“Off the Rim” is a column by Sarah Ko generally about basketball.
This edition of Off the Rim is a little different. For once I will not be breaking down one of my basketball hot takes. Rather, this is an anecdote on Nike’s newest female empowerment campaign: the Nike Legacy Summit.
Nike remains as one of the only global-market sports brands that is aiming their focus on gender equality and celebrating female athletes. It’s no secret that they have heavily endorsed prodigious females in athletics such as tennis legend Serena Williams, San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon and WNBA hall-of-famer Sue Bird. In fact, they are one of very few brands to rewrite its maternity-leave policy to cater to female athletes -- allowing them to maintain their contracts without consequences.
These female icons have defied all odds in the sports industry, but they have also revolutionized and inspired the upcoming generation of female athletes. As a former basketball player and competitive figure skater, I idolize them for their tenacity, individuality and fearlessness.
Although they have achieved a level of competition I could only dream about, there is one common thread between us. We all never would have had the motivation to keep training through sore muscles and losses if it hadn’t been for our coaches and especially our female mentors.
As female athletes, it’s imperative to have an uplifting female icon in our lives. That person for me was my mom.
My mother doesn’t nearly get enough credit for her 24/7 job of looking after me. Before I could drive, my mother plundered through the cold dark 4:30 a.m. mornings to chauffeur me to my training sessions at the ice rink. She never complained about waking up early and taking the 30 minute drive nearly every morning. On the other side, when I complained or protested going to the rink, she constantly reassured and reminded me that if I continued to train and practice, I could become like my idols. While that aim was cut short due to injury, I’ll never take those early morning pep-talks for granted.
I remember my emotions when I competed in one of my first major competitions: anxiety, with the combination of the cold, consumed and physically froze me. This hindered me from doing the most basic of things as a figure skater: tie my skates. My mom -- who not to mention is terrified of the cold -- ripped her gloves off and proceeded to tighten my laces for me, warming me with words of encouragement. There are absolutely no words that can express the amount of gratitude I have for her for serving as my motivator and leader.
Today, Nike opened the summit to the public. Its aim is to invite everyone to nominate a female mentor who has strongly impacted their life. Out of these nominations, a number of leaders will be chosen to attend the Nike Legacy Summit in December. Submissions will close in mid-November.
Often times as athletes, we overlook those who helped make us who we are. Our eyes are focused on achieving results and pushing ourselves beyond our physical limitations, but in the assiduous hours we trained, we always had a partner in crime, standing alongside us, instructing us and cheering us on.
Our mentors push us to our limits and inspire us to be great in whatever we choose to do. Without them, we wouldn’t have been shaped and molded to be the best, not in competition but rather the best version of ourselves.
The Nike Legacy Summit is designed to highlight and celebrate LA’s most empowering female mentors, who help uplift those in the world of sport. If you want to be a part of the Nike Legacy Summit, nominate your female mentor today.
“Off the Rim” usually runs every Thursday.