In recognition of National Girls and Women in Sports Day, VCU Women's Soccer Co-Head Coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak conducted a web chat today with the U.S. Department of State's SportsUnited initiative, titled Sports Diplomacy: Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports. Below is a transcript from the chat.
MODERATOR: Welcome to today's Q&A Live discussion on Sports Diplomacy: Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports with Olympic gold medalist Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak. She is reviewing your submitted questions. We will start shortly. Thank you for joining us.
MARY (UNITED STATES): When you travel internationally as a sports envoy, what similarities and differences do you see between girls around the globe?
ROBERTS SAHAYDAK: Hello Everyone! So honored to be taking part in this discussion today! Mary, I see a similar passion for the game of soccer around the globe. They all are so excited to be involved and are so interested to hear about my experiences. As far as differences, I see the girls from other countries dealing with a variety of struggles native to their country.
AGNES (KENYA): This is a wonderful initiative which we would appreciate if Kenya can also benefit from the same. We do not have many sporting activities for girls and women but it is something that can benefit many girls and women in Kenya. How best can we use sports to empower the rural community of harmful cultural practices for girls through sports?
ROBERTS SAHAYDAK: Hi Agnes! Sports are such a good way to inspire young girls--it can give them confidence, greater self-esteem, a sense of purpose, and teach valuable leadership skills. Creating all girl sports programs within the community would be a good start! In addition to my last comment, by exposing the community to the girls playing sports, this can hopefully open the eyes of their skeptics.
LISA (UNITED STATES): Have you ever experienced a bad injury? Was it a challenge? How did you overcome it mentally and heal physically?
ROBERTS SAHAYDAK: Hi Lisa! Yes, I have had multiple injuries. The most severe was two knee surgeries. It was a big challenge, but I kept my focus on my goals. I was motivated during rehab and worked extremely hard so that I could continue to play for the US Team and for my college team. Basically, with hard work and ability to stay motivated and focused helped me overcome the set-
ELIZABETH (UNITED STATES): What does it take to play on the national team? You were so young when you started playing with them - what would you recommend other girls do to be successful at that level?
ROBERTS SAHAYDAK: It takes a lot of qualities to play for the national team. You first need a high level of talent and athleticism, but at that level, the qualities that separate you from others are mental toughness, work ethic and coachability. These are the reasons why I made the team at such a young age. They saw my potential because I had a winning attitude on and off the field. I would recommend other girls to set goals and to ALWAYS be their best. If they have challenges along the way, I would tell them not to make excuses. When a player takes responsibility, they will grow so much!
LEONID (UKRAINE): Family roots from Ukraine?
ROBERTS SAHAYDAK: HAHA!! Yes, my husband must have family roots from Ukraine!
MARY (UNITED STATES): What did you do in South Africa in 2007?
ROBERTS SAHAYDAK: I traveled to SA as a coach/mentor for an organization called Goals for Girls. Goals for Girls connects girls from different countries and backgrounds with their peers around the world in a forum that addresses social and health challenges through cultural exchange and soccer. In 2007, I took a high school aged team from the US to SA.
AGNES (KENYA): How can we deal with the issue of attitude change in rural communities, that believe that some sports can only be played by boys/men and not girls/women.
ROBERTS SAHAYDAK: The only way you can change the attitude is by not giving up and becoming a leader and advocate for girls/women within your community. You may face prejudice in the beginning, but if you really believe in this, you have to keep fighting the fight. Maybe you can be the one to start your own girls' league in your community?
ELIZABETH (UNITED STATES): It's National Girls and Women in Sports Day - what are you doing to celebrate (other than this!)?
ROBERTS SAHAYDAK: I will be playing soccer with my two young daughters! Also, VCU Athletics will be conducting a clinic to recognize this wonderful day!
ELIZABETH (UNITED STATES): Are you still in touch with the other women who played on the national team? How often do you get to hang out?
ROBERTS SAHAYDAK: I am still in touch with all of my teammates. Many of us were together for at least 10 years. We are like family. Unfortunately, we haven't gotten together as a group for a few years, but we always send each other pictures of our kids! We are going to put all of our daughters together to make the 2023 World Cup Team!
MODERATOR: We are concluding our Q&A discussion. Tiffany, do you have any closing words?
ROBERTS SAHAYDAK: Thank you again for joining the discussion. I enjoyed hearing from all of you. Happy National Girls and Women in Sports Day...now let's go empower some girls!!