Attendees pose with Heather Mitts' Olympic gold medals during her keynote. (Photo: Cayla Teller)

Attendees pose with Heather Mitts’ Olympic gold medals during her keynote. (Photo: Cayla Teller)

The new Empowerment Through Sport Leadership Series held its first event at Boston’s Simmons College January 12th. US Olympian Angela Hucles is behind the idea, hoping to use the successes of female athletes on the national and international levels to inspire young girls both on and off the field, court or ice.

For her first event, she brought her former U.S. National Team teammates Heather O’Reilly and Heather Mitts to Boston to speak to 150 young women during a full day conference. Keynote speeches, smoothie socials and breakout sessions dotted the day’s agenda. The young athletes also heard from former U.S. Olympic figure skater Alice Cook of She’s Game Sports and Northeastern University women’s soccer head coach Tracey Leone. And last but certainly not least, 2012 FIFA Women’s Player of the Year Abby Wambach Skyped into the event for her Keynote address after a last minute change of plans kept her from physically being there. (Gotta love technology!)

Empowerment Through Sport didn’t leave parents behind. The afternoon included a panel discussion geared towards parents and coaches on “Developing the Female Athlete.” Having time with the parents was key for Hucles. “Having certain issues raised with these girls can only be enhanced, encouraged and supported by the parents and coaches that are here,” said Hucles. “It’s a whole collaborative effort to raise someone who is going to be successful in life.”

Hucles hopes the event is the first of several scheduled for locations across the U.S. this year. She and O’Reilly spoke between sessions about their goals for these events and why it was so important to them to include families in the discussion.

Heather Mitts delivered a motivational keynote to open the day, telling the attendees that hard work and determination fueled her path from high school soccer, to the University of Florida, to the WUSA and the US National Team, despite quite a number of setbacks along the way. In this clip, Mitts recalls being drafted to the WUSA’s Philadelphia Charge in 2001 and how Charge head coach Mark Krikorian encouraged her to try for the US National Team. During her speech, she passed around her three Olympic gold medals to the awe struck crowd.

Thank you to Greta Teller for giving me the opportunity to cover the event!