“I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much girl power in one room.” This statement from Shelly Zalis, CEO & Founder of The Girls’ Lounge, perfectly sums up the two-day NFL ‘Plays for Life’ Women’s Summit for teen girls. The star-studded event with emcee Pam Oliver of FOX Sports featured over 30 speakers, panelists, and special guests inspiring the young attendees to follow their dreams and be bold despite the challenges they may face in life.
Over the past two days, 250 Houston-area teen girls heard from prominent leaders from across the NFL and beyond about their own personal journeys and participated in a discussion about how to achieve their goals, prepare for life’s challenges, and best utilize the tools that are critical for personal and professional development.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. If you want to do it, go do it.” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell during the opening session. “Take today as a learning opportunity. This is an opportunity to ask questions and learn from our speakers so you can start moving down your own path and find out what you want to be. This is the discovery phase of your life.”
Building on the success of last year’s Women’s Summit in San Francisco – which explored the role of sports participation in developing leadership, teamwork and other skills that promote success throughout one’s life and career – Plays for Life expanded upon that conversation by engaging teen girls through an interactive and experiential event focused on personal development and achievement.
In addition to Goddell, several other speakers shared their inspirational stories throughout the event. Other prominent attendees included:
THOMAS DAVIS, Carolina Panthers Linebacker
SIMONE BILES, Olympic Gold Medalist & Team USA gymnast
GABBY DOUGLAS, Olympic Gold Medalist & TEAM USA gymnast
ALY RAISMAN, Two-Time Olympic Gymnast & Team USA gymnast
CHLOE X HALLE, Musical Guests
HABEN GIRMA, Disability Inclusion Leader
MATT HASSELBECK, NFL Legend
LELAND MELVIN, NFL Legend & Astronaut
NFL LEGENDS: Donovin Darius, Dhani Jones, Chad Pennington, Tony Richardson, Leonard Wheeler, Aeneas Williams, Will Shields
“The one thing I want girls to walk away with today is the belief they are enough. They do enough. They have enough,” said Alexis Jones, Founder of I Am That Girl. “I want to remind girls they are awesome.”
Some young entrepreneurs also stopped by to offer words of encouragement. “Use your gift to make a difference,” said 14-year old Maya Penn, CEO of Maya’s Ideas, Eco-designer, Philanthropist, Animator & Author. “There will be roadblocks and mistakes. You have to learn from them and keep going. Really hold on to what you are passionate about.”
“You’re never too young to change the world,” added 13-year old Hannah Alper, Blogger & Activist.
One of the biggest highlights for the teen girls came when a few of the USA Gymnastics Team members from the Rio Olympics hit the stage: Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, and Aly Reisman. They offer advice on overcoming obstacles and choosing a career that means something to them.
“If you hate what you do you’re not going to enjoy it but if you love what you do you’re going to feel good,” said Gabby Douglas.
“There are hard days but those are what make you stronger and those hard days make the good days that much more fun,” stated Aly Raisman.
Houston native Simone Biles shared her key for staying joyful no matter what curve balls life brings, “I was born happy. I wake up with a smile on my face.” said Biles.
The event ended on Saturday with more amazing speakers and a special moment with Leah and Devon Still. Leah has overcome huge obstacles at such a young age. She offered some advice of her own:
“Believe in yourself no matter what and be strong.”
Now that is a lesson for life!
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