by Stef Strack
Founder & CEO, VOICEINSPORT
Stef Strack is the Founder and CEO of VOICEINSPORT (VIS), a global sports company that provides girls and women in sport access to over 80 top experts in sport psychology, sport nutrition and women-specific health mentorship by professional and collegiate athletes, and educational content written by women athletes. VOICEINSPORT serves as a safe community where girls use their voice to advocate for change.
Q: You were an executive at Nike for 14 years before becoming a CEO in the fashion industry, a job you left at the beginning of 2019. In August of 2020, you launched VOICEINSPORT (VIS). What inspired you to create a company with a mission to support young female athletes?
A: Quite simply, my experience in the industry painted in a harsh light the discrepancies that exist for girls and women in sports. How well can women be represented and understood in an industry where over 90% of the boardroom is male? When only 3% of sports science and research is focused on women? When far fewer than half of college coaches are female? When 90% of sports journalists are men? When I looked at these stats and then looked at the rate at which girls were dropping out of sport (twice the rate of boys at age 14), I asked myself what is missing?
During my career, I saw all of these moments of underrepresentation, of oversight, as a sign of a problem that had existed for far too long. Girls and women in sport weren't being supported as well as their male counterparts in an industry that not only claimed to be on their side but used them as short-lived ad campaigns to virtue-signal instead of engaging in real change. The only question I could ask was what is going to fill this gap?
I knew then that there was a need to create something different - something that would put HER VOICE at the center, always. I wanted to build a powerful community that would bring more visibility to women and elevate the voices of female athletes.
Q: What sort of impact do you hope VOICEINSPORT will have for young women involved in sports and athletics?
A: I hope that VOICEINSPORT will show young girls and women in sport that their voices are invaluable and they have the power to drive change. For too long, misogynistic norms in sport have held girls and women on the sidelines of major discussions and movements. By highlighting not only all of the incredible successes of women athletes today, but also the flaws, blind spots and lack of women's sports coverage - on the field/court/pitch and in the advocacy arena - we're disrupting norms and making a difference in how girls and women in sport feel represented and supported. Sport is a powerful vehicle, and we're focused on providing the support girls need to change more than just the game. We will measure the impact we make by keeping more girls in sport, inspiring more girls to use their voice and fight for change, and seeing more women in leadership positions and in the boardrooms of the sports industry.
Q: You spoke to nearly 500 female athletes at various levels before creating the different roles within the VIS community: VIS League™ members (professional and collegiate players), VIS Creators™ (journalism and sports media majors), VIS Advocates™ (female athletes voicing change for underrepresented athletes) and VIS Experts™ (women experts in sports science, sports nutrition, and sports psychology). Can you explain why you chose these roles and how they are all important within the VIS community?
A: The goal of the VOICEINSPORT community is to keep girls in sport and advocate for change. After listening to the challenges that girls in sport were facing around the world, I wanted to create a support system that didn't exist anywhere today. The role of the VIS League™ mentor is to bring visibility to more diverse role models and normalize conversations. The role of the VIS Creator™ is to create a more diverse pipeline of talent for the future of sports journalism, while changing the narrative for girls by writing to our community in their own voice. The role of the VIS Advocate™ is to fundamentally flip how we drive change locally and nationally through policy and grassroots activism. The role of the VIS Expert™ is to provide unparalleled access to the best sport psychologists, sport nutritionists and women sports scientists to close the knowledge gap these girls face about their bodies, minds and fueling their bodies. Together the community we have built is a powerful space for girls and women in sport to support each other.
Q: Mentorship is a valuable resource across all industries and fields, but why do you think it's particularly meaningful for young women athletes?
Young women athletes face innumerable challenges and obstacles not only in sport but also in life. Girls drop out of sport at 2x rate of boys at age 14 and a few of the key reasons are lack of role models and lack of confidence. 41.5% of women high school athletes reported disordered eating, a percentage eight times more likely than their non-disordered eating peers. 48% of women collegiate athletes reported experiencing depression or anxiety. These are real issues that are affecting girls and women in sport today. Disparate and limited access to role models, mental health services and nutritional experts means that these girls and women aren't always able to voice their concerns and get the help they need to perform their best. They often suffer in silence in an industry that was not built with them in mind. The VOICEINSPORT™ community aims to rectify these problems by connecting athletes with the best women athletes and professionals through our digital services.