China: The Diary Of An International Leadership Team

July welcomed the first group of international athletic leaders to China to begin their fellowship with Gridiron Leaders Foundation (GLF).

The GLF operates the China Gridiron Fellowship in China to support former NCAA college football players with the desire to gain international leadership experience, through a combination of professional work placements & football coaching opportunities, but also local players and communities eager to learn how to play the game in China. Run by Chris McLaurin and Zach Brown, their aims benefit both the individual fellows on the program, but also the sport in China.

Via the Gridiron Leaders Foundation site;

“GLF provides a select group of former NCAA football student-athletes the opportunity to experience China through a program that emphasizes professional, athletic, linguistic, and experiential learning opportunity. Fellows serve as cultural and athletic ambassadors, using their unique backgrounds and skill sets to help bridge the ever-shrinking gap between China and the United States. GLF awards high-performing individuals who have demonstrated excellence on and off the field with the chance to contribute to China’s rapidly expanding sports culture.”

With connections to the 20 currently competitive teams (as well as the 65 teams in total across China) GLF is able to support the game across the country, and through their fellowship program introduce new coaching talent to develop the sport further.

This year, the inaugural intake of coaches arrived on July 28th and includes 3 highly talented individuals who all combine extensive football experience with a wealth of intelligence and business aptitude. Former Toledo University graduate Vladimir Emilien, Michigan University alum Floyd Simmons, and Vanderbilt graduate Darien Briant have a wide variety of educational and business backgrounds, but all share the desire to take advantage of the opportunity to live & work in China, courtesy of GLF.

“I have always wanted to live overseas, and the GLF has given me an opportunity to continue my career, live abroad and still to be part of football,” said Briant, who is also currently completing his online masters degree from West Virginia University.

Simmons, who has extensive experience in social work and non-profit management, added:

“I have not been away from my state before (apart from traveling for football games). After my studies, I wanted to do something to set myself apart from others around me. I never got an opportunity to study abroad before, so I thought this was a great chance for me.”

The group initially stayed together in Shanghai with the GLF team for a comprehensive 2-week induction program and received invaluable training about living and working in China, as well as advice about leadership that will support them in their onward coaching positions and career aspirations.

Wednesday July, 29th – CELAP Office, Pudong, Shanghai

Emerging into China on their first full day, the team’s initial visit set the tone for their 9-month stay as part of the program – a visit to the China Executive Leadership Academy of Pudong (CELAP), located in the south-east of Shanghai. Founded in 2004, and one of 5 national leadership schools in China, the event served to educate the team about Chinese leadership philosophies.

Image 1 - 'Harry' Liu Genfa1

‘Harry’ Liu Genfa

In a tour led by Deputy Director General ‘Harry’ Liu Genfa, the team learned about some of the roles that CELAP plays in supporting the development of leaders from around the world (including senior Chinese officials such as current President, Xi Jinping) with their ability to inspire and lead people, but also in providing cross-culture education by inviting hundreds of the best international speakers to share their country’s cultures with China (as well as imparting lessons about China to share with the world) through their merging aims of “integrating China into the rest of the world & developing knowledge and understanding of other nations for Chinese citizens.”

In an open discussion, Liu Genfa described the GLF initiative (the first sporting exchange seen by CELAP) as “a very valuable chance for these young leaders to exchange ideas in China”.

In his informative discussion with the team, he continued to say “we want to create more opportunities for young leaders, not just from American football, but also from American schools and communities to have a more open exchange, so that we will understand each other better”, something that relates closely to GLF core values of creating platforms for football athletes to “reach their fullest potential as global-minded leaders”.

In his second trip to China, new coach and Vanderbilt alumni Darien Briant commented on the day as “a great experience to see the investment they are having in their people. They are doing really great things here”.

Image 3 – GLF team at CELAP

GLF team at CELAP

Next Page: NFL China Offices

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Allan was the Presenter and Co-Producer of Gridiron TV for 4 years, and also spent 10 years playing football in the UK, both at university & adult level, with 107 combined games in his career (on offense, defense and special teams). Allan is now