Being a sports team player can translate into leadership skills for women
THE SANTA CLARA
April 23, 2015
Female Olympians and leaders in the sports world spoke on campus April 18 about how participation in sports can help women combat the challenges they face in the workplace.
Kerry Cathcart, Erica McLain, Brandi Chastain and Leslie Osborne spoke during an installment of Santa Clara’s Jerry Smith Coaching for Life Academy.
“The confidence that you learn and allow yourself to have in sports then gives you the impetus for going out and reaching for your goals,” said Chastain said, a two-time World Cup champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist.
Cathcart, a co-captain on Santa Clara’s 2001 NCAA Division I National Championship soccer team, discussed problems facing women in the workforce, including the gender wage gap, job discrimination and the expectation that women are to be seen and not heard.
“At Google, I see a lot of women coming into a crowded room of men and speaking softly,” Cathcart said. “They’re really smart and have great ideas, but as soon as they do this, the men start discounting what they have to say. Women need to speak their minds loudly and confidently in order to demand respect.”
The panelists also said that injuries they sustained helped them become better team players.
“My first experience of sitting on the sideline and not being able to contribute to the game due to a torn ACL was very difficult, but it was a great way to gain perspective,”Chastain said. “It made me value the work that the other players were doing.”
McLain, a three-time national champion in triple jump at Stanford University and who competed in the the 2008 Olympic Games, sustained a gruesome ankle injury in 2011.
While practicing, she landed on the concrete edge of the sandpit, causing the joint to roll under her shin almost 180 degrees. With bones protruding from her skin, she underwent multiple surgeries. She was told she would never do the sport again, but was able to compete in the 2012 Olympics.
“When I speak to younger audiences, I know they can’t all identify with sports injuries, but what everyone can relate to is some sort of adversity,” McLain said. “It helped me build up the mental toughness to rebound from difficult situations.”
Cathcart said that her experience in sports taught her to work effectively with others, and is assisting her today in her current position at Google.
“When I first came to Google it definitely served me well being able to understand that you can strive to be successful and achieve your goals but you can’t do it without your team also striving to be successful,” she said. “Playing sports really teaches you to be selfless.”
Jerry Smith, head coach of the Santa Clara women’s soccer team, stressed the importance of female role models.
“It’s extremely important for our society to have women in powerful leading roles, especially in historically male-dominated arenas such as sports and technology,” Smith said.
Contact Krista Clawson at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.