My entire existence has revolved around sport. As a child I cried through my first dance class and intentionally lost my brownie socks all so that I could participate in sports. I started playing sports at age six. Soccer was the first, followed by softball and basketball. I jumped headfirst into travel soccer and softball, taking up every minute of my spare time and dedicating it to the world of sport. Never as a child did I refer to myself or feel as if I was identified as a female athlete, until one day I was at an indoor softball tournament for my travel team. Young teams were funneling in and out of the facility, some for baseball, others for lacrosse, and then there it was: “the sign”. Posted in the entryway was a giant sign with arrows pointing to the specific field locations for each sport. In big bold letters there was BASEBALL with an arrow to the left, SOCCER with an arrow to the right, and so on and so on. Then to the right was a small lawn sign written in sharpie marker “Girls Sports →”. I watched as several families just read the sign and followed directions, but I paused. All 5’1 of me with my catchers’ bag that was bigger than my body stared at that sign in utter confusion. Why was there a giant, professional sign for “the boys”, but the girls got this measly sign? Why is it assumed that when I read SOCCER or LACROSSE on that sign that refers to the men’s sports and not the women’s? Unfortunately, as I have continued through sport “the signs” have become more apparent and exist in ways I never thought possible.

Before continuing I want to highlight the INCREDIBLE women in sport that are creating the necessary change for young women everywhere to aspire to be a strong, confident presence in this world. Female leaders in this industry like Serena Williams, Simone Biles, Fatma Samoura, Kim Ng, Sarah Thomas, Rachel Balkovec and so many more. Every woman in the professional setting of sports, whether they are a player, board member, or administrator is a trailblazer in their own way, continuously paving the way for women like me who want to make SPORT an industry and environment that women thrive, grow, and create personal success in.

Athletics is an environment that has so many different platforms and avenues that can create personal growth and provide different ways to develop one’s character. It is because of sport and the women before me in athletics, that I can confidently move about the world. My confidence comes from learning how to overcome failure in sports. My ability to dedicate my time and attention to projects I work on or relationships I build is because of my participation in sports. My hard and soft skills are constantly developing because of my exposure to sports. Everything that we at Stilettos and Sneakers highlight as key components to one’s authenticity has been created for me because of sport. Sports do not just consist of team or athletic events; it encompasses all physical and mental environments where you are challenged to face failure and build inner strength to accomplish physical components that you did not think possible. It is important as women to not fear the unknown, but instead open our eyes to the opportunity to blaze through new worlds.

~ Nicole