GSMP: Time to implement big ideas
WASHINGTON -- When Peruvian skateboarder Nancy Chavez found out she had been chosen as one of 16 international women to come to the U.S. with the Global Sports Mentoring Program, she was elated. But when the adventure sports enthusiast found out she would spend her three weeks with the LPGA, she was confused.
What was she -- a slightly rebellious, loudly funny woman who founded PeruSkateGirl in her home country -- going to do in a sport that requires silence on the backswing?
"I was like, oh my god, this is going to be such a mess," Chavez said, bringing laughter from those gathered for a luncheon at the Meridian International Center.
As if that weren't enough, Chavez encountered an alligator on a golf course on her first day. But she soon found out she had shared plenty in common with the two women she worked with, Heather Daly-Donofrio and Mindy Moore. For starters, they were not at all boring. And more importantly, they weren't bothered by alligators.
"Once we get beyond what we can read or see on a piece of paper, or what we assume we know," ESPN mentor Lori LeBas said, "the real connections really come through."
Monday, Chavez and the other participants, mentors and women who made the Global Sports Mentoring Program come together all gathered to share stories, laugh and reflect on their three-week whirlwind. Representatives from the State Department and espnW founder Laura Gentile also took part.
It's the second year for the program, administered through the University of Tennessee's Center for Sport, Peace and Society.
Sunday, the women had presented plans for implementing some of the ideas they have when they return home. Fatima Saleem, who will return to her life as a pioneering sports reporter in Pakistan this week, plans to start soccer programs for girls at three elementary schools. In a place where girls are not encouraged, or at times even allowed, to play sports, it will take work.
ESPN senior vice-president of production Jodi Markley, a mentor who worked with Saleem, said she got a great deal of perspective. At one point in the program, Markley and Saleem were brought to the front of the room to talk about the experience and Markley said to Saleem, "I got so much more out of this than you possibly could have."
There were a dozen stories of connections. Aisha Nassanga, a sports reporter in Uganda who spent her time with Allyson Park at The Coca-Cola Company, found she was so scheduled that one visitor joked her itinerary looked like Coke's strategic plan for the next 10 years. Asked if she had time for ice cream, Nassanga cheekily said, "Let me check my schedule."
The program invited back one of the inaugural 2012 class, Grace Kiraguri, to talk about her experience. Kiraguri, who owns a sports marketing and event firm in Kenya, told the women a story from her country.
The lion wakes up in the morning and knows he has to hunt a gazelle to live, Kiraguri said. The gazelle wakes up and knows he must outrun the lion to live.
"Whether you are the lion or the gazelle, you have to choose," Kiraguri explained, "but either way, you have to run."
And that was the message she sent the attendees home with: It is their time to run and implement their plans in their home countries, repay the mentorship they have received by offering it to the women who need it.
"We don't know where the next big idea that changes the world is going to come from," WNBA president Laurel Richie said in a video produced about the program.
But with the Global Sports Mentoring Program in place, there are a few more women in the world working to come up with it.