Meet + Mentor Tulsa Teaches Girls to Fish

Morgan Prater and employee volunteers lead Meet + Mentor Tulsa powered by Academy Sports + Outdoors 

Play Like a Girl’s Meet + Mentor events are ongoing celebrations to shine a light on empowering women role models in an effort to inspire young girls to explore their limitless potential while learning about incredible women who helped pave the way for them.

We know that girls can’t be what they don’t see. That’s why we see role models as essential in a young woman’s life. Role models also are critical to breaking stereotypes and challenging barriers to gender equality. In most cases, role models are accessible family members, teachers, neighbors, and even strangers who directly build the aspirations and ambitions of girls and young women at every stage of their education and career paths. 

As a key part of our ongoing work, we leverage our Meet + Mentor program to introduce middle school girls to women from all walks of life to show them they can be and do anything they can imagine. On June 29, a highly motivated and vivacious group of middle school students took part in the debut Meet + Mentor day camp powered by Academy Sports + Outdoors at Zebco, a fishing rod and reel manufacturer and product testing facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Inspiring local girls to dream bigger, Zebco was transformed into a mentoring lab designed to encourage students to pursue a future in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Starting with a Lizzo-inspired welcome and girl power playlist blasting in the background, Zebco employee volunteers accompanied the girls through special fishing-related activities designed to show students the unlimited possibilities in sport and STEM, stressing the fact that STEM is everywhere and is in everything.

Our CEO Dr. Kim led an interactive confidence-building experience to help girls tap into their own ingenuity and creativity. A panel discussion featuring accomplished women in the fishing industry followed.

After breaking into small groups for a more in-depth mentoring moment with the panelists, students had an opportunity to work with a role model during a hands-on working session where they designed their own paper boats and, later, tested them for buoyancy (or the ability to float in water).

In addition, the Zebco testing lab was used to introduce students to the design and testing of fishing reels, rods and other accessories.

To bring it all together, the girls enjoyed a short chartered bus ride to Oklahoma Aquarium for a fishing expedition with former collegiate athlete and fishing guide Morgan Prater and volunteers from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

The Meet + Mentor events are ongoing celebrations to spark participants' interest in sport and STEM, while inspiring their limitless potential, and bringing together Academy employees, brand ambassadors and corporate volunteers.

Participating students will be featured in a three-part YouTube series showcased across Academy’s social channels late this summer.

The next event will take place in Memphis on Tuesday, July 6.

View from the Green

Highlights from the inaugural Play Like a Girl On the Green charity golf scramble

The first-ever Play Like a Girl On the Green charity golf scramble was one for the record books. Held June 14 at The Grove, a golf course community located just south of Nashville, the event combined record heat with record funds raised for our mission to level the playing field for girls in sport and STEM. We raised a game-changing $215,000 and counting for Play Like a Girl! While that sinks in, click the images below to check out some of our favorite photos from the day:

Learning to play

We started the day 100% on mission: We invited area girls, many of whom had never stepped foot on a green, to a girls-only golf clinic funded by the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and supported by First Tee of Tennessee. After warming up with a freestyle dance, girls broke into groups to learn how to drive, putt and chip. They showed up that morning looking a little shy and uncertain; they left with smiles and lots of confidence.

A brush with royalty

Following the golf clinic, girls enjoyed some time up close and personal with Miss Tennessee 2021 Elizabeth Graham Pistole, who served as honorary chair for the event. Elizabeth signed autographs, posed for photos, answered questions and offered words of encouragement. She even let the girls try on her tiara! It may have been the sparkle of her crown that caught the girls’ attention, but it was her kindness and thoughtful words that dazzled the girls and adults alike. 

A girls’ game

Among the foursomes teeing off at Play Like a Girl On the Green was one led by honorary chair and Play Like a Girl alumna Emma Clonan. Now a high school golfer with her sights set on playing the sport in college, Emma led an ice breaker activity to get the girls warmed up for the Junior Girls Golf clinic preceding the tournament. She has played The Grove’s course countless times, and knows exactly what the girls need to overcome their anxieties about a sport they’ve never played on such an amazing but, perhaps, intimidating course. 

Meteorologist and Tournament Co-Chair Meaghan Thomas of WKRN News Channel 2 filmed the 11 a.m. weather segment from the practice range as her colleague and fellow co-chair Kristina Roche took a shot in the background. This dynamic duo then golfed the full 18 holes. But they never did apologize for the heat.

Ladies first

Men, of course, were encouraged to join us—and in fact, it was the men’s teams that took home the top tournament awards—but this charity golf scramble attracted an awful lot of ladies. Of the 101 golfers registered, more than 75% percent were women. Now if we could only see those types of numbers in the C-suite, we’d be in business!

In fulfillment of our mission

What better way to celebrate a big day of fundraising than to immediately pay it forward? After the tournament awards were announced, we surprised these five young women as the first-ever recipients of the Dr. Stephanie Hightower Memorial Scholarship, which supports girls and women of color pursuing degrees in medicine or STEM. They each received $3,500 to help complete their studies at Alabama A&M University, Hampton University, Meharry Medical College and Xavier University of Louisiana—the latter two are Dr. Hightower’s alma maters. She was a longtime Play Like a Girl volunteer who lost her battle with cancer in 2018.

Brand ambassadors from leading companies and local boutique shops like Earth Rides, Glow Girl, the Tennessee Titans, and Tate + Zoey were stationed throughout the golf course. They all had something different to offer, from eco-friendly rideshares to on-the-go organic spray tans, but were all united by their shared passion for our mission.

We capped a long day of fun and celebration with our annual “Women in the Round” songwriters night. Country music artists Julia Cole, Taylor Edwards and Caroline Watkins took turns telling stories and belting hits. The fact that they managed to rock a tired, sweaty audience after a long day in 90-degree weather is a true testament to their talents!

Thank you! 

We couldn’t have done it without you and your support of our mission. And we can’t wait for you to see what’s in store with our newest sponsor, Academy Sports + Outdoors. We’re hitting the road with them for a three-city Meet + Mentor tour. It starts in Tulsa, Oklahoma, makes a pit stop in Memphis, Tennessee, and ends in Katy, Texas, at Academy’s headquarters, where girls will get their first peek into a company dedicated to advancing girls and women in sports. It’s such an exciting time at Play Like a Girl, and we’re so glad you’ve decided to join us for the ride

If you missed the tournament, don’t worry—we’re already planning the next one. We also invite you to join us in other ways. Check out our events calendar for ways to get involved. 

Benefits of Mentoring for Girls and Young Women

Pairing girls with mentors early on paves the way for a brighter future

Before Katherine Johnson began calculating trips to the moon for NASA, she had mentors.

Johnson, whose story was immortalized in the 2016 movie “Hidden Figures,” was inspired to turn her knack for numbers into a groundbreaking career as a research mathematician by two mentors. The first was her geometry teacher Angie Turner King, who nurtured the preteen’s interest in math and modeled what was possible for her. Another mentor was Johnson’s college professor W.W. Schieffelin Claytor, who created advanced math courses for her and encouraged her to push beyond the boundaries of her race and gender. These mentors helped change the trajectory of Johnson’s life and enabled her to break into a field with few women at the time, where she made history for her contributions to space exploration.

This is just one example of the power of mentorship. Research shows the many benefits mentoring can have for girls (and boys), from improved school attendance and lower dropout rates to higher rates of graduation, college enrollment and higher aspirations overall. But the greatest impact of mentoring comes from showing students what’s possible for their lives. 

Ask any little girl what she wants to be when she grows up, and you’ll hear a variety of answers: teacher, nurse, dancer, veterinarian, etc. But how often do you hear answers like research scientist, engineer, computer programmer or company CEO? This may be because girls envision their future based on the role models they can see. If they can see it, they’re more likely to believe they can be it. 

Closing the Gender Gap with Mentors 

Though women have made tremendous strides in the workplace, even since Katherine Johnson’s day, they still lag behind men in salaries and opportunities.

Women make about 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to 2019 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, with women of color making even less. They are also broadly underrepresented in many senior leadership roles across industries, according to a 2020 Women in the Workplace study by McKinsey and While the number of female CEOs on the Fortune 500 list reached a record high of 41 this year, women make up just eight percent of those leading Fortune 500 companiesand only two are Black women. 

Lack of ambition is not to blame. Women are more likely than men to aspire to be in management roles, but they have fewer sponsors in the C-suite championing their advancement, the McKinsey study notes. 

This brings us back to mentors. They are key to leveling the playing field for girls of all backgrounds and closing the gender gap that keeps so many capable young women from advancing up the career ladder. 

A study of female engineering students showed that those who were assigned female mentors experienced more belonging, motivation and confidenceand were more likely to remain in the field, according to the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America). Individuals with mentors typically go on to perform better at their jobs, earn higher salaries and land promotions faster than those without them, other studies show. 

Linda Hope, who runs a successful business for Beautycounter, which sells safer skin care and cosmetics directly to women, credits her success as an entrepreneur to the wisdom and guidance she gained from her mentors. 

“One of the greatest values of surrounding yourself with great mentors is that you can learn in less than an hour what it took them a lifetime to figure out,” she says. 

Value of Starting Early 

Mentorship needs to happen long before women enter the workplace. At Play Like a Girl, we believe it should start as early as middle school when girls are beginning to form their opinions about the world around them and contemplate what they want to do in the future. 

This is especially important for girls from less affluent backgrounds, who often lack the opportunities others have to network with successful individuals who can help them jump-start their careers. 

Whatever their background or education, one thing is certain: The sooner girls are exposed to and have a chance to learn from positive female role models across a variety of roles and fields, the better prepared they will be to think imaginatively and limitlessly about their future and tackle the obstacles they encounter with confidence and courage.

Mentoring is a cornerstone of our work at Play Like a Girl. Over the past 16 years, we have reached over 25,000 girls through mentorship, summer camps, field trips, sports outings, virtual activities and more. Through our Meet + Mentor program, we match middle school girls (ages 10-13) with women working in STEM+ jobs throughout all industries. Our mentors support these girls in their efforts to develop the academic and life skills necessary to succeed. The latest Meet + Mentor program just wrapped up at the end of May, and we’re eager to share the stories of the girls and women who were impacted by the power of mentorship, so stay tuned for more.

In Tulsa, Memphis or Houston/Katy this June or July? Then, register middle school girls in your life for our free Meet + Mentor day camps in a city near you. Visit to sign up today.

Meet Hannah Selders

Play Like a Girl Alumna Turned College Intern Epitomizes The Power of Mentorship 

Hannah Selders has been involved with Play Like a Girl since the tender age of 10. In fact, it was at her second Play Like a Girl event where she would meet her future mentor, Sherrell. 

“That was a life-changing moment for me,” Hannah says. “She was the big sister that I never had growing up. Over the years, we would attend events together, and she was always there to support me inside and outside of Play Like a Girl.” 

Hannah says that although she was involved with other programs growing up, she never felt the same keen sense of connection and belonging that she did with Play Like a Girl. 

“I was given the chance to stay active through sports while being creative with arts and crafts,” she says. “I was having so much fun, and I also had my mentor. Sherrell always made sure I was OK, and I knew that we could talk about anything.”  

Hannah says her bond with her mentor instilled within her a self-confidence and self-worth that has stayed with her, inspiring her to prioritize mentorship as an adult.

“I learned how to be confident in any room that I walk into,” she says. “Play Like a Girl always reminded me that I deserve a seat at every table. No matter how hard things get, I know I can overcome them.” 

Now a sophomore at Hampton University in Virginia, Hannah is a business administration major in the school’s five-year M.B.A. program, with a minor in music. It’s not often that a college student already boasts the title of CEO, but then again, this isn’t just any college student. EsiNiara is Hannah’s homemade jewelry and accessory business that she built, in part, to inspire young girls to harness their creativity. 

The poster child for our mission, Hannah is currently interning with Play Like a Girl to help put the “art” in STEM+ by demonstrating the value art brings to STEM through a series of blogs, videos and social posts. 

“From fashion tips to how to find your personal style, I want girls to let their creativity shine through everything they do,” she says. “I have the responsibility of showing girls how art plays a significant role in STEM/STEAM and how to incorporate art into other fields and industries, while learning about it more through my research.”

Hannah’s work with Play Like a Girl is not only a testament to the quiet power of mentorship, but also a reminder of how artists and scientists make natural partners by approaching problems with the same open-mindedness, curiosity and fearlessness. After all, DaVinci himself said: “Art is the queen of all sciences communicating knowledge to all the generations of the world.” 

Once she graduates, Hannah hopes to land a job working as a marketer in the fashion industry. Whatever direction her career takes, one thing is for sure: She already possesses the poise and tenacity to succeed at whatever she sets out to accomplish. 

Growing Girls’ Hockey

Why Mary-Kay Messier believes hockey needs more girls and women, and how you can help 

As Vice President of Marketing for the world’s most recognized hockey brand and a member of the world’s most legendary hockey family, Mary-Kay Messier is using her platform to raise an important ruckus. She’s on a mission to make ice hockey as much of a sport for girls and women as it is for boys and men. 

This longtime Play Like a Girl advisor and Bauer executive recently participated as a mentor in our Executive Auction at the Women’s Leadership Summit. We sat down with Mary-Kay to talk about her efforts to grow the game she’s always loved. 

On her hockey background

To say that Mary-Kay grew up around hockey would be an understatement. While she never played organized hockey, she was born into a family that did. Her dad was a former professional player who was a coach by the time Mary-Kay was born, while her two older brothers (including six-time Stanley Cup champion and Hockey Hall of Famer, Mark Messier) worked their way from the youth circuit all the way up to the professional level. Three of Mary-Kay’s four children play, too.

“I played for fun, but I didn’t play organized hockey,” she says. “That didn’t exist for girls when I was growing up. Even so, I still saw what hockey had to offer, from teaching life skills and building self-confidence to forging lifelong friendships and bringing together families. And I feel strongly that girls deserve to have that equal opportunity.” 

On how hockey compares

While Mary-Kay may not have played on a hockey team, she has plenty of other experience with organized sports. She played basketball and volleyball in grade school and, later, played college tennis. 

“Sports in general are amazing for building girls’ confidence and self-esteem, but hockey takes that to another level,” she says. “There’s a camaraderie that differentiates it from any other sport. The time spent in the locker room where friendships and bonds are forged, working to achieve a common goal—that’s a growth experience we can all take with us regardless of what we want to do with our lives.”

On equal opportunity for girls

In Mary-Kay’s role as VP of marketing for Bauer Hockey, she has met some of the world’s most elite female hockey players like Marie-Philip Poulin, and Hilary Knight—and has heard similar stories about inequalities in the sport time and time again. “It’s not uncommon to find out that these incredible women grew up following their brothers to the rink, only to be pushed into trying figure skating,” she says. 

Being so intimately engaged in the sport from behind the scenes for so long, Mary-Kay has developed a keen eye for these blind spots. “Through this work I’ve become acutely aware of the struggles facing women in this sport who just want the opportunity that they deserve. But more than struggles, I’ve also seen so much persistence and resilience.”

On why she’s perfectly positioned to help grow the game

Mary-Kay approaches this problem from a couple of angles. She has the backing of Bauer: “Our leadership and entire team is very passionate about how we can chime in as leaders to help drive the advancement for women and girls in hockey,” she says. 

She has her personal experience as a mother. “Three out of four of my children used hockey as the vehicle to pursue an academic career. Watching that happen made me realize even more that girls deserve this opportunity, too. My appreciation for the game really changed over the course of my life— from being a daughter and a sister to being a mother.” 

Mary-Kay also has the full support of her brother, Mark. The same month Mary-Kay signed on as senior advisor to the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, the Mark Messier Foundation announced a $100,000 match donation to the PWHPA, which has been working toward establishing a sustainable professional league for women’s hockey since 2019. 

On closing the ‘dream gap’

Also that same month, the PWHPA’s Secret Dream Gap Tour made a stop at Madison Square Garden for a history-making puck drop. The game was televised on Sportsnet (an ESPN-esque sports specialty channel in Canada) and on the NHL Network, which is partly owned by NBC Sports. In other words, it was kind of a big deal. Since then, two other PWHPA events were broadcast nationally, and another—the last stop of the Dream Gap tour, in Calgary, Canada—is happening now.

“I believe the game at Madison Square Garden was a tipping point,” says Mary-Kay. “Ratings were strong, and I was flooded with messages from mothers and fathers saying, ‘My daughter got to sit in front of the TV and see women playing professional hockey.’ Representation matters. It makes realizing the dream possible. And by creating a sustainable professional women’s league, we’re creating opportunity for the next generation of girls.”

On the power of girls-only hockey 

Also key to creating that reality for girls is actually providing them opportunities to play with their peers. Mary-Kay is encouraged by efforts across the U.S. and Canada to introduce the game to girls and get them playing in girls’ leagues at a younger age.

For example, Play Like a Girl recently expanded its longtime partnership with the Nashville Predators from an annual 3-hour on-ice clinic for beginners to a new 12-week development program for middle school girls. The program is free to participants, features hockey basics and includes free gear to keep (a must for making the game more accessible to underserved communities). 

This summer will mark the start of a girls’ 3-on-3 league, which is open to girls like Play Like a Girl participants Arianna and Dasani who participated in both the clinic and development program. Mark your calendars now—there are plans to repeat these offerings again in the fall.

Girls-only hockey programs also provide an opportunity to expose girls to coaches, role models and mentors with whom they can relate. 

When Nashville hosted the NWHL All-Star Game in 2019, Bauer Hockey and Play Like a Girl co-hosted a series of girl-specific educational activities including a panel on positive body image with women professionals and Olympic athletes. “That’s a really important message to hear from women who have pursued careers in sports,” Mary-Kay says. “Athletes are proud of their strong bodies and what they can accomplish. The message is empowering.”

On how you can help grow the game for girls

Sport is all about connection, confidence and community. We strongly believe we each have a role to play in growing the game in hockey and any other sport. Hockey, in particular, is a great way to promote teamwork and community. 

For starters, encourage the girls in your life to try hockey. Watch women’s hockey and build a culture of watching women’s sports in your home. Coach or volunteer with a girls’ team in your local community or school in the area. Support the companies that sponsor women’s hockey. 

If you’re a decision maker in your company, seek out women hockey players for your campaigns. “These athletes make some of the strongest brand ambassadors,” Mary-Kay admits. “They’re powerful role models and leaders, and they’re invested in giving back to their communities.” So, make sure they get paid equally too.