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Jan. 5, 2013

On Sunday, Dec. 30, one night after winning the team title at the Cavalier Classic Presented by Holiday Inn University Area, the Virginia women’s basketball team regrouped for an intense, focused night of training. Though they were sitting in John Paul Jones Arena, this training had nothing to do with basketball. The team had assembled in the JPJA Student-Athlete Dining Hall to go through etiquette boot camp.

Robyn Jackson, an etiquette expert, joined the team to present hands-on training in manners and social skills – life lessons that will be of use to the student-athletes in their future business and life endeavors. Using a real dinner as the workbook, Jackson went course-by-course in the how-to’s of using good table manners including how to make a toast (to Cavalier Classic Tournament MVP Telia McCall), eat soup (always spoon it away from you), cut your meat (one piece at a time), and determine which fork is the dessert fork (perhaps the most popular lesson of the night). She also gave instruction on making introductions and creating small talk as well as giving real-life examples of why good manners are important for job seekers and for business associates.

The team’s biggest take-away from the evening was the concept of empathy.

“Having manners is about making the other person feel good about themselves,” Telia McCall said. “If they are not doing the right thing, it is not about correcting them. It is about making them feel comfortable.”

Some lessons were seemingly a bit more obscure, like how to use a finger bowl. However, when Jackson pointed out this was something that is often used at state dinners and if someone were to join the diplomatic corps, this would be something they should know. This made Simone Egwu take notice.

“I didn’t know how to use a finger bowl or that it existed,” Egwu said when asked what was the top thing she learned during the evening. Egwu, who is majoring in government, wants to go into foreign service and hopes to someday become an ambassador.

For Sarah Imovbioh, it was a technical detail that stood out the most.

“I am glad to learn how to use the knife and fork correctly,” Imovbioh said. “The steps, I really didn’t know them, that you have to start from the outside and work in.”

Learning to properly eat dinner rolls was eye opening for everyone.

“With bread, you have to tear it down the middle,” explained Kelsey Wolfe. “Then you rip off little pieces and butter it one piece at a time. You can’t butter the whole piece of bread. Also, you shouldn’t make butter sandwiches.”

The girls also learned that some of their preconceived notions about manners were incorrect.

“I learned that it is not actually proper to hold your pinkie out while drinking something,” said Jazmin Pitts. “Doing that is kind of overdoing the whole situation and showing off instead of being good manners.”

The girls also learned the proper way to hold glasses, a lesson they learned right after the top photo (above, to the right) was taken.

“If it is water or something cold, you have to hold it by the stem,” China Crosby pointed out. “If it’s red wine or something served at room temperature, you have to hold it near the brim of the glass.”

By the time the evening was over (and the photo at the bottom was taken) the girls had mastered that proper technique and were proudly displaying their refined manners. But don’t worry about putting your manners on display before them. They will be too polite to judge.

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