Five years ago, soccer star and coach Sarah Kate “Skate” Noftsinger helped found the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL). The organization was created with the goal of improving the female youth soccer experience in the United States. Today, the ECNL is the premier female youth soccer league. And now it’s looking to expand its mission.
Last month, Noftsinger and the ECNL kicked off Amazing Young Women, a program to help empower girls, teens, and women everywhere.
The dynamic campaign features monthly spotlights on heroes and community leaders, and a pop-up tour of events across the country. There are also several opportunities for women of all ages to actively engage. Women can take the AYW pledge to be their own leader or join others on social media to connect and share daily instances of #BeautifulAmbition.
But there’s more to the program than sports. Noftsinger says that because athletes don’t spend 100 percent of their lives on a field or court, it’s important to focus on women’s successes away from sports, as well. That’s why the AYW website highlights women like Sandra Serafini – a top women’s referee and evaluator, but also a PhD and assistant professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at Duke University.
“This campaign is designed to encourage all teens, and all females who have dreams of success,” Noftsinger says. “It’s a very inclusive campaign. We want to show everyone that ambition isn’t a gender-focused word. It transcends gender. And that is a beautiful thing.”
If anyone’s qualified to bring that message to girls and women, it’s Noftsinger.
Skate played college soccer for Wake Forest. After finding inspiration in the quotes from accomplished women like Condoleezza Rice and the posters of famous athletes that decorated her walls, she became the first female student-athlete to be drafted by a pro sports team. She was selected 22nd overall by the Washington Freedom in 2002.
She ultimately played on the same pitch as superstars like Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach. And her determination helped her through a neck injury and battle with cancer.
When her playing career was over, Skate went on to serve as Develepmental Assistant Coach for the US Under-20 Women’s National Team in the 2006 World Cup and the Assistant Women’s Soccer Coach at Stanford. Today, she’s the commissioner of the ECNL.
As a coach, Noftsinger was amazed by the growing opportunities for young female soccer players all around her. That’s when she began to develop ideas for a larger movement. There were lots of young girls who tended to shy away from ambition. She wanted to find a way to encourage them to embrace strong, driven personalities on their path to success.
“Past generations don’t want girls to be scared of the incredible opportunities ahead of them,” she says. “They’ve got so many players they can look up to and draw on, and we wanted to create a platform that kids could go to and share their own stories but also learn from others.”
The U.S. Women’s National Team roster is full of worthy role models that will soon be relentlessly pursing success on a national stage. The group will compete in Canada for the 2015 World Cup, and again in Brazil in 2016, where they will chase Olympic gold.
And it presents a golden opportunity to keep talking to girls of all ages about their #BeautifulAmbition.
“Every year we have the World Cup, the Olympics follows the next year. No one else has the two biggest competitions in sports in back to back years,” Noftsinger says. “That’s something for young people to stay engaged with. Our goal is to celebrate past the World Cup.”
Visit the Amazing Young Women website to learn more about the #BeautifulAmbition campaign.
Photos: ECNL AmazingYoungWomen.com