Storm and Lightning Look To New York Elite In Leadership Immersion Program

Melbourne Storm board director and Sunshine Coast Lightning CEO, Danielle Smith was privy to a range of world-class insights and learnings last month when she participated in the AFL Coaches Association inaugural New York Leadership Immersion program.

The one-week trip saw a contingent of Australia’s elite sport coaches and administrators tour some of the world’s top sporting facilities, followed by a range of topical presentations and discussions with industry leaders.

Smith’s invitation to the program adds weight to the reputation of both Storm and Lightning as thought leaders in professional sport, consistently looking to improve and integrate world-class practices at an operational level.

Topics covered included sport leadership, coaching and high performance, global sports marketing and sponsorship, media and communication skills, together with community and grassroots programs.

Photo: New York Jets Training Facility – Indoor Field

Smith said that “working in sport is very competitive, and so we are always looking for new ideas and different ways of thinking to give ourselves a competitive edge.

“At both Storm and Lightning, we focus on continual learning and improvement, and I was drawn to the diversity of the program – to learn from experts in a number of different fields, from both within sport and outside of sport.

The participants in the program were also a great bunch of people, and we were able to share ideas and learn from one another, which I see continuing into the future with some strong connections built over the intensive week-long program.”

The tour included a visit to US Tennis Association’s facilities, learning from Chief Revenue Officer for the US Open, Lew Shaw, and Chief Executive of Community Tennis, Craig Morris.

Photo: Outside Metlife Stadium to watch the NY Jets vs NY Giants NFL match

High performance sport was in the spotlight when touring the New York Jets’ training facility (NFL), followed by a discussion with NBA Philadelphia 76ers Director of Performance & Leadership, Paddy Steinfort, who discussed mental resilience and its impact on performance.

A presentation from the Managing Director of Nielsen Sports, Glenn Lovett provided insights into global trends in digital, sport and media, whilst Senior Vice-President Oakley at Luxottica, Justin Andrews, shared his experience in devising and executing an innovative sponsorship deal with the NFL.

The program also included a session with renowned creative marketer, Richard Oppy, who oversees brand, marketing and sponsorship for the world’s biggest beer brands at AB InBev, including Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois.

Photo: NY Speech Coaching Workshop, Clara Pagone

The cohort also attended National Hockey League (NHL), National Football League (NFL) and National Basketball Association (NBA) games to gain exposure to the match day experience of some of the highest grossing sports internationally.

“I took a few things away from the sports presentation aspect of each of the events that we will consider at Storm and Lightning, as we continue to look for enhancements to engage with our members, fans and the community, and maintain our leadership position in match day experience across both the NRL and SSN”, Smith said.

The program was led by Ron Watt from the AFL Coaches Association and participants included Mark Harvey (Essendon Football Club Assistant Coach, AFL), Mat Nicholls (AFL Umpire), Gavin Bell (West Coast Eagles Director of Coaching, AFL), Adem Yze (Hawthorn Football Club Assistant Coach, AFL), Cameron Bruce (Carlton Football Club Assistant Coach, AFL), Paul McGregor (St George Illawarra Dragons Head Coach, NRL), Ben Haran (St George Illawarra Dragons Football Manager, NRL), Paul Keating (Strata Community Insurance, Managing Director), Ermond Morelli (CBC Facilities Maintenance, Managing Director) and Glenn Keast (Cotton On, Group Executive Operations & Logistics).

Photo: US Tennis Association’s Board Room Presentation By Chief Revenue Officer for the US Open, Lew Shaw

With Season 2020 fast approaching, the trip reinforced the importance of innovation and continuous improvement, which will remain a focus for both Sunshine Coast Lightning and Melbourne Storm heading into the new year.