DeeDee Merritt on Empowering Athletes

Our conversation with DeeDee Merritt is part of a series of interviews conducted at the end of 2020 and early 2021, amid the uncertainty of the Covid pandemic and profound, generational shifts in cultural awareness and activism. Our aim was to speak to figures across the sporting world about leading in times of instability, division, and transition.  DeeDee rose to the occasion.

This week’s episode is a discussion with the Director of Leadership and Development for the NCAA, DeeDee Merritt.  Our conversation with DeeDee took place in early December of 2020, in the thick of the pandemic and the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, and in many ways, it was a continuation of our conversation with Craig Pintens the previous August, when the trajectory of each of these devastating events was less certain.  At issue in both conversations were the questions: how do we lead athletes through crises, instability, and flux?  What can we learn from these events about our athletes, our communities, and ourselves?  How can we build unity, while respecting difference, during polarizing times?

We spoke with DeeDee on these topics, as well as her passion for helping athletes, and her path into leadership development, where a single mentor encouraged her to realize her potential, and her dreams.

“Student athletes don’t just want to be students and athletes.  They want to be change-makers.  They want to transform.  It’s really up to us right now to figure out how to help them do that.”

– DeeDee Merritt

Episode Highlights:

– The challenge of leading on a national level

– The growth of leadership programming at the NCAA

– Diversity and inclusion in coaching and leadership

– Creating pathways for athletes into leadership positions

– The importance of athletes seeing themselves in their leaders

– Understanding before leading

– Activism in the athletic community

– Empowering athletes through education

– Teaching athletes how to affect real change

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