“What dreams do you all have?” Alisha Collins, Manager of Reebok’s Foundation & Relations at Reebok International. Girls around the room raised their hand, reflecting a diverse array of interests: “vascular surgeon, doctor, teacher, professional soccer player.”
At the 6th Annual DreamBig! Leadership Conference on June 2nd, five of SWB Boston’s middle school girls joined 150 other middle and high school female athletes from the Boston area to hear and talk with former female athletes who are now accomplished professionals.
The girls cycled through three different sessions that featured a variety of professionals: lawyers, non-profit leaders, doctors, and presidents. During the first half of sessions, presenters shared their personal and professional stories, reflecting on how sport played a role in their lives and the lessons they learned from their journeys. Halfway through the sessions, presenters stopped talking and opened the room up for the girls to ask questions.
“How did you choose your path?” one girl posed to the group of presenters. All of the presenters remarked that they didn’t know what they wanted to do at their age; Rebekah Splaine Salwasser shrugged, “opportunities just arose and I seized them.” Salwasser’s sister, Rachel Rollins, described how her decision to become a lawyer emerged from experiencing discrimination on her college team and threatening a Title IX lawsuit against the university with a few other teammates.
This led to another girl's question: “What do you say when a boy says you’re good for a girl?” Angela Hucles, former Olympic gold medalist soccer player and current Women’s Sports Foundation President, responded, “We live in a safe enough time that I think you can just tell them: ‘no- I’m good enough as an athlete, not as a girl.’”
“Who wants a brand new pair of sneakers?” Hucles asked the room full of middle and high school-aged girls. Ten seconds went by as girls tentatively scanned around the room, trying to get a read on the reaction of the group. Finally, a girl in the front row popped up and took the shoes.
This moment connected to the overarching theme of the day: don’t be afraid to go for what you want in life; persevere and never give up on striving to achieve the goals you set for yourselves. Nearly all of the presenters pointed out that, though they have become successful in their respective professions, they experienced lots of failure and moments of self-doubt before achieving their goals.