Sports have been one of the most influential parts of my life. From backyard football and wiffle-ball to neighborhood soccer and hockey programs, I tried every sport presented to me (I even tried ballet but the tights weren’t my style and I'm definitely not graceful enough.) The sports space was where I gained an identity that I liked, where I learned to use my voice, made friends, and discovered the joy of exercise. Today, sport continues to be a space for me that provides fun, social connections and mental health support and I want to acknowledge the privilege implied here, as access to sport was something I was lucky enough to take for granted.
Sport was also where I realized my passion for equal rights. I remember wanting to prove to my male cousins and classmates that I could not only keep up with them, but beat them at whatever game we were playing. I ran so hard in gym class one day that I accidentally seriously injured a male player who I was tagging. Even though it was unintentional, the message I received was clear: “Girls shouldn’t be so aggressive.” Once I joined travel soccer in 9th grade, my “aggressiveness” was celebrated. Being part of a team of strong, confident, competitive teammates was the highlight of my high school experience. It was the first time I made friends outside of my Catholic school community and the first time I traveled outside of Minnesota without parents.
Sports brought me outside my comfort zone in more ways than one. With sport, I found my voice, met people different from me, and learned to love and appreciate true diversity. Because of the tools sports gave me, I attended a college that attracted people from all over the world, I played in Finland and now I work and live in NYC, the best city in the world.
Immediately after moving to NYC, one of the first and best things I did was find a soccer team (go Rovers!). The next best thing I did was to leave my investment banking job and join the sport for good sector with America SCORES New York. I was driven to change my career after volunteering with a sports-based youth development organization where I rediscovered my love for working with young people in sports. While investment banking was a fast and effective teacher, it was also a male-dominated, ultra-competitive, and sometimes unhealthy culture, and despite my love for competition, I eventually realized I didn’t want to be part of the type it had to offer.
Through my experience as a girl playing sports and a woman in banking, I thought I had to keep up with my male counterparts and work to outperform them. What I have come to realize is that we have been playing just one kind of game. We can and should be creating new standards that are more compassionate, equitable, and leaderful. This does not mean women are not competitive -- the ASNY team will tell you how fired up I can get. But we can value competition and the people who work for you, the social-emotional outcomes just as much as the enrollment data, the health of employees alongside hours logged, and the way we do business just as much as the quantity of business.
In the last year, we’ve seen the world moving in this direction. Social causes have skyrocketed, in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, and society is calling for increased personal and corporate social responsibility. I do not think it is a coincidence that more women on boards and in leadership roles are also on the rise and, at America SCORES New York, we want to show the young women and girls we serve that room for them exists on the field and in the boardroom. Women represent over 50% of our staff and coaches and we’re continuing to engage more girls in sport every season Through representation, we have been able to show that competitive and compassionate can coexist and that success as a team member and a community member depend on both.
I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had in sport, in business, and in leadership. As we wrap up Women’s History Month and I reflect on my journey as a woman in sport and in leadership, let’s call on each other to create more of those spaces so the young female leaders of the future can have the same.
Dos Puentes girl's team rallies the Poetry SLAM 2019 audience in a cheer for equal pay