Mind over matter

Everything we do at Play Like a Girl is about rewriting the rules and making history in women’s sports. This year, we partnered with the Women Sports Film Festival and Belmont University Athletics to host an empowerment summit to celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day. Using the power of film, storytelling and conversations, attendees were inspired by and gained practical skills from women athletes, sports journalists and executives in the sports industry.

The two-day event kicked off with a public screening of the award-winning documentary film Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw. Mind/Game tells the compelling story of basketball phenom Chamique Holdsclaw from her rise to sports stardom to her struggle with mental illness.

Chamique, who demonstrates strength and resilience like a champ, led a post-film panel discussion and Q & A session with our girls following the film. She also shared pivotal moments in her basketball career, highlighting the moment just last week when she received notification of her selection for the 2018 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

More than body parts

On Day 2, we talked about the real impact that sport can have in a young woman’s life. Women executives from local sports leagues and teams joined us for a panel discussion on their rise in a male-dominated field and offered tips for finding our places at the table and ensuring that we bring other women along.

Alex Jones, philanthropist and wife of Tennessee Titan Ben Jones shared how she harnesses her passion for sport to do good in the lives of Nashville youth. The expectant mother talked about the importance of young athletes finding a cause that means something to them and getting dirty supporting the people attached to the cause.

Pro softball outfielder A.J. Andrews headlined the conference with an inspirational TED-style talk on body image and confidence, using stunning photos from her ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue photoshoot as a backdrop. In August 2016, A.J. became the first woman to win a Gold Glove. Known for acrobatic catches that she’s been honing since her youth, she shared with the girls the importance of a strong sense of and love for self.

A.J. loves looking fabulous. She even wears makeup during games. But she never allows her beauty or love for beautiful things to adversely impact her performance on the field. In fact, she goes all out for the ball, whether it makes her look silly or whether her face gets stuck in the mud and she comes out looking crazy. Instead, she picks herself up, fixes her hair and hits the outfield all over again.

Being very intentional about the content and messaging we conveyed, we planned every detail of this conference to be inspirational as well as aspirational. For example, every session and panel discussion was moderated by Nashville’s leading women in sports media: Madison Blevins, Dawn Davenport and Jessica Bliss.

A future in the big leagues

We know that girls need to see themselves in the future. Upon arrival to Belmont’s campus, they were greeted with outdoor directional signage reading “This Way to Change the Game,” “This Way to Your Future,” and “This Way to Make Your Play” that immediately set the tone for the summit experience.

An inspiring quote from A.J. also met the girls at check-in where they received their own personalized badge, custom lanyard, a custom #IPLAYLIKEAGIRL button and Sharpie. The badge, also a keepsake, features a soft-touch finish that allowed girls to capture autographs throughout the weekend.

A series of empowering messages and phrases adorned products such as t-shirts and buttons. On-theme buttons with phrases such as “Game Changer” and “Girls Rule the World” were also available at several places throughout the event, providing a fun—and social-media-friendly—keepsake of the day. The girls (and some parents too!) added the buttons to their lanyards, which were also branded with the #IPLAYLIKEAGIRL hashtag.

Several VIP signing and photo ops throughout the summit reinforced the event’s message of confidence and empowerment. Near the entrance, a step-and-repeat with the Play Like a Girl logo and our signature exclamation point featured the #IPLAYLIKEAGIRL hashtag which was used to promote social media sharing. We even designed two custom geofilters to generate Snapchat buzz, letting guests tell people in the surrounding area about the summit while allowing them to share where they were and what they were doing.

The 2018 theme “My Game. My Rules.” was highlighted and our custom button by the same name was distributed throughout the weekend. The girls even took their love of sports to the next level with a 20-minute rockout workout fitness experience with POUND Pro Allie Lamb and her squad. And one of our own team members, Nailah Ellis Timberlake, closed the conference with a powerful charge to the girls, announcing our 2018 “Game On!” campaign.

Celebrating the wins together

The Summit was created to celebrate the stories of women in sports who have paved the way for the next generation of game-changing women, and further our founding belief that girls given the opportunity to play on a team become women who have the confidence to stand on their own.

Our goal for this year’s conference was to not only amplify the issues by calling out what is and isn’t working in sports and society, but also to provide actionable tools for girls’ advancement at school, on the field and in their communities and the world around them.

We wanted the girls in attendance to see themselves in the future, and we succeeded.