I’m here with something exceptionally different today (all month actually – twice a week) and very excited to share the first of eight special stories from seven very exceptional #BossBabe women whom I’ve met virtually over the last handful of years.
In speaking with women from all over the world I realized there was a need for more storytelling. Stories just like theirs needed to be spread socially through my blog for many reasons … First, to show support to all the hardworking women hustling out there to building their dream empires! I wanted to connect with these women to have them dig deep … tell the raw truth behind how they built their empires, their personal successes, their struggles and how they got to where they are today. And secondly, I am hoping that these #BossBabe stories will empower and inspire other women to follow their passion and make their dreams a reality by kicking discrimination to the curb.
Now, here today, I’m over the moon excited to share the first of this #BossBabe series.
Here is Sarah’s story …
The moment was here …
You see I had always found it easy to stand up for others and that is likely why I have chosen a career in social work. A profession that values social justice, advocacy and doing the right thing.
However, there came a moment in my life in which I wasn’t fighting for the client who was experiencing poor treatment at the hands of some other entity. This time I was standing up for myself and doing so in a big way. As I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror while doing a full 2-minute power pose (if you haven’t heard of the power pose before - picture the “Fearless Girl” statue), I repeated to myself, “Never forget that you’re a badass boss Sarah. You can do this. Go in there and show them what you’re made of.”
But, before diving into all that, I would like to tell you more about me … Sarah Wolfer.
I have always loved competition. I know that women aren’t “supposed to”, but I always have. My favourite parts are the moments before every game when I look up into the stands, around at my teammates then across the field toward my competitors and envision what it will feel like to win.
My pre-game ritual involves pumping myself up with music and visualizing scoring goals, running fast or making just the right catch at just the right time. Before stepping onto the field, I think about my biggest priorities for the game which usually include working hard, remaining composed and scoring lots and lots of goals.
As a soccer player since the age of four, as well as being involved in track and field for much of my school days, you could say that sports has been a big part of my life. There have been many highlights along this journey including breaking the pole-vaulting school record in high school, getting a soccer scholarship to Barry University in Miami, Florida where I went on to play semi-professionally in the WPSL, and most recently securing a spot with the Seattle Majestics Women’s Professional Tackle Football team.
Sports played a huge role in my development both as an athlete, but more importantly as a woman in this society.
Sports taught me that it takes hard work and perseverance to achieve your goals. It taught me to always take the risk because you’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Sports taught me not only how to communicate but why to communicate. It taught me that I can be both a fierce competitor and a feminine woman (and that it’s okay not to be). Sports taught me how to lead with conviction, integrity and a winning attitude. Sports taught me that I am a badass, and that so are the millions of little girls and women worldwide who strive to compete and perform at their best in whatever they are passionate about.
These are some of the greatest lessons that living a life of sports has taught me and what Girl Boss Sports is here to do for the next generation of female athletes who are gearing up for the competitions that will occur in their respective sports and throughout life.
My participation in sports and the lessons learned along the way have truly shaped who I am today. And who I am is: Beautiful and strong. Fierce and gentle. Competitor and peacemaker. Leader and follower. Coach and teammate. Woman.
However, on the other side of things, often as girls and women in this society, there is immense pressure to be perfect in everything we do. This plays out in sports as well. Whether or not people say it out loud, there are clear expectations to “not make waves”, to be seen and not heard, and to fit into that tiny space between too much and not enough. And complicating matters further, because of the messages that most (if not all) of us have received our entire lives, we can become our own worst enemies.
It was this fight I took on several years ago – a time period I have dubbed my own self-love journey. The work of Brené Brown was noteworthy at several points in my life, including this one. Brené Brown is a researcher on shame and vulnerability as well as a fellow social worker who speaks of our “face down in the arena moments.” She talks about choosing not to hide our imperfections and difficult moments from the world (as we have been programmed to do) but instead, sharing our vulnerabilities with trusted others. This has been one of the hardest lessons I have struggled with and continue to battle every day of my life. It has required a lot of hard work, honest conversations with myself and others, and a great therapist to get me to where I am today. And, it is only at this point in my life that I can see the parallels between being a competitive athlete and a woman in today’s modern society.
Though I am a social worker by trade, I have also been a soccer coach for the last 15 years in various capacities. I started coaching at the age of 14 and still recall the time my dad handed me my first leadership book - The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell. This first book would later turn into an obsession as I now read close to 50 leadership books annually.
After that first coaching job, I went on to coach all age groups in team settings, after-school programs and private training scenarios. I have coached at many clubs throughout the United States and once even had the opportunity to coach at the collegiate level.
On many occasions I have been the players’ first and only female coach. I have also been the only female coach in an entire club or department and have experienced situations that my male counterparts never would. And that segues perfectly back to the bathroom, where this story all began … The one where I was finishing my power pose, jamming to Beyoncé, giving myself a wink for good luck and heading into the room where my fate would be decided …
Well the truth is, there isn’t just one bathroom or just one situation in which I performed my new pre-game ritual. There have in fact been dozens of situations where I have been called to stand up for myself (or others) and needed to muster all the courage I have. This is another thing that sports taught me. Each time the room was different but so much of the story was the same.
For example, I recall the time I resigned from one soccer club and was asked not once, not twice but three times (by three different men) if my decision to leave the club was because I was pregnant (which I wasn’t).
There are also the many times I have been accosted on the street, in the car, on the bus or at the office with profane language, harassment and even a few marriage proposals by complete strangers (yes, this really does happen). Or even the time in college when having a couple drinks meant getting assaulted - #metoo. There was even a time when I experienced sexual harassment during an internship. I proceeded to report the much (much) older man involved yet the response to my report involved me having to leave the internship while the man involved kept his job.
And the time I was screamed at with more rage, expletives and spittle then I’d experienced before - by a soccer coach who then proceeded to kick me out of practice for crying. I was equally unimpressed with the response the athletic director had.
And (yes, another “and”) of course, there was the time I found out I was being paid unequally (by a significant amount) to two men doing much less work. I went on to secure the equal pay I sought after four months of battling but the aftermath (including being labeled as “too assertive”) left me saddened that this kind of thing still happens …
I often look back on the time I checked out a soccer clubs’ website and found that 13 out of 13 of the Directors at that club were men - including the Director of girls coaching.
Research shows that gender equity in coaching has continued to plateau and even decline across sports – and here the evidence was right in front of me. The numbers are even more drastic when you add intersectional identities to the mix. I have been fortunate and privileged that in the many situations I mentioned, I was able to bring my concerns forward. Most often very little was done but I often imagine what other stories I may have experienced if I was not a white, cisgender, able-bodied woman and instead a woman of color, a person with a disability, one who identifies as LGBT or any other marginalized identity who can’t afford the risk that is part and parcel to coming forward.
Many experiences, such as those mentioned in my story led me to founding Girl Boss Sports in 2018.
To dive into what Girl Boss Sports is all about, I would like to take you to the very beginning … Many successful people talk about having a “flash of brilliance” where their entire company (or idea) came together all at once in a moment of pure genius. That was not the case for me. Instead it was a slow and steady build-up of ideas, one on top of the other, that have only recently come together and formed Girl Boss Sports.
Girl Boss Sports was created to increase the number of female sports coaches (beginning with soccer in the Seattle area) and to provide high quality, private soccer training FOR girls BY women (we have plans to expand into other sports and other geographical regions in the future).
Girl Boss Sports addresses many of the barriers that have held women back from securing coaching positions elsewhere - including actively recruiting women sports coaches (new or experienced), providing online training for all coaches, flexible schedules to accommodate other parts of our coaches’ lives and creating a community with one another.
We 100% believe in the power of women supporting women and this is the foundation of the company, Girl Boss Sports.
In our sessions with female athletes, we provide individualized and sport-specific skill development as well as focus on communication, confidence, leadership, courage and ongoing learning in the process - all of which translate to real life experiences.
As a fellow female and athlete, I understand how hard it can be to speak up for yourself - whether that is asking a teammate to pass you the ball or asking for a raise at work. Together, we work through these barriers together during our sessions in addition to the sport-specific skill development.
I have been lucky to bear witness to many proud accomplishments of the girls we at Girl Boss Sports work with. I have seen girls successfully set and achieve their goals including becoming captains of their sports teams, making a team they tried out for and even getting to play at the college of their choice. Athletic participation is immersed with so many opportunities to teach young girls (and women) how to be the best versions of themselves and how to achieve their dreams. I have also recognized, based on my own playing and coaching experience, my study of human development and behavior as a social worker, and through many mentorship programs that I have been a part of, that girls do better in life when they have role-models to look up to who actually understand what it is like.
As the saying goes, “You can be what you can see” and this is at the heart of Girl Boss Sports and why I am proud to be the CEO and Founder.
I am very certain that I wouldn’t be who I am or even where I am today without choosing courage over comfort, right over wrong, taking risks when I needed to (including both standing up for myself and starting my own company), and becoming the powerful woman that I knew I always had within me.
2019 is the year that us girls and women will continue to stand up for ourselves and each other! We will communicate with our teammates and tell them to pass the ball. We will run fast, train hard and become the best athletes we can be, day in and day out. We will compete. We will ask for that raise we know we worked hard for and deserve. We will secure equal pay for equal work. We will invest in our futures financially and otherwise.
Women are damn brave, and we will teach the girls in our lives to be the same.
2019 is our year. And if you are unsure of where to start, feel free to steal my pre-game ritual
- the power pose helps every time!
To keep up with Sarah’s empowering and ever-growing #BossBabe adventure, here are her online handles …
If today’s #BossBabe story resonated with you … empowered you … and you found it to be exactly the inspiration were looking for, I would be very grateful (and so would the storyteller) if you would help it spread by sharing it on social media or emailing it to a friend. You never know whose life a passionate story, just like this one might change.
Would you like to world to hear your story? Want to shout it from the rooftop? Do you want to inspire other women to follow their passion and make their dreams a reality?
Feel free to drop me a line, connect with me on LinkedIn or post your comments on Virtually Untangled’s Facebook page so we can make it happen. Together, let’s share the raw truth behind how you built your empire …!