NextUp Live

How Playing Youth Sports With the Boys Helped Tiffany Daniels

By Melissa Wickes
October 4, 2021
4 min

Welcome to the latest episode of NextUp Live!

This new interview series from LeagueApps and our NextUp community, features inspiring stories from people, news, and happenings around the youth sports industry.

Today, I am excited to talk with Tiffany Daniels, the associate commissioner for the Southeastern Conference, as well as a member of the Sports Business Journal’s Game Changer Class of 2021.

(Click here if you can’t play the video above.)

Being a 2021 Game Changer

The Game Changers continue to importantly honor and examine the ways in which women intersect with the industry.

As a 2015 Game Changer, I love talking to the women who have earned the title since then, and Tiffany is easily one of the most inspiring I’ve had the chance to meet.

Being part of this exclusive club of women is humbling. SBJ consistently provides a spotlight for women leaders in the industry and it’s such an honor to be included, to be recognized by this prestigious publication and by my peers.

We then moved to talk about her career. As a graduate of the University of Tennesse, Tiffany and I were rivals on the field, but kindred spirits off the field. I was curious to learn more about her role with the SEC, both as the associate commissioner and as a senior woman administrator.

In my role, I get to celebrate the accomplishments of the young people in our conference and their hard work as they move towards the postseason. I work with an amazing group of people in this office who want to ensure that our championship events are lifelong memories for our student athletes. This is about creating something special for them.

How Youth Sports Has Affected Her Life

We couldn’t, of course, have a conversation without understanding how Tiffany’s youth sports experience led to her personal and professional development. Not only is she working with the SEC, but she played basketball at Georgia. I asked her to dig into what playing sports as a kid helped define who she is today.

As a kid, I can remember being one of two girls in this neighborhood full of boys, which was my first introduction to navigating a male-dominated setting. I also credit that time with making me more resilient because you had to be able to hold your own in that group, especially if you wanted to compete.

Playing with guys in the neighborhood and growing up with them and seeing them as equals is so important for kids. You develop a rapport and a sense of being comfortable in a setting where you might be one of a few. It helps to create an equal footing, which is so important for the next generations.

We then moved on to talk about Tiffany’s kids and what they’re learning from their youth sports experiences. One is following in her parent’s footsteps by playing basketball, but her youngest knew they know nothing about volleyball so that’s the path she chose.

My husband and I thought it important for our kids to play sports because it has so many intrinsic values. We knew they would have the opportunity to learn who they are as people and it would also build their confidence. We wanted them to learn leadership and how to win and how to lose gracefully.

Like every other kid playing youth sports during the past 19 months, Tiffany found her kids had a sense of loss. We talked more about that—and what it meant for them to have something to look forward to doing.

There was such a sense of loss among kids who played sports, particularly during the shutdown. Our kids play a sport every sesaon so it’s become part of who they are. When everything shut down, they had a sense of loss. They were used to being around their teammates and to getting that competitive energy out.

But it also taught them resilience. They learned how to articulate their loss, which is very, very important because we are in a time where it’s important for them to be confident in discussing their mental health and how things affect them.

A Message to Young Women and Girls

Because of Tiffany’s role at the SEC, as an SBJ 2021 Game Changer, and as a mother of daughters, I wanted to learn more about what message she has to the young women and girls who want to follow in the footsteps of all the inspiring game changers.

If I were writing a letter to my younger self, I would want to remind young women to try not to put so much pressure on yourself. You should be in the room. Your voice is important. Your perspective is important. Use your voice. Speak up. Don’t deprive people of your intellect.

We end every interview by asking, “What’s Next Up?” Which led us to what’s next up for Tiffany Daniels and the SEC through the rest of the year and into 2022.

I am so excited that we are not in th unknown related to COVID. There’s more that we know so there’s more that we are able to work through from a mitigation standpoint to ensure that we are able to engage in safe competition for our student athletes. I can’t wait to have some normalcy as it relates to having fans in the building.

Learn More About Tiffany Daniels

Tiffany earned a bachelor’s degree in management information systems from the University of Georgia where she was a four-year letter-winner for the Bulldogs in basketball.

She was a four-year starter for the Lady Dawgs including two NCAA Final Four appearances in 1995 and 1996, winning Southeastern Conference Championships in 1996 and 1997. 

Daniels was the first UGA women’s basketball student-athlete to earn an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, and she later earned a master’s in sports management from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. 

She’s certainly a game changer and we’re pleased to get to know her a bit more today—and see her honored by Sports Business Journal.

If you’d like to see more interviews with inspiring people around the youth sports industry, be sure to subscribe to the LeaugeApps YouTube channel, where you will see a new episode every week.