NGWSD Reflections: How ice hockey led NCSA President Lisa Strasman forward

In honor of this year’s National Girls & Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) theme, Lead Her Forward, the Women’s Sports Foundation is highlighting how sport impacted women in their careers and in their lives. Lisa Strasman played ice hockey at Yale University and professionally in Switzerland. She is currently the President of Next College Student Athlete, and reached out to the Women’s Sports Foundation to share her story in recognition of NGWSD. 

“You are different. You don’t belong here.”

That’s what I was told at 9 years old one morning as I lined up on the blue line. My teammate Jimmy thought his comment would send me – the only girl on our hockey team – packing. Little did he know that to the contrary, it would light a fire that would last a lifetime.

As a female in a male-dominated sport, I faced my fair share of adversity. However, my immense passion for the game helped me overcome the setbacks. I worked hard and blocked out the naysayers by focusing on one goal – to play the game I loved. Over time, my ambitions became loftier – make the varsity boys team, become team captain, play at a top academic DI college.

Every time a girl picks up a bat, kicks a ball or laces up her skates, she unlocks an entire world of potential.

I was on a clear path and knew exactly what I had to do to reach my next objective. Study hard for the upcoming test because that grade will matter to college coaches. Avoid that party because there’s a high probability the night will end badly. Hockey not only gave me a path, it offered a safe arena to take out my aggression. It also provided lifelong friends and a unique identity.

My career at Next College Student Athlete (NCSA) is simply the next phase of the path Jimmy inspired me to take all those years ago. My Yale University degree and experience got me hired in an entry level role at NCSA, and it’s the grit and leadership skills I honed on the ice and in the locker room that enabled me to rapidly advance to an executive level position. Today, as President of NCSA, I lead a team of 750+ former college athletes and coaches. We work tirelessly to help the next generation of high school student-athletes achieve their dreams of playing the sport they love in college. Each year, we help tens of thousands of young women pursue their passions and get recruited for 16 NCAA sports. I hope someday my daughter will be one of them.

National Girls & Women in Sports Day shines a light on our goal and symbolizes a larger movement. Every time a girl picks up a bat, kicks a ball or laces up her skates, she unlocks an entire world of potential. Studies have shown that sports give girls a greater sense of confidence, physical and emotional strength, character and leadership ability. I am honored to help female student-athletes accomplish their athletic and academic goals through my work at NCSA and I’m thankful for all the other leaders who inspire girls and women to embrace their athleticism.

Thirty years ago, Jimmy told me I was different. He was right. Through sport I have forged my own unique path. As more girls find their athletic identities and develop the strength and tools to reach their goals, the world becomes a better place.