Because I believe everyone has a story and we can learn from each other, I wanted to share an interview with you about a young woman’s experiences through life and sports.
What sports did you play growing up?
I played basketball and soccer all throughout childhood and high school.
Did you have a favorite?
I went back and forth between the two, but I think I always knew soccer was my favorite.
How did you first get involved in playing sports and how old were you?
I played sports for as long as I can remember. I think it started when my parents signed me up on a YMCA soccer team when I was 4.
Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like?
Frederick, Maryland. I spent my entire childhood there, so my childhood revolved around sports, family and friends – that all stayed pretty constant.
What was it like being a female playing sports?
As a kid, I loved being one of the only girls playing with the boys, especially because I could hold my own with them. I remember at a young age it didn’t matter that I was a girl – the boys didn’t care. It wasn’t until middle school and high school that I remember being able to feel the stigmas associated with being a female. Even so, playing sports as a female, especially if you were good, was looked at as cool. It gave me a lot of confidence, especially in high school during a time when it’s easy for young women to lack that.
Where did you go to college? And why did you choose this school?
High Point University in North Carolina. I chose the school mainly for soccer, but also took a hard look at the academic programs, student life, etc. I knew I wanted to play Division I, and the last two schools I was choosing between were HPU and Virginia Tech – both very different in basically every way. Ultimately I chose HPU because of the family-like feel of the soccer program, and I knew I would have a greater chance to make an immediate and lasting impact at the smaller school.
Did you play sports in college? Why/why not?
See above answer.
What were the tough decisions you had to make when choosing where to go to school?
I was a 4.0 student in high school, so it was very important to me that I went to a school with strong academics. During the recruiting process, it wasn’t always easy to find a school that was both a good athletic and academic fit. I actually ended up going to a school that didn’t meet my original academic standards, but I was okay with that because I learned to stop caring so much about rankings and decided it was up to me to make the most out of my experience. I also knew that having a great experience as a student-athlete would have a longer-lasting impact than my experience in the classroom.
The level of competition I wanted to play at was probably the most difficult decision for me. It’s easy to have dreams to play at the best program possible, but then you may have to sacrifice scholarship money and playing time if you aren’t the “best of the best.” The school I ended up choosing wasn’t known as athletic powerhouse, and that was a little bit difficult for me in the decision-making process. I think I felt just because I had done so well in high school that there was this pressure from the community and myself to go to the best athletic school possible.
Were there any challenges you faced while in college?
After my freshman season, I thought very seriously about transferring. I even submitted a couple applications to other schools and got accepted. It had nothing to do with my coach or team – I loved everyone and had amazing friendships. The root of my unhappiness actually stemmed from the success I had in sports before college. I started as a freshman in college, but I wasn’t making the impact like I made on the teams previously. Honestly, I think it was a little bit of immaturity on my end dealing with not being the “best” like I had always been before. My confidence dropped a lot. Ultimately, with some help from my parents, I made the decision to stay for at least the spring season and see how it went. And thank goodness for that! That spring I worked my butt off in the weight room and on the field, and the next three season were some of the best and most fun soccer I had played in my life. I cannot stress how happy I am that I stayed…the memories, friendships, and who I am today is worth even the toughest of challenges.
What was your major in college?
Mathematical Economics with minors in Finance and Statistics.
What did you do after college?
Went to graduate school to get my MBA and Masters of Sports Administration…yeah I know, not a whole lot to do with math.
Any aspirations to take sports further than college?
Before my senior year in college my coaches told me it was realistic to play in the NWSL or overseas. That summer I paid out of my own pocket to stay at school and train for that opportunity. However, I ended up straining my quad / knee right before preseason. It came to a point where I had to make the decision of either a) fight through the injury to play my senior season and risk the high chance of not being able to recover in time to make tryouts or b) sit out the season and rehab for pro tryouts. I chose to play my senior season because I couldn’t imagine not experiencing that with the teammates I had been with for four years. By my last game I could barely walk. I wonder what may have happened if I made the other decision, but I don’t regret it.
Any type of graduate school or continued education? How did you make that decision?
I learned through some internships that I didn’t want to pursue a traditional math-related field, so I started coaching and interning in the athletic department. Getting close to the end of my playing career, I knew I didn’t want to lose sports from my life. It so happened that my Athletic Director was an alumnus of Ohio University’s MBA/MSA program, so he suggested I apply if I wanted to work in sports. I was lucky enough to get in with his help, so went off to Ohio for the two-year program. Honestly, I didn’t have a plan, it just kind of felt right and ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve made.
What are you doing now and how did your current situation come to be?
My current situation came from connections I made during graduate school. I was told from the beginning that the best part about my grad program was networking with alumni and I made sure to take advantage of that. You would be surprised how willing people are to help others that are in a position they were once in. After school in May 2016 I moved to Chicago to work for a sports marketing consulting firm, Property Consulting Group. Both my direct boss and one of the founders are alums of my grad program. No doubt they asked me to take the position because of the connections I made with them while in school.
How do you feel sports has impacted your life and are you still active?
Sports more or less are my life, although that has evolved from childhood up to now. Going through the challenges and triumphs inherit in sports and being a part of teams without a doubt shaped me into the person I am today and taught me so many invaluable skills and lessons. Plus, it gave me some of the best friends and mentors I could ask for. I still stay active going to the gym and running, sometimes playing intramurals. I do miss the competitive aspect, I am still searching for something that provides similar feelings – both physically and emotionally – that playing intense, competitive team sports does.
What was your transition from playing sports to what you’re currently doing like?
It was pretty tough. In fact I would say I am still transitioning, and may always be to some extent. It was hard for me to set goals that no longer had that physical component to them, or that extremist approach. I miss so much about playing sports – mostly being on the field with my teammates through the goal celebrations, the overtime losses, and all the ups and downs. There’s something so special and uniquely emotional about sports. That’s something I will never get to experience at that level again and that’s tough to swallow. And I really miss being with my teammates every single day working towards a common goal…I would still consider them my family, but it’s sad when you realize you may only see them once a year, if you’re lucky.
What are your future aspirations and where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
You know, I am still trying to figure that out. Which is okay. I know I want to be involved in advancing women’s sports and helping youth that may not have access to sports. I love what I do now and the company I work for – we consult teams and leagues on new ways to engage fans and sponsors with creativity and innovation. The best part about sports is there are so many ways to make an impact on people. I could see myself working for an NGB or non-profit. There are a lot of brands that are using sport to do social good. We will see!
What advice do you have to people trying to figure out their next steps after college or looking to make a professional change?
Trust your intuition! Take risks. Explore new things. Don’t be afraid to do something different than what others may expect of you. Action, action, action. You’ll never know until you try. And most importantly, it’s okay to not have it all planned out!