Hold a celebration of what it’s like to be a female athlete. Check.

That was the goal Wednesday, Aug. 22, at Centennial High School’s first-ever Female Athlete Symposium. The five-hour event for girls entering grades 8-12 was held in the Performing Arts Center with a keynote speaker, as well as several breakout sessions discussing the topics of growth mindset, yoga, handling defeat, nutrition/health and guided imagery.

The panel included Michelle Kline, Cheryl Wood, Sarah Austin, Darcy Rylander, Melia Cotter and Lauren Thrift.

The woman behind it all, Community Education Director Cori Sendle, wanted the more than 200 girls attending to be “proud of what they do and their accomplishments,” and for them to know that it’s “not about winning, [it’s about] becoming a better person.”

Kline, a Centennial graduate and former Olympic speed skater, started off the day as the keynote speaker. As she spoke about what it took to be a two-time Olympic athlete, she said she was thrilled to be back in her hometown. Her topics included goal setting, visualization, relaxation and being proud in doing that best that you can. “Both life and sport is going to be filled with ups and downs, but remember your big dreams. Paint your picture and be comfortable in your own skin. Big dreams can come true for young girls in small communities,” Kline affirmed.

Centennial’s own athletic trainer, Cheryl Wood, presented on athlete self-care. Wood provides sports medicine services and has built strong bonds with her athletes.

“Their health is my priority, and I’m always willing to share my expertise in injury prevention and management. While practice and training are important to the success of an athlete, teaching girls to care for their minds and bodies allows them to recharge so they can maximize their efforts, both in school and athletics. Self-care is a lifelong skill. You can’t fill someone else’s cup if your cup is empty,” Wood noted.

Darcy Rylander from Allina Health spoke about the importance of healthy stress management skills for a more positive outlook on life. “Everyone is affected by stress at one time or another, and it can feel overwhelming. With the right tools, teens can learn early on how to manage stress before it takes a toll on their health,” she said. 

Allina Health created Change to Chill™ (CTC,) which is a free online resource that educates young adults about stress reduction techniques, mindfulness, guided imagery, gratitude and meditation.

Rylander continued, “I want the girls to leave the session with an easy, effective strategy to help them build resilience and increase their coping strategies. These tools and ways of thinking, acting and believing will help teens through life’s ups and downs.”

Speaker Melia Cotter discussed growth mindset and handling defeat. Cotter is a social worker and Crossfire Club volleyball coach. Her dedication toward the development of strong, mindful women led her to take advantage of the opportunity to teach on a larger platform.

“Our perspectives and opinions on things shape the way we see the world. With the increase in mental illness and suicide rates, I want youth to understand they are in control of their thoughts and their brain. When we have a growth mindset, losses allow us to grow and learn from the experience versus feeling defeated,” she explained.

The female athletes then sessions on building community, teamwork skills, and how to resolve conflicts when they arise. Lauren Thrift from Mediation Services for Anoka County led activities for the girls to participate in.

“It’s important to be able to work well with people even if you don’t get along so you can achieve the common goal. We want the athletes to reflect on the importance of good teamwork and think about how to build a strong team and resolve conflict as it arises,” explained Thrift.

The day ended with a panel of Centennial alumnae composed of female athletes who answered questions the girls had for them. As the day wrapped up, one student said, “I have never felt so motivated in my entire life. I feel like I can do anything.”

Sendle thanked Centennial Area Education Foundation, Festival in Blaine, the Slipka Foundation, Xtreme Sports and Aldi for their contributions to the event.

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