In line with their mission to develop the next generation of women leaders through sports, we sat down with President of Her Next Play, Sara Wegmann. Off the back of concluding the first half of their inaugural Rookie Career Accelerator Program earlier this year, there is tremendous momentum building as they look towards what is to come for this and future programs.
Sara shared some background on the Rookie Career Accelerator Program, “The initial idea for the Rookie Career Accelerator (RCA) came out of Her Next Play’s submission for the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge, which encouraged organizations to create innovative initiatives to expand women’s power and influence in the United States. I was part of that submission team, and we received very positive feedback on our idea to create a career accelerator for women athletes. While we didn’t ultimately get funded through the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge, we were able to take some of our ideas and bring them to life on a smaller scale through the Rookie Career Accelerator.”
When it comes to the ‘why’ behind Her Next Play and the Rookie Career Accelerator Program, Sara had this to say,
“We don’t see enough programs supporting young women early in their careers, and we’re passionate about investing in women college athletes as they begin their careers because we know they are a high talent group who have developed the skills to be our next generation of women leaders.”
Her Next Play is a non-profit organization based out of Twin Cities in the United States, who are dedicated to closing the gender leadership gap through sport. They recognize the persistent gender gap in women’s leadership representation in almost all industries, with an even greater gap for women of color. At the same time, research into gender, ethnicity, and culturally diverse leadership in companies shows that the most diverse companies are more likely than ever to outperform their less diverse peers, across all measurables including innovation and profitability.
Sport is known to be a high-quality source for leadership talent as young people develop critical life and leadership skills throughout their sport experiences. So, when research shows that female college athletes make up only 2% of college students, but 52% of c-suite women, it becomes vital to keep women and girls participating in sports to challenge gender stereotypes and develop critical career skills.
While being a student-athlete is a powerful catalyst for leadership potential, many athletes in this untapped talent pool face barriers that slow or limit their career trajectory. Understanding the critical crossroads we are at for future women in leadership, Her Next Play developed programs to inspire girls to stay in sports and help athletes hone their leadership skills to launch and accelerate their careers.
In just two years, Her Next Play has served over 1,500 women and girls through their sport-based leadership programs, like the Rookie Career Accelerator, which came to fruition after the team worked tirelessly to develop the nine-month program. The program provides a one-of-a-kind career building experience for women athletes in the early years of their career, and includes Innovative Retreats and monthly Learning Labs, access to mentors and connections, and interactive development experiences. Sara added, “It’s been really rewarding to be part of the Her Next Play team that has developed the Rookie Career Accelerator all the way from far off dream to actual reality!”
As part of the first Innovative Retreat in the program, Her Next Play organized for each of the participants to complete Athlete Assessments’ business version of DISC, the Team8 DISC Profile, ahead of the retreat. The decision was made to use the business version due to the career focused nature of the Rookie Career Accelerator Program. Sara shared that many of the participants had previously taken an AthleteDISC Profile during their time as a college athlete. She added “It was eye opening for them to take it again as a working professional and think about how their DISC Profile impacted their behavior and style in the workplace.”
Just like our suite of sport-specific DISC Profiles, participants completed an online survey to produce their individual Team8 DISC Profile Report. The Team8 DISC Reports provide individuals with the opportunity to build self-awareness of their behavioral style, preferences, and strengths, along with potential limitations or blind spots in their behaviors. Through completing the Team8 DISC Profile, the Rookie Career Accelerator participants are provided with valuable career skills to understand the impact their style may have on those they work with and where potential conflict may arise by learning more about how other behavioral styles interact with their own.
As self-awareness and reflection are critical foundations for personal development, Sara shared that the team behind the Rookie Career Accelerator experience made an intentional decision to start with this,
“We knew we wanted to include an assessment and session in the program kick-off retreat. Because the DISC is used so extensively with athletes, we thought it would be a great fit for the Rookie Career Accelerator Program too.”
To complement the completion of their Team8 DISC Profiles, the first Innovative Retreat included a live virtual session for the participants from Athlete Assessments’ CEO, Liz Masen. Liz’s interactive session provided the participants with the opportunity to further understand and apply their own DISC Profile, as well as develop their knowledge around the theory and application of DISC Profiling to improve communication with others and adapt their behavior to ultimately encourage greater, more consistent results in any environment.
Reflecting on the session Sara shared a collective a-ha moment noticing that, “Liz opened with an exercise on how to get her to open her hand. It created a lot of a-ha moments for the women as they saw how many ways there were to do that, and in how their approach to it related to their DISC style.”
As the leading Her Next Play program, the Rookie Career Accelerator offers a transformational career building experience, while taking aim at early barriers and promotion inequities, with the goal of advancing more women, at a faster rate, to more powerful roles. The focus is on providing opportunities for women of color, LGBTQIA+, and first-generation college students, to help narrow the gender and racial leadership gap. The inaugural cohort had 45% who identify as BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, or first-generation graduates, and represent over 14 industries and 17 different companies.
“The highlight for me is seeing the community of support develop in the cohort of young leaders who are part of the RCA. These young women are so talented and have so much potential, and it’s incredibly inspiring and energizing to see them grow, develop, and connect with the RCA community.”
To conclude, we asked Sara what lies ahead for the Rookie Career Accelerator Program,
“We have a very exciting summer planned for the second half of the program, with Learning Labs on Financial Power, Inclusive Leadership, and Dealing with Conflict, in addition to fun events like an outing to a Twins game with all the RCA mentors. This first cohort will graduate in September and then we will evaluate the first year, look for ways to make the Rookie Career Accelerator even better, and then start recruiting the next cohort.”
If you would like to learn more about Her Next Play and the Rookie Career Accelerator Program, we encourage you to visit their website.
Where to from here?
At Athlete Assessments, we’re forever in awe and support of the people and organizations who are paving the way for women and girls in sport. We have an entire resources section dedicated to resources about women in sport including articles which highlight some of the amazing women and women-led organizations we are fortunate enough to work with, like Her Next Play, as well as information on gender disparity in sport and important statistics and facts.
If you would like to discuss how Athlete Assessments can contribute to your program or initiative through the use of our DISC Profiles and tailored programs, we encourage you to reach out and contact us.
LOVE THIS ARTICLE?
DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE, PRINTABLE PDF COPY BY FILLING OUT THE FORM BELOW!
Success factors, critical inclusions, and applied strategies will be interwoven in a ‘how-to’ presentation on coach education by an international panel of sports’ top women leaders from WeCOACH, The Tucker Center, Athlete Assessments, Japan’s Juntendo University, at the 8th IWG World Conference on Women & Sport in Auckland, New Zealand, from November 14th-17th, 2022.
If you’re familiar with us at Athlete Assessments, you might know we’re big believers in gender equality and are passionate about equal rights, equal pay, equal opportunity, and equal recognition, not only just for female athletes, but for women in general.
Dr LaTisha Bader, Certified Mental Performance Consultant on using Athlete Assessments’ DISC Profiling to develop self-awareness and team chemistry.