May S’Hero | Andrea Perez
RICHMOND, VA (May 16, 2017) – The Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) today announced Andrea Perez as the May S’Hero of the Month award recipient for individual and community leadership. As part of the Amazing Young WomenTM movement, the ECNL is sharing the stories of S’Heroes who are role models for our nation’s young female athletes who are balancing their drive to become elite athletes with the pressures of fitting in with social peers.
S’Heroes are a part of the Amazing Young WomenTM campaign designed to showcase strong, successful women who embody the fact that drive on the soccer field translates into life lessons. 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 using the hashtag #UNSHAKABLE.
Studies have shown that driving factors behind girls dropping out of sports include limited exposure to the inspirational journeys trail blazed by positive role models, and social stigma; where player traits that are so valued by teams are often not promoted for young girls. By age 14, girls are dropping out of sports at two times the rate of boys 1. The Amazing Young Women campaign encourages young female athletes to embrace their competitive nature, and prove they cannot be shaken from the path to their dreams. Those recognized as S’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.
“The focus of an elite athlete is to be the best when you compete, striving to raise the bar every time you play,” said Jen Winnagle, ECNL Commissioner. “The ECNL provides a platform for young women to embrace their talents both on and off the field, helping to develop and motivate these amazing athletes to reach new heights through all phases of life.”
Andrea Perez would run past the Nike office in Guadalajara, Mexico, dreaming that one day she could work her way into a career at the world-renowned company. What was once a childhood dream quickly became a reality. Anyone who knows Perez understands her unwavering drive and demand of perfection from herself and those around her. It is this inner passion and belief that led her down a path to her current position as the General Manager for North America Nike Soccer.
Perez is an advocate for women helping other women, and passionate about empowering women and girls. The need to give to others led her to serving as a Board Member for the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF), the leading authority on participation of women and girls in sports. In addition to serving on the Board for WSF, Perez also participates with the Nike Community Impact Fund (NCIF) as a member of the Employee Grant Selection Committee. The NCIF invests in local programs that promote sports and physical activity for youth and address pressing community needs in cities where Nike Community Stores are located.
Perez is a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, growing up alongside her sister in a neighborhood full of boys. Sports were not popular for girls in western Mexico, but that did not stop the Perez sisters from staying active and playing a variety of pickup sports in the street. The opportunity to play on an organized team did not come around until Perez entered high school and even then, it was tough to find consistency. They had to play with and against a mixture of high school and college students because neither age bracket could field an entire team on their own. It was an easy sacrifice to make in order to play the beautiful game in a structured environment.
It was not until a specific episode in a popular Mexican soap opera aired that cultural views started to shift. In the show young women were playing soccer, depicting the strong values of the sport and the ability for women to partake in the art of the game. The transition had begun, but it is an ongoing process and not something that changes overnight.
Perez was always a fan of sports, playing any and every sport from soccer to baseball to basketball and football in her adolescence. In high school she picked up volleyball and joined the swim team as well. She never met a sport she did not try, being an athlete was part of her DNA.
Perez continued her athletic career in college at Technologico de Monterrey, playing both soccer and softball while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Marketing. She learned a lot about time management while balancing her life as a student and an athlete, building her passion for a career in sports.
Perez lived and breathed sports, engrained so much into the industry as an athlete and passionate supporter. Her sights had been set on working for Nike since she was a child, with the specific dream of working in the marketing arm. She spent her adolescence dreaming of the future and what she would become, letting her imagination wander and even making her own Nike ads in her notebook. By the time she entered the college scene, her focus remained the same. She went on to earn her marketing degree, making a name for herself when the General Manager of Nike Mexico came to speak.
“I have a big mouth.” Perez said about how she got her foot in the door at Nike. After some convincing, she swayed one of her professors to take her class to the Nike presentation about family values in place of class. During the Question & Answers session at the end of the presentation, Perez stood up and asked a simple question, “How can I get a job at Nike?” That got the attention of the General Manager, prompting him to speak with her one-on-one after the presentation concluded. Perez’s fearless nature and self-confidence put her in this position, landing her an interview with Nike shortly after.
She interviewed for two different positions with Nike and came up empty handed before landing her initial job as an assistant for the Marketing Director. Perez has been working her way up the ladder with Nike ever since, absorbing as much as she can from every job opportunity. Her initial position was based out of Guadalajara, but she soon found herself relocating to Nike Headquarters in Portland, Oregon.
“Part of the passion for me is wanting to constantly learn and be better. I encourage people to give me feedback all the time so I can improve. I am also just passionate about learning in general,” Perez said about her path of success within the company. “I have been in several roles within Nike, some of them I went into knowing absolutely nothing, including my very first job. I got through it and progressed because of my passion to be great, and belief that I would succeed. This coupled with being in the right place at the right time led me to my current position.”
Perez credits her managers and mentors along the way with not only supporting her growth, but providing opportunities to continue working in new and exciting areas in the company. Nike also proved very supportive in Perez as an employee, arranging for her to get her Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from Dartmouth University’s Tuck School of Business. This was not only a new challenge for Perez, but a chance to continue learning and networking to better herself as a business professional.
Several factors have contributed to Perez’s success. First, her experience with Nike thus far has taught her how to get outside of her comfort zone and continue to learn to fully understand the industry. Second, attending graduate school and earning a master’s degree prepared her for the next level in management within one of the most powerful brands in the world. Finally, her athletic history taught her how to be resilient and the value that sport has to offer both on and off the field.
“There is no better preparation [for the business world] than being an athlete,” Perez said about her experience in both youth and collegiate athletics. “You learn different leadership techniques, all of which you will utilize at every level in your career. Whether you are the captain of the team, or under the radar, the work rate you exude will speak for itself. I can remember several times where I was the worker bee, going above and beyond what was asked, because I knew it was in the best interest of the team. Being an athlete teaches you how to balance and prioritize life, learning how to tackle obstacles and learn from setbacks together. All of which directly relates to the business world.”
Nike has provided Perez enormous opportunities, in which she has taken full advantage in her career. Along with progressing within the corporate world, she is involved with community engagement organizations with similar philanthropic ideologies. Perez has participated in several projects and causes that have partnered with Nike, such as Soccer for Success and the Nike Community Impact Fund. In addition, she recently began working with the Women’s Sports Foundation.
“I am a firm believer in the power of sport to unleash human potential,” Perez said about her work with different organizations and projects that serve the community. “It is the reason why I continue to connect with organizations that believe in the same ideals.”
One of the first community service projects that Perez became involved with was Soccer for Success which brought together three organizations: Nike, United States Soccer Foundation and the Mia Hamm Foundation. The goal of Soccer for Success was to provide youth in East Los Angeles that did not have access to sports, an opportunity to play. Soccer for Success program coincided with the opening of the Nike East Los Angeles Community Store. Through Nike grants, the Soccer for Success program was able to focus specifically on offering girls the opportunity to play soccer during a World Cup year. Perez was lucky enough to attend the opening day, witnessing some of the first activations for the program and being a part of the true beginning.
Another community service initiative Perez became involved in was the Nike Community Impact Fund. Over $3.2 million worth of grants have been given out in the Portland area because of the fund’s initiative, expanding the reach to allocate community dollars to programs such as Soccer for Success. The purpose of NCIF is to find community-based solutions for community problems; 80% through the sport lens and 20% through any other lens. An annual application process leads to two Nike employees being selected to award grants to local organizations in need.
The Oregon Community Foundation plays a role in training the Nike employees, guiding them on ways to identify potential organizations to support. Grants range from $5,000 to $20,000, so a lot of thought goes into the application review process. Many of the grants this past year ended up going to soccer-based organizations, solidifying the impact soccer has on multiple communities. The beautiful game plays a large role in unifying diverse groups, which Perez views as a very important need in the world today.
Perez also spends her time supporting the Women’s Sports Foundation as a current Board Member. The foundation is all about women helping women. The WSF was founded by Billie Jean King in 1974 and is dedicated to creating leaders by providing girls access to sports. Several past ECNL S’Hero award recipients, including Jess Mendoza, Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm and Angela Hucles, have been involved in the foundation as well. Perez began her first term as a Board Member in 2016, and is excited about all the work that has yet to be done surrounding women and girls equality in sport.
Creating opportunities for girls to have access to play sports is extremely important to Perez. She strives to be a voice for other females, and to motivate the next generation about career opportunities after athletics. It all starts with the values instilled by sports and the accessibility to play, no matter your gender, race or economic class.
While Perez wears numerous hats in the sports world, Nike has given her a powerful platform where she has been able to enact positive change in communities around the country.
“I hope to inspire more young women and girls to make their dreams a reality. We live in a world where inequality is not a rarity. As a Latin American woman, it is important to me to be an example for women, especially the minority,” Perez said about her future endeavors and goals. “If I can do anything in my life, I want to inspire others to be fearless and live their dreams. Whether it is sharing knowledge of certain skills I have learned along my journey, through marketing campaigns or by mentoring others to believe in their abilities, I want to invest in others. One of my strengths is connecting people with the opportunity to launch into the next challenge, giving them the motivation and tools to succeed. I feel like my mission in life is to continue to give to others, and if I can live that on a daily basis I will continue to live my happiness.”
Perez has used her platform to fight for youth all over the nation to have access to sport, helping to empower women to be the next generation of leaders. Her desire to continue to learn and grow in the work place paired with her compassion for those in the community earned Andrea Perez the ECNL S’Hero of the Month recognition. Good luck to Perez as she continues her mission to grow the game of soccer, using sport to enact positive social change and influencing other Amazing Young Women along the way.
About Amazing Young WomenTM: The Amazing Young Women campaign 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 where they defined what it is to be #UNSHAKABLE through elevated stories and social media. Every share and submission helps drive a movement that celebrates the power of what it is to be a girl today.
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 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.
For media enquiries:
- Girls drop-out at different rates depending on where they live. Sabo, D. and Veliz, P. (2008). Go Out and Play: Youth Sports in America. East Meadow, NY: Women’s Sports Foundation.