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Former teacher melds athletics, art to promote teamwork

Tupelo — As a former teacher, Sydney Darnell knows the importance of teamwork and respect in achieving goals. As an athletic person and as someone who appreciates artistic accomplishment, she also recognizes the self-confidence that emerges from achievement in those areas. As a wife and mother, she understands the importance of balance and perspective.

In launching GO Creative Athletics and Art, LLC, a year ago last June, Darnell has created an environment that promotes teamwork and cooperation through learning modules that include activities in athletics and the arts. Her clients have ranged from youth to adults, with activities as diverse as children’s birthday parties to businesses’ leadership/team building retreats.

Located in a 7,000-square-foot facility on McCullough Boulevard, GO is home to a rock wall and an art gallery. While the blend of activities seems unusual on the surface, Darnell believes it provides the perfect setting to promote teamwork and leadership.

“I believe that athletics and art can help reveal and develop talents of individuals and groups,” the South Carolina native said. “My staff and I always leave humbled from a program because we learn just as much from the people who participate as they do from us.” Case in point: the 80-year-old grandfather from New York who climbed the rock wall.

Darnell said that through the various on-site activities, individuals and groups can overcome barriers and limitations by seeing colleagues in a different situation. For example, seeing someone who is perceived as shy or meek aggressively tackle the rock-climbing wall may change co-workers’ perspective about that individual. More importantly, that individual may reassess his or her own self-imposed limitations.

“If someone can say ‘I can climb that wall,’ then maybe he or she will also take that approach to other areas of their life. A lot of people miss their passion in life because other people have written them off, and we want to show people how they can think of themselves as being successful in ways that maybe they haven’t considered before.” Darnell stated.

Darnell said that the hallmark of her business is personalization — knowing and calling program participants by name, greeting people at the door and exemplifying the same skill sets with employees as she does with customers. She said that she believes that the same character traits that make a person successful in business also make them successful in life — namely treating others with respect and dignity.

“I feel it is just as important for me to honor my employees and coaches as it is to honor my clients,” Darnell said.

Given the number of retail and business entities in the Tupelo and Northeast Mississippi area, Darnell said that her business provides a cost-effective means of providing leadership and team training at an off-site location without extensive travel or lodging expense. She said that she hopes to continue to build on that business base.

Rob Rice, a Tupelo-based State Farm agent, has been through the program with members of his office, some of whom have been of staff for about 20 years.

“Our office has worked together for a fairly long time and we wanted to continue to build on those relationships,” Rice said. “It’s easy to see each other in terms of the role that each person plays in the office, but this experience gave us all a deeper appreciation of our individual gifts, talents and personality traits.” Spouses were also invited and some commented that they hoped to participate again. Staff members were equally enthusiastic.

“The whole experience gets you thinking about the importance of everyone’s abilities in achieving goals,” said Martha Melton, a member of Rice’s staff. “The lessons we learned applied not only to business, but to life. It was very positive.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Karen Kahler Holliday at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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