LIFT by Mary Banker

Last week I witnessed an interaction in our office between two other Girls in the Game staff. Time slowed down for me as I watched Meagan walk into the development office, approach Essie, and give her a high five.

“That looks amazing,” Meagan exclaimed, referring to something Essie created for the After School program. Essie smiled, thanked her and went back to her work.

This interaction was simple. I love simplicity but, like a lot of people, I am guilty of making my life more complicated at times.  I see it a lot as a coach. The athletes over analyze a drill or a race to the point of self-implosion. I see it within working relationships. People withhold praise or don’t promote someone because they are too talented. I see it in friendships. A text taken the wrong way which creates a spiral of emotions leading to a lack in communication and hurt feelings.

Moments like the one I witnessed between Essie and Meagan remind me what matters. When I see one athlete help steer a fellow athlete back to believing in their own ability and trusting themselves I am reminded of what matters. When I am blessed with time to watch our teen squad girls lead programming for the younger girls I am reminded of what matters. What matters is that we lift each other up.  All the rest is noise.Lift Pic

Meagan made a conscious choice to praise Essie for her great work. She didn’t have to, she could have just sat in her own office and emailed Essie to confirm she received the information. But instead Meagan chose to get up and look a colleague in the eyes and say job well done. This seems like such an easy concept so why don’t we see a celebration of other’s successes more often? Sadly it often boils down to insecurity or a lack of emotional intelligence. If you believe in your position in life, your talents, your worth, your contribution celebrating others is not a hard concept. But if you are always on uneven ground, you’re not sure about yourself, your talents, your contribution you find yourself living in a world of fear and threat. How can you lift someone else up if you yourself are lying face down?

We can do so much more together if we advocate for each other, are kind to each other and respect one another. I watch this every day at Girls in the Game. It comes from the top down. Meghan Morgan has created a space and environment for each staff member to utilize their talents, for each of us to grow, and also for each of us to be part of a cohesive team that is so delicately woven. The Coaches do the same for the girls on a daily basis. They create a safe space for the girls to grow, learn new things, and have fun. There is beauty in a team working together so eloquently, this such beauty inspired me to write an earlier blog post about our staff called ‘Masterpiece’.

We will all fall down at some point, or have a bad day or just forget how special we are. My hope for each of us is that we are able to quiet all the noise so we can see clearly and never miss the opportunity to offer our hand when someone in life needs to be lifted up.


Marlo Mosley: 1000 Girls on the Infield

Today we’re excited to share a blog from an organization called Girls on the Infield. Girls on the Infield brings awareness to women and girls in sports by sharing their original stories and trending media content. Recently, they started a campaign called 1000 Girls on the Infield, highlighting 100 awesome women and girls from around the globe. Meet 11-year-old Marlo Mosley;


“My dream is to become an NFL Head Coach because I’m a trailblazer, and I would love to share my passion for football at the professional level.” – Marlo Mosley

Name: Marlo Mosley

Although the world was watching the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers at Super Bowl 50, the real shining star was 11-year-old Marlo Mosley, who was named the NFL’s Play 60 Super Kid! Marlo loves football, and plays wide-receiver on her all-boy tackle football team. Marlo’s enthusiasm, passion and simple love of the game is what won her this title – we hope that Marlo can use her passion to inspire and encourage other girls to play sports and be active and healthy every day!

5 Reasons Marlo is Awesome:

  1. Marlo beat out thousands of kids to win the NFL’s Play 60 Award, which encourages kids to be active for at least 60 minutes a day.
  2. Marlo plays football every day, but she doesn’t want to play professionally – she wants to be a head coach so that she can share her passion.
  3. In her Play 60 submission video, Marlo describes herself as a “trailblazer” in the sport.
  4. Marlo got to enjoy a week’s worth of events for being named the Play 60 Super Kid, including meeting her NFL idols and handling the gameday ball off to the ref at Super Bowl 50!
  5. Marlo’s favorite team is the San Francisco 49ers, so it was only fitting that she found out about her Play 60 award from hometown favorite, Roger Craig!

Check out Marlo on NFL Total Access here.

Story and photo via Women You Should Know. Re-blogged by Girls in the Game from Girls on the Infield.

No Future Leaders Here by Jess Larson

Kickboxing 014I have a secret confession; I shudder when I hear the phrase “future leaders”. You see this phrase tossed around a lot on inspirational social media posts, by schmoozing politicians and in the non-profit circle, especially in the world of after school and youth programs. For all my eye-rolling, I’ve even caught myself using it from time to time; it’s become a normal part of the lingo in the non-profit world.

So let me explain my particular disdain for this phrase. Of course our girls are going to be future leaders. They will be future lawyers, engineers, graphic designers, community organizers, or whatever other career they choose to pursue. But by referring to them as future leaders we mistakenly imply that they are not leaders right here, right now.

Our girls are not waiting and preparing for a cataclysmic “moment” when they will suddenly evolve into a LEADER like they’ve been bitten by a radioactive leadership spider; when we take the time to think about it, we all know that’s not how leadership works. Or adulthood, for that matter. As a working, independent professional who’s been out of college for several years now, some days I still feel like I’m “playing dress-up” in the adult world.

Leadership is a muscle like any other; you have to practice. Girls need the chance to flex their leadership skills in the real world among their peers and in their communities. They cannot be “future leaders” if they are not practicing all along the way.

Pershing Workshop
Teen-led workshop!

But when it comes time to give girls real opportunities to practice their leadership skills, things can get a bit dicey. Our programming might not go very smoothly; when a 10-year-old leads stretching, sometimes it turns into a gymnastics tumbling contest instead. Or when a Teen Squad member leads a dance for younger participants, it takes much longer for the teen to gain their attention and get the activity going. When girls ask questions and help lead discussion, they might bring up topics the coaches are not prepared to cover in a group setting in a noisy gym, like violence in the city of Chicago.

And these are the moments when I have to take a deep breath and tell my inner perfectionist to take a hike. No, programming will not always go smoothly. We might have to skip half the topics we planned to cover in the session. But when we give our girls the space to be leaders among their peers, to practice those leadership skills, those moments are more valuable than any topic we could have covered if we had stayed on schedule.

Here is just such a moment from one of our Teen Squad members:

To me, the most rewarding feeling of forming a part of Teen Squad’s family (cause we are one ^_^) is being able to inspire younger girls into healthy habits and healthy relationships. Being able to have an impact on younger girls truly inspires me to become a better example to future generations.

Recently I was engaged in a workshop for elementary girls where I was given the opportunity of leading an activity that teaches the importance of “sharing” within healthy relationships. I became overwhelmed in a positive manner by this chance. It made me realize that us, as Teen Squad members, cause a great impact on younger girls, but that we as well carry a great responsibility on our shoulders by teaching them important life key concepts.

So there you have it. There are no future leaders at Girls in the Game. But there are plenty of leaders, here and now, flexing their leadership muscles through our programming. And, let me tell you, it’s an incredible thing to witness.Crown_FY14_3

Muscles by Charissa Newkirk

Girls in the Game is excited to host guest blogger Charissa Newkirk, a track and field athlete at the University of Chicago, who has shared her personal story of the role that sports play in her life!

Athletics have always been a part of my life. Of course when I was young this wasn’t necessarily an issue. Most kids I knew were in some kind of soccer league or on a softball team during the summer. However, there were underlying tones that being involved in sports implied some kind of masculinity. During gym class, it was always the boys who could run the fastest, do the most pull-ups, etc. Having a pretty athletic build at a young age, and growing up with a dad that admired fitness, I found myself getting in races and competitions with the boys in my class. If I ended up beating them, I became intimidating. However, if I lost to them, it was okay because “girls aren’t supposed to beat guys anyway”. As someone who enjoyed playing both soccer and Polly Pockets, I felt like even at an early age there was pressure to make some kind of choice between being a “girl” and being “one of the boys”.

From there, that pressure became even more intense. Throughout middle school and high school, childhood insecurities tend to intensify. For me, that insecurity was my athletic build, namely my muscular arms. I didn’t hear from men that I was beautiful, but that I was “so ripped”, “so fast” and was asked all the time how much I benched. Of course, I didn’t mind being fast since my main sport in high school was track. Yet I found that it was hard to fit into society’s mold for being a woman. I wanted to be muscular enough to run track, but not too muscular to be intimidating. I wanted to be feminine, but not too feminine so people would take me seriously. Even outside of athletics during school, answering questions correctly made me either a know-it-all or, again, intimidating. However, not participating in class would set me back from getting into a good college. This double standard seemed to bleed into every aspect of my life.

CharissaAs I was making my decision of where to go to college, there was a big pull for me to quit track altogether. Of course, I knew I needed to have time for my schoolwork, but another big reason lurked underneath it all. What would my life be like as a student athlete? Would I be perceived as being dumb or a meathead? As a woman, would I just be seen as a scary, ripped, track monster with no brain or heart? Deep down inside, however, I knew that running was something I was not willing to give up so easily. The feeling of breaking your personal record, the runner’s high, the steady beat of your shoes on the pavement… those things bring me more life and energy than anything I’ve experienced in my life. So in the end, I picked to go to the University of Chicago and run DIII track and field.

After two (going on three) years of running for UChicago, I have truly grown as a person. Track has taught me mental strength, determination, and teamwork, all things that I believe are essential to every aspect of my life. Most importantly though, my decision to run in college has ultimately taught me to never let the fear of judgement get in the way of doing what you love most. In a world where being female and being tough at the same time is seen as intimidating, it’s hard to imagine why picking up a sport would be appealing to women. But track gave me the courage to meet some amazing friends, gain leadership skills and find a passion that I can keep up with for the rest of my life.

Muscular? Athletic? Competitive? Sure, I am those things. But I’m also smart, hard-working and passionate. And with all these things, I am overall beautiful.


Charissa Newkirk is a third year Biological Sciences major at the University of Chicago who is planning on applying to medical school at the end of this year. Although she does many things outside of academics including research, shadowing at the hospital, and volunteering, she is proud to run Division III track and field for the University of Chicago where she competes in the 100 and 200 meter dash.

The Ride by Mary Banker

If you have been around me for five minutes you know I love to learn. Yes I read professional development books, watch Ted Talks, attend trainings but I always learn the most insightful lessons within conversations I have with people.  This is why I enjoy spending time in one on one settings or in small groups, and I find great value in that time and space.

This past week while at dinner I had one of those moments. My friend’s father shared a quote with him that has always stuck throughout his life, and I will say it has done the same for me after hearing it. I have thought about it every day since last Thursday night.

“There never was a horse that couldn’t be rode, there never was a cowboy that couldn’t be throwed.”

At first I didn’t have an immediate reaction to it. Truth be told I actually started thinking about horses. Then he went on to explain how it directly applied to his life over and over again without fail. There is never a time you cannot succeed and there is never a time you cannot fail. The simplicity of this quote so eloquently moved through every life experience I have had up until this point. My mind became a movie reel of my life.

I saw my attempt at the game winning three point shot against our long-term rival roll around the rim and not sink, falling in the hurdles and not making it to state, getting my first B in my major during college, standing up for something I believed in and being fired for it, navigating difficult family dynamics, friends that drifted away, not being able to fix my Grandfather as he took his last breaths…That same reel took me to places of absolute bliss as well. I saw the night I was on fire draining threes and becoming player of the game, hearing students in the hallways sing and hum the songs I sang the night before in the play, running the fastest split in our 4×400 relay at nationals after being dropped in because our fastest teammate had a stress fracture, becoming an All-American, making the Dean’s list, looking at my Mother for the first time as my hero and actually understanding what that meant, being asked to teach what I know to others, having my mentor who is an Olympic Coach tell my colleague I was one of the best in the coaching field, having my Grandfather tell me he was proud of me.

You see every one of us can fail, and every one of us can succeed. And we will. That is not the question; it is instead a fact. Now how do we respond? How do we grow? Do we learn? Do we shrink back and keep ourselves safe and comfortable? How can we move through this life and embrace this idea for everything that it is?

I have been blessed in absolute abundance by my career. I have found myself in places where I am able to directly impact others, both young and old, both girls and boys, men and women. I am about to start spending much more of my time at Girls in the Game out in the field with the girls. I can’t wait. As a team we create a space for girls to not only succeed but also to fail. Every girl has the opportunity to learn how to do both. We teach up to 25 sports a year with purpose. Our goal isn’t to make sure the girls know how to play tons of sports; it is instead to provide them the space to try something they are not comfortable with, something new, something they may fail at the first time. We do this so they can pick that ball back up, grab the bat again, try that dance just one more time until they get the hang of it. Sometimes they don’t want to, sometimes they try to hide and stay safe and comfortable, but that’s when our coaches step in, that’s when they see our adult volunteers trying new things and realize that they aren’t struggling alone.

Life isn’t a cozy and comfortable place. It is a place of challenge, struggle, growth and it is vital to learn how to navigate this beautiful gift. Girls in the Game is working to empower our girls to find their strength and to embrace the lessons so they are able to step out of their hiding place, to hear their own voice, to trust their own words, to succeed not only in success but in failure.

I hope this blog finds you in a place that is not too comfortable. I hope it finds you in a place ready to step back into something that has seemed to own you. I hope it finds you in a place of humility if you are at the top. I hope it pushes you no matter what side of that quote you find yourself. I know where we will be at Girls in the Game, we will be the backdrop for the beautiful movie reel being created every day for each one of our girls.

MasterChef Junior and the Power of Kids by Maggie Arthur

Today, we’re bringing you a blog from Maggie Arthur, an After School Coach and MSW Candidate at UIC about one of her recent interactions with her girls!

20151103_164907I haven’t owned a TV in years. This hadn’t been a problem until I began coaching 60 very media savvy elementary school girls. The girls love telling me about the music, movies and TV shows they’re into almost as much as they love collectively rolling their eyes at me when I ask them to explain what they’re talking about. However, an exchange I had with a few of my Piccolo Elementary School girls a few weeks ago made me rethink TV time.

At the end of Tuesday After School programming, I was chatting with a few remaining stragglers as they gathered their things to leave. When I asked what their plans were for the rest of the night, Aniya’s eyes got wide as she told me she couldn’t wait to watch MasterChef Junior because tonight was kid chefs versus adult chefs. The other two chimed in; they followed the show too and were just as anxious to get home to tune in. I asked the three of them who they thought would win, but they couldn’t decide. I narrowed it down: “Do you think the kids will win or the adults?” They gave me their signature, “Are you kidding me, Coach Maggie?” look and assured me that of course the kids were going to win. Yvonne then said, “Kids are powerful.” We all agreed. She stuck the landing with, “Especially girl kids.”

masterchef-junior-with ramsay

MasterChef Junior is a spin on Gordon Ramsey’s famed high-energy cooking reality show, MasterChef. Because of the celebrity chef’s penchant for making his contestants cry, the show had quite a bit of buzz. However, MasterChef Junior is compelling both because of the nine-year-olds standing on boxes to reach their burners, but also because Ramsey offers genuine encouragement and guidance to the mini-chefs who continually blow all expectations way out of the water.

Addison Osta Smith (from River Forest!) was both the first girl and the youngest competitor to win

At Girls in the Game, we talk daily about healthy lifestyle choices, and many of those choices center around food. Much of our curriculum encourages girls to reconsider dinner time, not unlike MasterChef Junior. Ramsey has said he does not make the show in order to staff his next generation of restaurants. Instead, his series aims to inspire young people and their parents to reconsider the choices they make about food. Moreover, in an interview for Buzzfeed, Season 3 judge and co-owner of Eataly, Joe Bastianich said, “We think that this is the cure for food-related issues in our society… knowing about the food, how to cook it, how to source it, how to manage it, is a very positive message that these kids launch for everyone else.”

Girls in the Game has been my first exposure to direct practice with children. I’ve certainly had my moments of self-doubt and a few strike outs while coaching After School. However, that conversation with those girls really made me believe in what Girls in the Game is working to achieve; developing healthy, happy, successful young women.

The Race Within by Jen Groover

Today we are re-blogging post from Jen Groover, a top media mogul and business expert. In her original blog, Jen shares some of the lessons that she learned from sports that she now applies to her career. These lessons go to show the power that sports have to shape girls’ lives.

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There are myriad powerful, practical, and universal lessons to be gleaned from the science and art of athletic activities. For me, two big lessons became apparent in elementary school when I was competing in the Junior Olympics’ 200 Meter race. After assuming a strong lead, despite the fact that my coach had repeatedly warned me that losing focus of the finish line would cost me the race, I allowed the sound of impending footsteps from behind to distract me to the point that I turned my head, stumbled slightly, lost the lead, and worst of all, got completely taken out of my game. I vowed that day to grow from my mistake and forever carry these nuggets of wisdom with me:

Avoid Looking in Your Peripheral View

Don’t confuse this as meaning that you should be unaware. I was very aware of what was happening in my race, as the footsteps and heavy breath of the girl behind me made her presence and position abundantly clear. What I didn’t need to do was look back at her and give in to my curiosity about who this person was who dared try and pass me. Had I stayed focused forward and on my personal best, I do not believe I would have stumbled, and also probably would have won. But the bigger lesson here is that if you are always looking behind you and around you, your energy is not focused in front of you—which is the direction you need to be going in.

Too often I see people, personally and professionally, consumed with what other people around them are doing, rather than focusing on themselves; their goals, personal bests and action steps to achieve them. When you concentrate your energy (mental, physical, or emotional) on anything other than “your race” you are, in essence, hindering your chances to “win” or find happiness and fulfillment in what you set out to do. If you constantly see others around you as nothing but your competition and become more consumed with what they are doing than with what you need to do, chances are you will not only lose, but also feel miserable, drained, and empty—completely unfulfilled.

Stay Focused on the Positive and Productive

This plays hand-in-hand with lesson number one. It’s much easier to block out the noise of “the competition” and stay within yourself when you keep your eye on the prize, and your thoughts centered on positive outcomes. In the case of my story, counter-productive emotions won out. I let my fear of being passed up on the track overtake my desire to experience the thrill of winning/running a great race.

Unfortunately, in entrepreneurs eager to launch an idea, I often see this tendency to succumb to fear when it’s time to share their idea with others, worrying that it will be stolen if they talk about it. When it comes to these concerns I like to challenge myself and other entrepreneurs to adopt a defiantly positive mindset and think more along the lines of “Go ahead, steal my idea if you want. I’ll just come up with another and another and another—and each one will be better than the last!” Now, I’m certainly not suggesting that you actually say that, or that it’s not imperative to protect your intellectual property. But you can see how an attitude that’s centered on inner-strength and belief creates a confident, resilient aura, and keeps unproductive emotions from paralyzing your efforts. It takes an incredible amount of energy to see a concept through to market, and positivity is an entrepreneur’s lightning rod. Be sure to treat it as the invaluable currency that it is. This same philosophy can be applied in all work environments as well. Do not get caught in the negativity and drama. Instead stay focused on doing your best and being the best version of yourself in all circumstances.

There’s a very poignant, and now famous, quote from a faux college commencement speech by Mary Schmich that goes, “Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.” I concur.

So, stay focused on the prize of your own race. And don’t worry about who’s in front, behind, or beside you—there will be more than enough experiences and lessons in your own journey to keep the story interesting.

For more info on Jen visit her website

Top media mogul and business expert, Jen Groover, has been tagged by Success Magazine as a “One-Woman Brand,” and “Creativity and Innovation Guru,” a leading “Serial Entrepreneur” by Entrepreneur Magazine. She has gone from guest-hosting spots on QVC to linking deals with some of the industry’s biggest heavyweights. Jen is a top business and lifestyle contributor and content creator for major networks such as ABC, CBS, CNBC, NBC, Fox News, Fox Business News, and The CW.