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WNBA launches partnership with VOICEINSPORT, a mentorship platform for female athletes

Aliyah Boston, Natasha Cloud and Nneka Ogwumike headline a list of players who will provide virtual mentorship to girls in sports across the world, thanks to a new WNBA partnership. 

Indiana Fever v Los Angeles Sparks
Nneka Ogwumike and Aliyah Boston are among the 12 WNBA players serving as VIS mentors.
Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

When the average girl turns 14—right around the average age of puberty—she is twice as likely to quit playing sports as a boy her age in the same position.

Why is that?

There are conflicting perspectives, and an undeniable lack of comprehensive research, but many have theorized that the absence of widespread female mentorship, combined with the social pressures of of adolescence, contribute to this phenomenon.

Searching for a way to keep girls in sports, Stef Strack founded VOICEINSPORT (VIS), an online platform that provides mentorship and support to thousands of young female athletes across the world. When she launched the platform four years ago, her vision was to create an accessible website through which girls could directly connect with mentors, whether that be nutritionists, sports psychologists or professional athletes themselves.

Today, on National Girls and Women in Sports Day, the WNBA is announcing a formal partnership with Strack’s organization. As part of this partnership, 12 WNBA players will serve as VOICEINSPORT mentors, and over 50,000 girls from around the world will have free access to mentorship services.

Keeping girls in sports is critical not just because of its promotes both physical and mental health benefits, but also due to the correlation between participation in sports and longer-term career success. Studies have shown that 94 percent of women CEOs previously played sports, while 52 percent of them played sports in college. “To keep girls in sport, we need to fundamentally rethink the ecosystem and support athletes holistically,” Strack said. “We need more visibility for professional women athletes and experts in sport psychology, nutrition, and sport science.”

The WNBA Changemakers—which include AT&T, CarMax, Deloitte, Google, Nike and US Bank—collectively decided to partner with the league and VIS on this effort. These partners have provided financial investment and have worked to elevate the league through other strategic collaborations.

“In teaming up with VOICEINSPORT, we are excited to extend our impact by engaging even more girls and women in sport and building a supportive environment for the next generation of leaders,” WNBA Chief Growth Officer Colie Edison said. “We are grateful to our WNBA Changemakers Collective for leading the charge to create a world where girls and women are highly valued in the global sports landscape.”

The 12 WNBA VIS mentors include: Ariel Atkins, Aliyah Boston, Alysha Clark, Natasha Cloud, Izzy Harrison, Lexie Hull, Betnijah Laney-Hamilton, Haley Jones, Nneka Ogwumike, Satou Sabally, Katie Lou Samuelson and Erica Wheeler. Each will provide two group mentoring sessions per month, and additional one-on-one mentorship at their own scale. At the same time, young girls on the platform will be able to request mentorship from psychologists, nutritionists and other experts, depending on their unique needs.

In a WNBA press release, Washington Mystics guard Ariel Atkins expressed her excitement at being a part of the program:

Sharing a piece of yourself with the world is always a little scary, but it’s so necessary because I can guarantee there is one person in the world who will hear your story and feel inspiration or belief in knowing you’re just like them. Sports is a way to express yourself and to feed your passions. It’s a way to build long-lasting relationships, and community, and learn how to work with others effectively.

The partnership is also a paid opportunity for the WNBA athletes themselves, who can choose to offer additional sessions at their own discretion. “Our players are a microcosm of society,” Edison said. “They are diverse women in the workforce. We want to make sure we are empowering them every step of the way.”

Mentorship provides a range of benefits for girls; girls who receive mentorship are 75 percent more likely to hold a leadership position in a club or sports team, and 92 percent are more likely to volunteer regularly in their community. At the same time, one in three young people will grow up without a mentor.

Chicago Sky forward Izzy Harrison said she looks forward to being a mentor for girls through the VIS platform, sharing:

Not only am I looking forward to giving advice and relief to the unique challenges that women athletes experience, but I’m equally excited to celebrate their joy and wins with them and be a reminder that they can achieve incredible things in their sport.

With this announcement, the WNBA becomes the first professional sports league to invest in virtual mentorship and education content at scale.

You can learn more about the WNBA-VOICEINSPORT partnership here.