Junior Varsity Board of Her Next Play

Members of Her Next Play JV BoardJuly 2020 – Participation in youth sports can pay huge dividends. Compared to peers, student athletes attain a higher level of physical fitness, report a higher degree of mental wellness and enjoy a leg up in the development of “soft” skills like teamwork and time management. Moreover, just as with scholastic achievements, involvement in sports augurs well for a student’s success and self-satisfaction later in life.

Paradoxically, though these benefits and more are well documented, “a lot of girls drop out of sports when they’re in middle school,” explained Carolina Cultu.

Carolina is one of 12 area girls looking to right that imbalance through Her Next Play. Based in Minneapolis and Edina, Her Next Play is a not-for-profit committed to championing young female athletes and teaching them how to parlay these valuable K-12 experiences into success in later stages of life. 

Consistent with that mandate, the organization maintains a growing “Junior Varsity” Board of Directors, who are well positioned to speak for and to this target demographic.

In addition to Carolina, incumbents are: Ava Allenberg, Addie Barmann, Molly Bennett, Hailey Bergeson, Joely Emerson, Lila Emerson, Zoya Hasan, Zoe Kelman, Lucia Lazarus, Claire Wegmann-Krider, and Olivia Wegmann-Krider. Girls are welcomed to join as early as late elementary school, and do not term out until they graduate high school.

Early in 2019, this tight-knit group began brainstorming ways to reach other girls and stoke their budding interest in sports. “We knew we wanted to do a project that mixed the sports aspect and the career aspect, which together are everything Her Next Play stands for,” explained Olivia Wegmann-Krider.

In a stroke of fortuitous timing, the Edina Community Foundation (ECF) launched its inaugural Bold New Idea contest around this same time. As the name suggests, this ECF competition encouraged residents and organizations to pitch novel, ambitious ways to better life in Edina. Out of a competitive field of about 20 viable entries, the Foundation awarded its top prize – a hefty $5,000 in seed money – to the JV Board. 

Their prize-winning idea, an Edina Girls Sports Summit, took several long months of planning to bring to fruition.

“Bold New Idea was a big part of our funding, but we also worked to get sponsorships for things [it] didn’t cover,” explained Hailey Bergeson. The JV Board, on its own initiative, recruited additional partners, including the Edina Girls Athletic Association and Twin Cities Orthopedics. Life Time Sport agreed to waive rental fees at their large Eden Prairie campus, stretching the budget considerably. 

When considering speakers, the JV Board shot high – and hit their target as often as not. A subcommittee assembled a star-studded line up with national names like Olympic hockey players Lee Stecklein and Marissa Brandt; NCAA champion middle distance runner Carrie Tollefson; and Kyndra de St. Auburn, the only female commentator for U.S. Major League Soccer. The girls then identified other professionals, including a sports psychologist and media manager, to round out the Summit’s roster of speakers.

For promotion, the JV Board leaned heavily on word of mouth. “We sent word out around our schools – telling our friends, who told other friends,” Bergeson said. “We also used social media quite a bit.” 

All these tireless efforts bore fruit Sept. 30, 2019, when well over 100 girls turned out for the inaugural Edina Girls Sports Summit. 

Panels, clinics, and pick-up games filled up a day that flew by all too fast for the organizers. Afterward, the JV Board could hardly wait to regroup, debrief and get the gears in motion for an even better second Summit. 

“We know that Edina is generally a very privileged and well-off community, and lots of kids here get good opportunities,” noted Olivia Wegmann-Krider. “For the next Summit, we decided to make it a priority to extend our reach to the entire Twin Cities, and we hope to get lots more people of diverse backgrounds and with fewer privileges.” 

As it did with so many things, the spread of COVID-19 derailed this promising evolution on the event model – at least for 2020. Sports summits are likely to resume once social distancing requirements are a thing of the past, Olivia said. 

In the meantime, the JV Board has not been idle. They are active in what Her Next Play calls Play Bold Huddles – periodic webinars spotlighting inspiring female athletes and leaders. 

Most recently, in another nod to this most unusual year, the JV Board are throwing their energies behind a Virtual 5K fundraiser. “Training started July 6,” Carolina shared. Proceeds will benefit Her Next Play’s ongoing mission work. “We will provide all participants with playlists, tips, motivational videos, and some giveaways. You just need to run it any time, anywhere, between Aug. 1 and 9. Registration is now open.” 

Each member of the JV Board of Her Next Play was presented a 2020 Mayor’s Youth Service Commendation by Mayor Him Hovland.