Seeking to delve into some of the issues that impact female athletes and women in sports, US Lacrosse launched a three-day webinar series this week that seeks to provide insights from participants and industry leaders.  

The first installment of the SheCompetes series, presented by the U.S. Women's National Lacrosse Team and Nike Lacrosse, was entitled “The Future is Female."

National Lacrosse Hall of Fame member Erin Brown Millon served as moderator for the opening session. Panelists were Jessica Berman (National Lacrosse League), Kristen Kjellman Marshall (WePlayed), Alecia Ivery (Girls in the Game), and Amy Scheer (National Women’s Hockey League).

"Women are branching out into all areas of sports,” Scheer said. “But I’m an impatient person, and I think we’ve still got a long way to go and a long road to travel. I think we’re at the very beginning of leveling the playing field.”

“If we want the future to look different, we have to be intentional about it,” Berman said. “There’s been an underrepresentation in our industry, and it’s time to make changes. We’re at the tip of the iceberg.”

The panelists highlighted some of the career challenges that they have overcome to reach their current positions. They noted that having mentors, both men and women, can be helpful. An old formula, networking, can also open doors.

“Women helping women is important,” Scheer said. “We have to help to lift others that are around you. It’s about looking out for others.”

“Those lasting relationships are very important,” Ivery said. “I’m constantly excited to be around others that I can learn from.”

The panelists also stressed the importance of working hard to make your own mark.

“Sometimes you have to go the extra mile to help people understand that your voice should be heard,” Ivery said. 

“You have to put yourself in a position to be noticed,” Scheer noted. “Don’t be afraid to push yourself. Always go back to what drives you every day.”

“Identify places where you can make a difference,” Berman added.

“Know your strengths and how to use them,” Kjellman Marshall said.

The panel also stressed that part of the formula for success is taking the time and effort to care for your own needs.

“You can’t pour from an empty cup,” Millon said.

The panelists discussed the importance of staying persistent and committed in pursuing desired career paths.

“Don’t set limits on yourself. Go out each day and give it your best,” Scheer said. “Go out and get what you think is yours. Our contributions, as women, are invaluable and our opportunities are limitless.”

“Stick with it in down times and be persistent,” Kjellman Marshall said. “Stay committed through the journey. I think we’ve come a long way in general acceptance but being proactive is important. There’s still a ways to go.”

Monday’s second session, “Keys to Confidence for Female Athletes”, was moderated by Joan Powell (PAC-12 Volleyball Officials Coordinator), and featured panelists Megan Church (megchurch.com), Taylor Cummings (U.S. National Team), Liz Hogan (U.S. National Team), and Dr. Tiff Jones (Mental Performance Consultant).

“I always say that confidence is a belief, and where does that self-belief come from, it comes from your practice and repetition,” Jones said. “You can’t trick confidence. We also need to do a better job of understanding that coaches can absolutely influence this, but it really comes from your work and preparation and training.”

“Anything that blocks your self-confidence is self-sabotage related,” Church said. “It’s not always the other opponent, but rather the opponent inside. It’s your inner critic that’s trying to make you play small.”

The panel discussed the perceived differences between confidence and competitiveness.

“Competitive, to me, is the person that wants to level up when they see the opponent,” said Hogan, a four-year starter in goal at Syracuse who finished as the program’s career saves leader. “They are taking it to the next level. They are one-upping their own performance to win the game or win the drill.”

“Competitiveness is often influenced by confidence,” said Cummings, a three-time Tewaaraton Award winner during her All-American career at Maryland. “When players are more confident, they are more competitive and more willing to take risks and take chances.”

“Your confidence will come from being competitive each day in practice,” Jones said. “If you are not making mistakes, then you are not training on the edge of your ability.”

Despite success at the highest levels of play, Hogan shared her personal challenges with confidence as an athlete, explaining its highs and lows. She noted the role of coaches in helping to build an athlete’s confidence, but also cited the importance of developing confidence from within.

“For me, coaching little kids and helping high school athletes find their dreams reinstated that confidence and fun,” she said. “It didn’t come from coaches or from people telling me I was good, but from finding the joy again. There’s ebbs and flows, and I think that’s part of the journey.”

Cummings also shared part of her personal journey, explaining that confidence can take time to develop, even for athletes competing at the highest levels. Despite being an accomplished collegiate athlete, she admitted feeling overmatched when she first joined the U.S. Women’s National Team program in 2013. Being surrounded by good people was vitally important.

“It took me about two years of being on the team to have that belief in myself that I belonged there and I could play at this level,” she said. “There was also a period when I was super confident lacrosse-wise, but not confident at all when I stepped off the field. Having good teammates and friends helped instill confidence back in me. Having a good support system helped me weather that storm.”

Church noted that past experiences, including failures, can serve as a building block for confidence.

“You take what you can from failures and you tweak things,” she said. “You don’t beat yourself up. Failure can motivate you to make the next right move.”

She Competes continues with two more webinar sessions on Tuesday and concludes on Wednesday. The entire series is free of charge but requires a basic registration. Additional details and registration links are online at uslacrosse.org/shecompetes