Jess Mendoza and Rachel Schleicher Recognized as October S’Hero Award Recipients

  • December 1, 2015

RICHMOND, VA (December 1, 2015) – The Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) today announced Jessica Mendoza and Rachel Schleicher as the October S’Hero of the Month award recipients for individual and community leadership.  As part of the Amazing Young WomenTM movement, S’Heroes highlight female role models and is creating an aspirational line-up of women whose stories motivate and inspire our nation’s young female athletes (HER), who are balancing their ambition to become elite athletes with the pressures of fitting in with social peers.

S’HERO OF THE MONTH – JESSICA MENDOZA

Mendoza1The year 2015 has been remarkable for women’s careers in professional sports. In leagues that have been dominated by men for decades, females are becoming referees and coaches, in the NFL and the NBA respectively. Jessica Mendoza is another female to reach an impressive milestone with her career with ESPN. On August 24, she became the first female MLB analyst for ESPN on Sunday Night Baseball.  A few months later on October 6, she was the first woman to call a nationally televised playoff game when the Houston Astros played the Yankees in the American League wild-card playoffs.

Mendoza is one of the most accomplished softball players to play the game, with a list of accolades that any athlete would envy. She was a four-year All-American outfielder at Stanford University and still holds the record in batting average (.475), hits (94), stolen bases (31), runs (70) and career home runs (50) for the Cardinal. She helped the USA Softball team win the gold medal in Athens in 2004, the silver in Beijing in 2008 and was the USA Softball Athlete of the Year in 2006.

Growing up in Camarillo, California, Mendoza started playing baseball, transitioning into softball when she was eight years old.  It was not until the eighth grade that she first realized softball could be an avenue for college and beyond. An older sister of one of her teammates received a full scholarship to play softball at the University of Wisconsin. This was the turning point, where a dream became a reality.  Mendoza witnessed a local girl take advantage of the opportunity to impact her future in a tremendous way using softball as the vessel, and she knew she wanted the same. The difference maker for Mendoza happened when she heard Dot Richardson, a gold medal Olympian from the 1996 USA Softball team, speak at a banquet. Mendoza was 14 years old at the time, and gained a mentor.

At an age where everyone is trying to fit in, Mendoza related to Richardson’s passion for the game while her teammates did not. “I realized at that moment I was different. I was relating to someone on an elevated level. Someone who cared about the game, someone who wanted to be successful, who took the right steps to get there and was not afraid to be different,” said Mendoza about that transformative moment. “From then on I stuck with my own goals and did not let anyone bring me down or drive me off track.”

Billie Jean King is another influencer in Mendoza’s life, and she has been fortunate enough to forge a relationship with the icon over the last decade. “She is the example of all examples for female athletes,” said Mendoza. “She opened my mind to thinking beyond the parameters that sometimes student-athletes create.” Mendoza is on the Athlete Advisory Panel and served as President of the Women’s Sports Foundation from 2009-2010, an organization founded by King and dedicated to advancing the lives of girls through sports and physical activity. Mendoza was also honored as the 2008 Women’s Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the Year.

As an athlete and even now as an analyst, Mendoza is always in high-pressure situations.  She thrives at the pressure that would cause others to stumble. Mendoza emphasizes the importance of “knowing that pressure is a privilege and it is not something to shy away from.” She never lets a stressful moment distract her. She craves the pressure and uses it as a tool to propel herself. “If you’re in a high-pressure situation it’s because you’ve done something right to be there.” said Mendoza.

After college she planned on moving to Washington, D.C., and getting into politics and educational reform, but she postponed this plan because she was still training full-time on the Olympic team. While on team USA, she was asked to audition for broadcasting positions because college softball was being televised more often and the networks were in need of knowledgeable analysts. She immediately fell in love with the job, and she was a natural. Broadcasting for baseball was not on her radar until the Women’s College World Series in 2007, when John Kruk, an MLB analyst for ESPN and former professional baseball player, joined her in the booth. She saw how he was able to analyze a game he had never played, but was still very familiar with, and it drove her to raise the bar for her career path. In 2014, she joined fellow baseball analysts for the first time at the College World Series.

As the first female analyst in professional baseball, Mendoza has received a lot of praise on her insight and skills in dissecting the game, but criticism as well. She was ready for any resistance that would occur to having a female voice in the broadcast booth, never letting it change her focus on being the best analyst possible.

With all of the pressure that society puts on girls to look or act a certain way, Mendoza encourages young women to stand out. “If you want to be great, own your differences. Stop trying to fit in.” She wants to keep the door wide open for future women to follow in the broadcast booth. Mendoza is a real life example of a girl who dreamed of something bigger than herself and achieved it. She encourages young girls to do the same, and to be fearless along the way. Her hard work and devotion to her craft illustrates what it means to be an Amazing Young Woman.

S’HERO COMMUNITY LEADER OF THE MONTH – RACHEL SCHLEICHER

Schleicher1Rachel Schleicher spent her summer in Haiti and Costa Rica on two separate service trips, instead of laying by the pool like the majority of kids her age. Both trips were life changing for Schleicher, who relished in the assistance she gave, and immersed herself in the culture of both countries. She has always been surrounded by a community service driven environment, becoming knowledgeable of global issues at a young age. The opportunity to help others and witness the struggles in person motivated Schleicher to help in any way she can, whether she was on a service trip or back home.

In June 2015, Schleicher traveled to Haiti on an organized trip through her middle school, Trinity Episcopal School in Charlotte, NC. It was here she saw first hand the outcomes of extreme poverty. It was an eye opening experience from the moment she arrived in the country. Her trip brought her to Wings of Hope, a home for children with disabilities in Haiti. In Haitian culture, children with disabilities are often abandoned, given up at an early stage of life.  It was heartbreaking for Schleicher who has a brother with autism, but she knew that she was meant to make this trip. Schleicher and her fellow missionaries ate meals, played games and even threw dance parties with the children at Wings of Hope. She formed a special bond with a girl named Josephine, diagnosed with cerebral palsy, but could light up a room with her smile and infectious laughter.  “I went to Haiti looking to help, and left being helped myself.  The children were inspiring and truly touched my heart.” said Schleicher. “I found a deeper purpose and look forward to continuing service work.”

Schleicher and her school also spent time at the St. Joseph’s Home for Boys, an orphanage in Haiti. The moment she arrived, she joined a group of boys playing soccer on the basketball court. She slowly bonded with them through the mutual love of the game. After a few hesitant passes, she was a part of the group.

The students left with only the clothes on their back, having donated the rest to the St. Joseph’s Home for Boys, a very humbling experience for Schleicher. “One of the biggest lessons I learned while in Haiti was the definition of a global citizen,” said Schleicher. “I want to offer as much support as I can to those in need.”

A few short weeks later, in mid-July, Schleicher traveled to Costa Rica for a second service trip. Unlike her trip to Haiti, she did not know any of her fellow volunteers. This adventure led her to a home stay with a Costa Rican family, where she embraced the culture and learned the language. Her time was filled with physical labor, such as gardening, constructing waterways to help prevent flooding, and working on the local school building. “I was so fortunate to have this opportunity. I would absolutely love to do it again if I get the chance,” said Schleicher. She was able to reflect on the type of person she wants to be through her efforts in Costa Rica, establishing a strong foundation to her character.

While on her service trip, Schleicher was informed that she was selected to represent the United States on the U14 Futsal National Team. Futsal is a modified version of soccer that is typically played indoors with five players on the field at a time. She tried out for the team in Charlotte, and then invited to the national

tryout, leading to her invitation to play in Costa Rica. The experience was almost surreal for Schleicher, “It hit me during our first game when we did the international walkout, with the American flag waving as the National Anthem burst out of the speakers.” After each game, both teams would take a picture together, and get a chance to talk to one another in a combination of Spanish and English. This was a true example of soccer uniting people from different cultures through the love of the game.

“She is a wonderful young lady, with a very strong independent and driven personality,” said Dan Dudley, the ECNL Director for Charlotte Soccer Academy about Schleicher. “Her maturity and character are clear to see, along with her will to make a difference in our community.” It was a transformative summer for Schleicher, and one she will never forget. Her hard work on and off the field is creating positive change for others, providing hope where it is needed. Schleicher’s caring nature and willingness to help others are just a few characteristics that make her an Amazing Young Woman.

S’Hero Awards is part of the Amazing Young WomenTM campaign designed to showcase strong, successful women who embody the leadership ideals first learned and developed on the soccer fields of their youth.  Through the awards, the ECNL is sharing stories, unifying women of all ages, and celebrating today’s young women as they prepare to become tomorrow’s leaders.   The ECNL is calling on all who love sports to join them in supporting youth female athletes as they recognize their own potential, define their individual paths to success, and prepare to be our next generation of leaders by visiting www.AmazingYoungWomen.com and using  #ECNLAYW to join the movement.

Studies have shown that driving factors behind girls dropping out of sports include social stigma and limited exposure to the inspirational journeys trailblazed by positive role models.  Too often player traits that are so valued by teams are not promoted as “beautiful” traits for young girls.  By age 14, girls are dropping out of sports at two times the rate of boys.  Amazing Young Women encourages young female athletes to embrace their ambitious, driven and competitive nature.  And those recognized asS’Heroes have taken a spirit of leadership and inspiration from the field, and have demonstrated that it’s not just about a phase of your life, but a way of life.

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About Amazing Young WomenTM:  Launched by the ECNL, the Amazing Young Women is a dynamic platform of online and local market activations that showcase and celebrate female role models offering an aspirational focus for all female athletes and teens as they prepare to be our next generation of leaders.  The ECNL is calling on all of the nation’s women to join the movement to celebrate the endless potential of today’s girls.

Women of all ages can share their personal moments of inspiration through social media and at www.AmazingYoungWomen.com.  Every share and submission helps drive a movement that celebrates the power of what it is to be a girl today.  Each month Amazing Young Women of the ECNL will be chosen from online submissions and social engagement to be showcased at AmazingYoungWomen.com.  Through testimonials, tips and tools, the website is providing all girls to view, share, and celebrate what it is to be motivated, strong, and successful.

About Elite Clubs National League: The Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) was founded in 2009 to enhance the developmental experience of female youth soccer players in the United States through: (i) Improving the competitive environment through creation of a true national competitive league; (ii) Improving the process for identifying elite female soccer players for the U.S. Soccer youth national teams through a systematic scouting and identification program based on national competitions; and (iii) improving the daily training environment at top female youth soccer clubs through developing best practices and training and organizational guidelines for its member clubs.  The ECNL is sanctioned by US Club Soccer and is sponsored by Nike Soccer.

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