Updated: Oct 19, 2022
I was born in Lexington, Kentucky, and started playing soccer at 4 years old in a recreational program. In my first season, I only touched the ball once and that was when it rolled and hit me. However in the next season, something clicked and I was starting to develop, unknowingly, a lifelong love for the game. At age 6, my family moved to Naperville, Illinois and that is where I spent the remainder of my childhood. I participated in a number of other sports as a youth, but soccer was the most consistent and always the most fun. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to play college soccer at the University of Toledo, an NCAA Division I team in the Mid-America Conference.
There are so many times I believed I was broken within the sport. A coach telling me I wasn't good enough and never would be; an injury that I believed would only make me less capable; vulnerability with teammates or coaches equated to weakness; and a number of other examples that spiraled into the sense of feeling broken and defeated.
The ultimate moment of feeling less than came when my head college soccer coach raped and sexually assaulted me on the day that I committed to stay and coach with the program in the upcoming season. To top it off, he attempted a second time about 2 weeks after. This incident happened in July 2007 and this past summer (2022), The Guardian newspaper broke multiple stories about how this man assaulted me and at least 4 other women, along with the timeline of how I had reported to several governing bodies, including the University of Toledo since that time.
But as I reflect, that brokenness stems from releasing my power to define who I was, or the experiences I was having or would have in the future. I have taken more intentional time over the last 3 years to understand my lived experiences and how they have shaped who I am today. But more importantly, I have taken the time to decide who I want to be in all of my identities; as a mom, a coach, an entrepreneur, an educator, an advocate, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a wife, and more.
Simply developing the self-awareness of who I am and who I want to be is where I know I am unbreakable. These experiences impacted me but never defined me. There is an active choice you can make each day to decide how you think about where you have been and where you want to go, and then actively decide to talk and act in alignment with who you want to be. This choice makes you unbreakable in my opinion. When YOU make the choice and regain the power to define yourself, it will move you forward. I still have experiences that threaten my willingness to choose and align with my ideals, but by simply acknowledging that I have the ultimate power each day, I can stop, reflect, and choose my power and confidence first.
In 2020, I established Fearless & Capable, a female-led mentorship program aimed at supporting girls and women working and participating in sports. Our mission is to help women and girls create a fearless mindset and belief in their capabilities to achieve their goals. We have gathered women working in the sports industry in a number of roles to serve as mentors in the program, and they are active in one-on-one mentoring sessions, leading Workshop Events, participating in Team Huddles, and more. My own experiences and the research in understanding how and why females leave sports led me to realize what was often missing was relatable mentorship. Through the use of technology, we can connect girls and women all over the country with mentors that can relate to, encourage, and empower us. The power of having someone to reach out to and discuss where you have been and where you want to go is a massive component of success. Fearless & Capable is filling the gaps of non-existent or lacking relatable mentorship for girls and women in sports. I could not be more proud of what we have done in a short time and I look forward to impacting and supporting more girls and women in the future.
Coaching is at the heart of almost everything I do. However, I do have multiple teams that I am a designated coach to throughout the year, and each of these unique teams and experiences fills my bucket every time I set foot on the pitch. I have long been involved with US Youth Soccer's ODP program at the state and regional levels, and currently, I am serving as the 2009 Girls Kansas ODP coach and the assistant coach for the 2009 Girls Midwest ODP team. Additionally, I coach the KC Courage women's team in the summertime, which is a professional-amateur team that participates in the United Women's Soccer league. We were thrilled to win our division and advance to the conference finals for the first time in program history. Finally, I was appointed the Head Coach for the Ottawa University (KS) women's soccer team this past February. This job has meant a lot to me and has been a huge part of my healing from the experiences I had in college. The team, staff, and administration have been an incredible group of people to work with, and so supportive of all the events that I have transpired this past summer with the public release of my story.
Being an athlete is an opportunity to care for your body, mind, and soul in a way that tends to leave you feeling better than where you started. As a female, I think that the opportunity to control and align care for yourself as a priority is incredibly empowering and translatable to other components of our life. For many females, the lived experiences we have show us that our needs, our thoughts, our desires, and our words are pushed down the list of priorities and accepted less by the masses. Being a female athlete prioritizes her needs and experiences, puts her in control of the output, allows her to feel and see the strength of her presence, and gives her the confidence to get back up every time she is knocked down.
Girls and women are believing in their unbreakable spirit now more than ever, and athletics is a route that amplifies and strengthens that self-confidence to keep pushing for progress. If history and the current day are telling us anything, it is that we need to make the choice to keep pushing for progress every single day. And the days you feel a bit broken, call on your fellow unbreakable's to remind you what you're capable of. Never underestimate the impact you have on others when you live fearlessly authentic to your values and ideals. It's a superpower that many of us go through life never realizing we have.