On Martin Luther King Day 2021, Live Like Blaine Foundation sponsored the Sixth Annual Captains’ Practice Leadership Conference, bringing together over 120 high school female athletes from over 52 schools for a day of leadership, positivity and resilience. Due to COVID restrictions, the conference met virtually for the first time this year, allowing high school female athletes from across the country to join to hear from and connect with female leaders in sports and business, as well as a panel of collegiate athletes. The conference focused on leading with resilience and gratitude as we navigate through this uniquely challenging time.
The day began with an inspiring talk from co-founders Jill and Sid Steinberg about the LLB mission to empower young women and to carry on Blaine’s legacy through sports and leadership.
Felicia Norwood, the Executive Vice President of Anthem Inc.’s Government Business Division, then spoke about her career path and leadership journey. She shared the importance of risk taking and resilience, whether it be in applying to law school or shifting career paths. Felicia also touched on the ways in which she connects with and inspires her team and colleagues. We then had the opportunity to ask Felicia questions about her leadership experiences.
Next, Linda Shirmeister-Gess led a Strive-Leadership Training session that focused on how we can energize ourselves to achieve our goals by recognizing our sources of passion and happiness in our lives. She shared how we can apply the same resilient mentality we use when completing practice reps in sports to facing challenges in all areas of our lives. Through a variety of exercises, we learned to practice deliberate gratitude while having fun. Have you set your gratitude alarm yet?
“Everytime you fail, you gain information to make you better….Every mistake is just one rep.” -Linda Shirmeister-Gess
Next, we heard from Tamika Catchings, VP of Basketball Operations and GM of the Indiana Fever, WNBA Champion, and Four-Time Olympic Gold Medalist. Tamika shared her lifelong journey of resilience, beginning with the discovery of her hearing disability as a child and continuing through her many accomplishments as a professional female athlete and leader in sports. Tamika encouraged all of us to use our voices and to have courage to speak up. The attendees asked Tamika questions about her own role models, how she responds to failure, and her leadership lessons.
The day concluded with a collegiate athlete panel featuring Kenya Boston from Yale Lacrosse, Eleah Parker from Penn Basketball, and Helen Mackay from Franklin & Marshall Lacrosse. The college panelists shared their experiences balancing academics and athletics and working with their teams to stay unified during COVID-19 and promote positive social change. The attendees had the chance to interact with the panelists and ask them questions about life as college athletes.
I recently joined the LLB team as an intern, and I was so excited to participate in Captains’ Practice and to share my experience as a college athlete. During the panel, one attendee asked us what we wish we had known in high school. I shared that in high school, we tend to think of everything as a stepping stone to college and sacrifice important experiences in pursuit of an ideal future. But, we fail to realize that this won’t end once we get to college. New challenges and goals will always replace the ones we just faced. Living in the “What’s next?” mentality can eventually become unsustainable and unfulling, but finding passion and joy in our current lives can help us move towards our future goals. Obviously, this is much easier said than done, especially during a pandemic, but the first step is just becoming conscious of when we have moments of tunnel vision. I wish I could tell my younger self not to let the pressure of the college recruiting process impact so much of my early high school experience. It wasn’t until I stopped obsessing over the future that I finally separated what I really wanted from what I just felt expected to do.
As many athletes struggle with the cancellations of our in-person sports and with the loss of time with our teams, Captains Practice provided a much needed opportunity to connect with and learn from new people with shared passions. Since joining my team at F&M, I have been so positively impacted by my teammates and alumni, and they have shown me the value of connecting with older girls and women. I am grateful that speaking at Captains’ Practice gave me a chance to help younger athletes navigate these exciting and uncertain times in the way that my teammates have helped me.