Young Athletes Get a Chance to FLYE

Two entrepreneurs create a business leadership program for young athletes

FLYE Founders Cortni Grange (left) and Sam Sesay (center) with Director of Communications Ray Hawkins

Countless talented high school football and basketball players dream of making it to the professional leagues, nonetheless, according to the NCAA, only 0.08% make it to the NFL while an equally disappointing 0.03% make it to the NBA. These statistics motivated Cortni Grange and Sam Sesay, the founders of FLYE (Future Leaders and Young Entrepreneurs), to equip young men of color with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to succeed in any arena of life through comprehensive programs that help them envision themselves managing businesses beyond their sport.

[RELATED: Hands-on Program Helps Underserved Black and Latino Boys Go to Selective Colleges]

FLYE has grown to now work with young men and young women and invites student athletes to participate in a year-round curriculum designed to create leaders and entrepreneurs for successful businesses. In just two years, FLYE has made great achievements. Most recently, co-founders Cortni Grange and Sam Sesay were recipients of the 2015 Luminary Award by The National Urban League Young Professionals of the Greater Washington Area, Washington Wizards All-Star Guard John Wall and Sean John outfitted some of their FLYE seniors with tuxedos for their prom, and in April, FLYE student athletes attended a roundtable discussion at the White House.

BlackEnterprise.com had a chance to catch up with the founders of the organization about how they started, what they’ve accomplished thus far, and where they are going next.

BlackEnterprise.com: How did the idea for the organization come about?
FLYE:  Sam and I randomly ran into each other at an LA Fitness, in September of 2013. We hadn’t seen each other since 2002. After a few reps and some inspiring conversation, we found that our passions to give back were similar and decided it was time to do something about it. We met at a coffee shop a few days later and from there we began. We originally pitched the idea of FLYE to our alma mater, Eleanor Roosevelt HS in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the principal said, “Can you start yesterday?!”

What is your vision?
We are dedicated to changing how youth in urban communities perceive themselves, their potential and success. We do this by embedding year-round curriculum into athletic programs. Our programs provide hands-on educational exposure to student athletes in the areas of entrepreneurship, financial literacy, health and wellness, community and self-discovery. Our focus is intended to redefine how our athletes perceive success, how they go about obtaining it on numerous paths, and strategies geared toward remaining successful.

What are some examples of how your programs work?
Basically, we take the concepts of athletics—certain principles and traits for basketball, football, and all different sports—and we infuse principles of entrepreneurship, professional development, behavior, and leadership into them. For example, we may focus on “The X’s and O’s of Effective Relationships” and we’ll explain to students “If you’re on the defense for a football team, you have to know how to read and react to certain formations and sets that come up from the offense.” We’ll teach them to know how it compares to life, as in “This is how you would react to a conversation with a woman” or say “You would react to authority in this way” and “This is how to get the best results.” They learn how to maximize their output based on what they do.

How does the entrepreneurship aspect of FLYE work?
We have a 4-phase program that we implement over a specific time frame. The phases include, in this order: How to successfully create an elevator pitch, marketing and sales and organizational development/ how to build an effective team. All of those different contexts lead up to them being more prepared to learn about entrepreneurship, which is the fourth phase that comes in their second year in the program.

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