in the car during tryouts. I told him I didn't make the team, but it was okay because the coach said it was okay, and it doesn't make us not winners. He was like, “You are never doing this again. From this point on, you make every team.” So we put in the work, and I told myself I'm not going to not get picked anymore.

 

I had a lot of pressure. My whole identity was on being an athlete, I was referred to as “The Athlete.” People didn't use my name half the time. I knew that my dad would continue to give me attention as long as I was making the top teams and I was winning, so that kind of became the relationship where I built an identity around that I had to win. It wasn't even necessarily pressure, I expected to win and be better than other people.

 

Failure didn't happen often. Failure just meant that I had to work harder. Failure was temporary. So I never really let it get me down. There were times when I did fail, and my dad made sure to make sure that I knew that it was unacceptable. I was that kid who would have to walk home, or not have dinner, or not have dessert. It was clear that this is the punishment. 

2014 was when I finally was like, I'm not doing this anymore. It actually stopped being fun. I realized I didn't care about winning anymore. I didn't need to win. It wasn't part of who I was, and it didn't change who I was. 

 

I experienced a lot of loss around the time that I retired. So from about 2005 on I lost my fiance to a tragic accident, and I lost some friends. Part of my identity felt lost there because those were my connections outside of my identity of sports. So with sports also leaving, I was very much stuck with, “I don't know what to do with myself.” So I actually spent a year doing nothing.

 

I kept in touch with my sports psychologist. I had one as an athlete. I had a severe back injury that took me about a year and a half to recover from and because of that, I got assigned a sports psychologist through the USOC and kept in touch with him. One day was like “Latrice, you can do this. You have everything in your background to help athletes.” I thought a lot about it, I did some research, and I was like, “I could do that.” I also recognized that I was somebody people like to talk to in general. I was like I could do counseling, too. I could do both of those things. 

 

I would have had an easier time as an athlete. I would have separated my identity from sports. I would have known who I was. I would have saved myself a lot of time from being lost. So I want to help athletes with that. I struggled with my transition out of sports, and a lot of athletes struggle, a lot of athletes end up depressed, and suicidal. So I want to help athletes with those aspects. But also, I was a very successful athlete. I don't try to be humble about it with people. I learned tools that made me successful. Once I got my education, I realized I was using scientifically proven tools I just didn't know I was. 

 

If you ask athletes how much of their game is mental, they'll tell you that pretty much 80% of it is mental, but they're not putting in those reps. And if they really want to be successful, that's how they're going to get it and they can get that knowledge on their own, and they can seek help on it with people like me."

Creative Credits

Creative Direction: Nia Symone / Tyrone McClendon

Director of Photography: Scoot Took It

GFX & Video Edits by: Ethan Garner

Story Written by: Malik Brown

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Bre Singleton | Decatur, GA

Former University of West Georgia Basketball Guard

 

Written by Malik Brown

"I played basketball all through my younger years and up to college. Now I do a little bit of everything. I do sports and entertainment, journalism, and also social media. I have a nonprofit organization as well.

 

I was introduced to sports by Space Jam, when I was one-years-old. I watched it as soon as I was of age, and could really understand what was going on. I fell in love with not only basketball there, but music as well, because the soundtrack was fire. I told my parents I wanted to play, and they got me a little hoop, and it was up from there. 

 

I started experiencing anxiety surrounding basketball pretty early. I remember there was a point where I joined a really, really good basketball team, which was the Georgia Ice where they had former and current WNBA players on my team. I didn't know it then obviously, but I can tell you there was a difference in the level of play. I was fortunate enough to be on the team, but I knew that there's some people out here that are better than me. That kind of took a toll on me from a young age.

 

I always took basketball pretty seriously. I think from the time I picked up a ball, I wanted to be really good. I think from early age, I realized that I can maybe get to college, and that became a goal really early. Maybe around middle school I was like, “Okay, I might be a really, really good player.” From there. I just worked really hard, and I got on some pretty good teams.

 

Everywhere I went it, everybody knew me as Bre that plays basketball, Bre that's on the basketball team, and Bre the basketball player. It’s not that I didn't like it or that I wasn't proud of it, it just kind of became attached to who I am. That didn't allow me to get away from the title until I stopped playing because I really wanted to be known for other things. I had a bunch of different interests. I liked sports, music, journalism, and a bunch of different things. It was never all just about basketball for me.

 

I was one of those people who believe it or not, couldn't wait for basketball to be over. I couldn't wait for the next phase of my life and the next chapter, because like I said, I had been “Bre who plays basketball” for 21 years up to that point, so it was like a countdown for me. I was just ready to be somebody else and to do some other things. Once the last buzzer sounded, I was grateful for the experience, and definitely ready to get to the next chapter of my life.

 

Most people look back and regret it as one of those moments like where they think they’ll never get that feeling back again. I'm kind of glad that I looked at it this way because I don't have these moments where I wake up and say I wish I was still in this chapter of my life. I can fully embrace moving forward and who I am now. I look back on those times, and I think they helped me get to where I am now. 

 

I came up with the idea of Free Game in 2018. At that time, I was doing radio. So after I graduated from University of West Georgia and played basketball, I went straight into radio. After that, I got furloughed when the pandemic started, and I had a bunch of free time. One of the things I wanted to dedicate my time to was the student athletes who might have been like me, and maybe they did want to go pro, or maybe they had aspirations to continue playing longer than I did. 

 

I wanted to take that time to build a business or foundation that can help them be a well rounded individual, because I think I took that process more seriously than a lot of my peers. I was more prepared for when the buzzer sounded, and the ball stopped bouncing. I wanted to take the time to make sure that other student athletes were at least thinking about it, or had it in the back of their mind, because whether you like it or not, the ball stops bouncing for everybody at some point.

 

Being an athlete means that you have a body, and you're physically able to do anything. You can be an athlete whether you're in a wheelchair or you’re able to walk. As long as you can get up and be disciplined enough to complete some sort of physical activity, I think you're an athlete, and I think being an athlete is one of the more unique experiences that you can get as a human being because it teaches you so much, not only within the sport, but outside of it. The intangibles that you get, the dedication, the mental fortitude, the discipline, and the time management, those are things that you can't really replicate in certain situations in life like you can in sports."

Watch Bre'Ana's Interview