On Friday, April 27, we were fortunate enough to sit and listen in awe to six panelists speak at Asphalt Green’s “Women Empowered by Sports” event. This was no ordinary panel. The women that filled the seats and provided inspiring testimonies were Dana Vollmer, a five-time Olympic swimming gold medalist, Ally Love, the Brooklyn Nets in-arena host at the Barclays Center, Carlina Rivera, a New York City Council member, Becky Burleigh, the University of Florida soccer coach, Erin Shea, partner of Ernst & Young, and Karen Hoffman Lent, an antitrust partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP & Affiliates. The one thing that all of these impressive women have in common is their background in sports, which has helped them achieve and reach the goals and accolades they have today.
A group of middle school and high school aged female athletes were in the audience listening to these women who played their respective sports in high school, into college, and even some who continue to play today. We could feel the giddy excitement radiating off of all of these young women in the gym, who were absorbing every word as these successful women gave insights into their personal lives and anecdotes about how sports were the driving force behind their achievements.
Dana Vollmer was a huge hit at the event as she is a five-time gold medalist (and even brought a gold medal with her)! The biggest piece of advice that she gave and that everyone seemed to really digest was the concept of priorities. She went on about how she had to choose what was most important to her, which was being a successful swimmer. This meant that she didn’t go to a lot of social events, that she did a lot of her homework to and from practices, and that the friends she gained were ones that understood this passion and dedication. She noted that prioritizing is much different than sacrificing, and that’s where love for your respective sport comes into play.
Another takeaway from this once in a lifetime panel came from Erin Shea and Karen Hoffman Lent, who both played sports in high school through college, but then went into business directions rather than continuing their sports careers. They both spoke about how their time on their teams prepared them for what was to come in the real world. Karen was the captain of her college basketball team and she reflected on her leadership style, which was leading through action. During drills, she would perform in front of everyone else and during grueling sprints, she would lead the pack. This is how she developed her own leadership strategy that she incorporates into her position today. The same goes for Erin. Erin played tennis and even told a story about a tournament where she faced a guy’s team (due to a scheduling error) and rather than backing down due to the mistake in the schedule, she made no apologies and won the match! This sense of not shying away from a challenge and not apologizing plays a huge factor in her career today, as both of these women are leaders in heavily male-dominated work environments.
All of these women not only inspired the young women in the audience, but excited them for what they are capable of, and not only in their sports but in every walk of life! They concluded the panel with answering the question, “What piece of advice would you give yourself at this age (middle school to high school age)?” The few pieces of advice that stuck were to be aware that you aren’t always going to be the best at what you do, to work your butt off always, to not apologize for your talents, and to love yourself.
To say we were inspired by these women would be an understatement.