Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

International Mentoring Day: The Value of Mentorship


On this special day, January 17, in commemoration of the 74th birthday of boxing legend and social activist Muhammad Ali, the Center is honored to participate in the first International Mentoring Day.

At the Center, we cannot overestimate the powerful role played by mentorship in our lives. Our entire team has been touched deeply by mentors — parents, coaches, teachers, friends, colleagues — who support and guide us in the moments that we most need it. This comes across in our work, from the service-learning classes taught by Drs. Hillyer and Huffman to the four years we’ve spent proudly implementing the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP).

Lonnie Ali, the wife of the former heavyweight champion, said, “Mentors are gifts to the world. They encourage, motivate, reinforce, and guide others to reach individual greatness. Mentors have the power to change lives.”

We agree wholeheartedly.

Watch the video below to see what mentorship means to the dozens of our closest friends and partners: the women who have taken part in the Global Sports Mentoring Program since 2012

In addition to the video collage, we want to share the words of six women who we’ve been fortunate to know through the GSMP. These are some of the top women in marketing, business, sports administration, and many other fields, who have dedicated time to supporting emerging leaders around the globe. They are sources of knowledge, encouragement, strength, and connection, and we are very grateful for the amount of passion they’ve poured into this program.

What they have to say about mentorship…

“It is so incredible to me that after four years of doing the GSMP, it just continues to get more powerful for me. I don’t get tired of it. I look forward to it every year. It brings me the opportunity to learn stories about women — and meet them firsthand — who are making change in their countries in such significant ways. As a mentor, I want to give them the tools to go home and tell their stories in a meaningful way, to get the message out about their cause, to move people to help and create the movement they’re looking for.”

– Joan Coraggio, Group Communications Director – Brand Integration, Saatchi & Saatchi LA

“One of the things that I have really focused on as a mentor is making sure that I spend more time, more focus and more of my own personal credibility to make a difference, whether that’s in Cincinnati, India, or Brazil, or wherever my mentees live. Because I really do believe that one person, or a small group of people, can make an extraordinary difference in girls’ and womens’ lives.”

– Julie Eddleman, Global Client Partner, Google

“As a coach, my professional goal is to win soccer games for the University of Central Florida. But, at the same time, my personal goal as a coach is for my players to be successful in life. My teaching goes way beyond the soccer field. Really, I’m using soccer as a tool to achieve that bigger goal.”

– Tiffany Sahaydak, Head Coach, UCF Women’s Soccer

“The most interesting part of a mentor is when they tell you their own stories because those are stories of hope and inspiration and they can help you as you continue to move on through your own career.”

– Marina Escobar, Vice President of Visual Technology, ESPN

“As a mentor, you need to be curious. You should want to learn all the time and be very resourceful and very interested in asking questions. Anyone can be a mentor as long as they’re willing to give their time and give something back to somebody.”

– Ann Wells Crandall, Chief Marketing Officer, Big East Conference

“The women I’ve mentored make me want to be a better person and a better mentor. We’ve heard it over and over again from our emerging leaders that the GSMP gives them this feeling of knowing they’re never alone. Even in their darkest moments, they know that any time of day or night, when they’re feeling they can’t go on, there’s always somebody that they can pick up the phone and call. This program has built such a phenomenal support system for women around the world to help them support making change.”

– Gwen Conley, Group Media Coordinator, Saatchi & Saatchi LA

Mentorship is not carving an hour out of your schedule once a week to sit down and lecture someone. It is not easy being a mentor. It is time-consuming. It requires you to open up parts of your life and learn things about others that can be uncomfortable. And, on the other hand, it is not easy being mentored at times either. To allow a person to speak into your life and challenge you requires a level of vulnerability that can be difficult to summon. But, we know from experience, when a true mentorship connection blossoms, it revitalizes your spirit and opens up your mind and heart to a whole new world.

Nneka Ikem, a sports journalist and special advisor within Nigeria’s Ministry of Sports, participated in the inaugural GSMP in 2012 and perfectly summarizes one of the many reasons we believe so strongly in mentorship: “When you change one person’s life, you change the life of a whole community. Changing my life has changed the lives of hundreds of girls in Nigeria. For that reason, the GSMP means the world to me.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. So, here’s to mentors everywhere: we are grateful for you and celebrate you today. Happy International Mentoring Day!