Ahead of the Game

Sports Journalist’s Podcast Links Women’s Success in Careers to Experiences on the Field and Court

A walk-on to the UMD gymnastics team who earned a full scholarship and became an Academic All-American, Bonnie Bernstein ’92 learned more than agility and coordination during her years of competition. She partially credits her achievements as an ESPN and CBS Sports journalist and entrepreneur to life skills she’d learned in the gym: resilience, teamwork, patience and comfort with taking risks.

What she didn’t realize until recently was that her experience is far from unique. After coming across a 2018 study by Ernst and Young that found that 94% of female C-suite executives had played sports as kids, Bernstein was inspired to dive deeper into the relationship between women’s sports and professional success. That led to “She Got Game,” her Audible Originals podcast in which she asks 10 women to share how their experience as athletes informed their careers—whether related to sports or not.

“There’s really nothing else out there saying to girls and young women, ‘Yes, of course, you probably enjoy all the physical, emotional and community benefits of playing sports, but it’s equally important to be thinking about the long game,’” says Bernstein. “Even if you’re not an elite athlete, you’re still honing these critical life skills that are going to tee you up for success in life.”

On “She Got Game,” guests including former first daughter Chelsea Clinton, Emmy-winning actress Aisha Tyler and Washington, D.C., sports mogul Sheila Johnson, the world’s first Black female billionaire, describe how the on-your-feet thinking, accountability, passion and leadership skills they developed playing sports helped them thrive in their respective fields. (Clinton also recalls how her mom brought orange slices to her soccer team’s games in Arkansas.)

Bernstein hopes that the podcast will inspire those who aren’t destined for pro sports—or even college scholarships—to stick with it.

“Girls are still exiting sports at a higher frequency and earlier age than boys,” she says. “This (podcast) is the kind of content that ... provides parents, coaches and adults of influence in the lives of these girls a reason to share why it’s important to stay and play.”


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