Davis talks leadership with Rider athletics royalty 

By Jake Tiger

STANDING before a crowd of Rider’s aspiring leaders in the Bart Luedeke Center Theater, Rider baseball Head Coach Barry Davis opened his seminar on Jan. 25 with the existential question he asks himself everyday: “Do you really want to be great, or are you just saying you want to be great?”

Davis’ leadership seminar was organized with the intent of helping those in attendance, mostly Rider student-athletes and coaches, develop the necessary, disciplined vision it takes to become elite at anything.

The event featured a panel discussion with former NBA player Jason Thompson ’08 Nick Margevicius ’17, pitcher in the Seattle Mariners organization, as well as three-time Olympic bobsledder Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian ’07 who attended via Zoom.

“All three arrived as winners and left as serial winners,” said Davis before the seminar. “If you want to be the best, you have to be associated with the best. Nick, Jason and Jazmine check those boxes.”

With a Ph.D. in sports leadership from Concordia University-Chicago, Davis hosted the seminar to share with Rider’s student-athletes, coaches and faculty what he knows about becoming the type of “serial winner” that society requires.

“There are two types of people. There’s people that do, and there’s people that don’t, and whether you like it or not, you’re in a competitive culture,” said Davis during his introductory presentation. “Life is a competitive game. … When you got the job, somebody else didn’t. When you got into [graduate] school, somebody else didn’t.”

After Davis’ opening speech, Thompson, Margevicius and Fenlator-Victorian joined him on stage where they answered questions submitted by the students-athletes in attendance.

Rider baseball Head Coach Barry Davis talks about setting high expectations, and striving to reach them rather than lowering.
Rider baseball Head Coach Barry Davis talks about setting high expectations, and striving to reach them rather than lowering. Carolo Pascale/The Rider News

All three of Davis’ guests dominated at Rider before competing professionally, and during the seminar, they offered multiple glimpses into the eye-opening reality of being an elite athlete.

“To be honest, probably 70% of the time, I’m unmotivated.” said Fenlator-Victorian, who set school records in shot put and discus for Rider track and field. “We’re all humans. We’ve got other stuff going on: emotions, life circumstances, bills, stress, whatever the case may be.”

The former Rider athletes also divulged the importance of setting goals, having a routine and establishing a culture, but as the night went on, the common theme that emerged from the numerous recollections of triumph and growth was the importance of failure. 

According to Davis and his guests, becoming elite was a matter of “winning and learning,” rather than winning and losing.

“You need to fail fast and fail hard,” said Fenlator-Victorian. “If you’re always winning or everything’s always perfect, you’re not really learning or growing. … [Don’t] put your self worth and value on every outcome.”

Thompson echoed Fenlator-Victorian’s sentiment, having learned his share about adversity and leadership during a seven-year tenure with the Sacramento Kings where he had to transition from a rookie to a veteran leader for incoming rookies.

“I was just really leading by example, and kind of learned from the vets that I had,” said Thompson. “It’s easy to be a leader when everything is going good, but how are you dealing with adversity? Who are you through that losing streak? That leader still has to have their head up.”

After the formal conclusion of the seminar, Thompson, Margevicius and Davis were available for photos and any additional questions from the audience.

In the future, Davis hopes to organize similar events n Rider’s campus covering a variety of leadership-adjacent topics.

Now, Davis enters his 19th season as head coach of Rider baseball, determined to grow from Rider’s loss in the 2022 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Championship.

“I never liked to talk in front of groups. Thirty years ago, I was scared to death,” said Davis in an interview with The Rider News. “Don’t be afraid to fail. … You make mistakes. I’m sure I said some things up there that I probably wish I said differently, but that’s okay. I’ll fix it next time.”

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