Finding Your ‘Team’: A Student-Athlete’s Take on Crisis Communication
by: Maddie Fiorante
I have always been an independent player.
Growing up I tried numerous sports, but equestrian stuck with me. Maybe because of the individualism, maybe because walking into the arena you have less than a minute to prove yourself to the judges. Maybe I’m just a horse girl at heart!
Upon arriving at the University of Georgia in 2016, to ride on the Division I Equestrian Team, I soon realized that my horse would no longer remain my sole focus. I had become part of a team striving for one common goal.
Although equestrian allows my competitiveness to shine, I primarily came to UGA to pursue a degree with the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.
There is no lack of ambition in any of my classes. It often seems like students are competing for the most professional LinkedIn profile, the best internship, or the perfect job. Grady students always strive for excellence; our fields are extremely competitive. This energy is what makes the Grady College so special, but it can also be intimidating.
When I arrived in Dr. Jin’s crisis communication class in the fall of 2019, I experienced the same independence I felt as a young athlete. It is a fierceness, an edge most Grady students possess. But within a few weeks of class, we were instructed to divide ourselves into groups based on our strengths and interests. For better or worse, I had again become part of a team.
Many college students are uncomfortable with group projects. Under Dr. Jin’s guidance, however, each of us found that we brought different skills to the work. While I liked to write, one of my classmates enjoyed design. Another group member was a natural leader. We all found roles.
Much like college athletics, my crisis group was united by a common goal. In this case, we developed and presented work that would help protect our client in a crisis scenario threatening its reputation or disrupting business operations.
As a student-athlete, my schedule is complex. When combined with a group of top Grady students whose priorities ranged from sorority events and student organizations to various part-time jobs, organization became imperative. We worked day and night – often while I was traveling to equestrian meets – and between class periods.
We all found this process to be difficult. Yet by sharing the workload, communicating and supporting each other, we were able to develop a real crisis management plan that we were proud to show our client. Thanks to weekly meetings and continued support from Dr. Jin, our struggles turned to achievement.
I now believe that crisis communication, as an area of research and a professional specialty, can be classified as an extreme sport. Just like any sport, though, the key to victory is finding your strengths and supporting your team.
February 28, 2020