Much like athletes, moms working in sports are faced with challenges that require similar strategies to those used on the playing field. We must come into each day organized and ready for what is ahead, maximize the use of available time, and be ready to adapt on the fly. In addition to these important preparations, we must also build a trustworthy and reliable team, as well as prioritize time to rest and reset for the next day. I have reflected on the key components of being a successful mom in sports at Navigate and I have spoken with other moms from collegiate and professional athletics. With their help, I am here to bring you some of our best strategies and tips for navigating a day in the life as an office athlete – better known as, a Mom in Sports.

One of the most important aspects of being an athlete is training and preparation prior to getting that precious time on the game clock. For Moms in Sports, this means doing everything possible to set ourselves, and our child(ren), up for a successful day. For some of us, that means setting the alarm clock to go off before the family is up, for others, it means taking time before bed to plan for the morning hustle. Whichever works best for you, the goal is to prepare your body, mind, and environment for what is to come. Dayna Pawelak from Pacers Sports & Entertainment says, “Do the things your future self will thank you for.” Every athlete lays the groundwork to take home the win, knowing that the hours, days, and weeks spent training will pay off in the end. For us, it may not be hours of training, but meal prepping, getting those dishes squared away and ready for the morning, or picking up that prescription refill during lunch can make a big difference in being poised to win the next day.

Dayna with her children, Finn and Sloane.

Once the game starts, priorities my vary, but the goal is the same – maximize the time available. We cannot add more time to the day, but we can always make conscious decisions that allow us to accomplish what needs to be done. For me, this means taking a step back and making sure my priorities are in order. Yes, there are things that need to be done, but some are better left until the end of the day. Dayna called things like the dishes and laundry “boomerang tasks,” because they will always come back around. Boomerang tasks can be hard to let go of, but these are precisely the things to put on the back burner when the time sensitive work project is calling, or when your little one needs help logging on for virtual school. Focus on what must be done now, and work on letting go of things that can wait until after the final buzzer has sounded.

As much as we prepare and prioritize, there will always be times when we face curveballs and unexpected challenges. This is where adaptability comes into play, and where we really flex our mom muscles. Sometimes this means changing the game plan for the day, sometimes it means playing multiple positions, sometimes it means coming up with a new play all together. I have found that these are the situations in which I grow the most as a mom and an employee. Skills and knowledge learned from these particularly challenging days always end up coming in useful down the road. These are times when we need to look around at our teammates, move forward with intention to keep the game going, and deliver for our jobs and for our families. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that adapting is more important than ever. It is invaluable to look at the big picture and communicate efficiently to get the job done. Lindsay Lew from University of Colorado Athletics says, “Build a strong foundation of trust with your team, from leadership all the way down, and communicate when you need something. Be there for your team in tough times and they will be there for you too.”

Lindsay with her boys, Jackson and Dylan.

The topic of adaptation leads perfectly into our next crucial component of being a Mom in Sports. Even through the preparation, organization, time management and adaptability, it would be madness to think every day is a win. The reality of being a Mom in Sports, is that we all still fall short occasionally. Team culture is going to make all the difference in the world. It is at this time that your team members need to know the playbook inside and out and share the same mindset and values. We put a great emphasis on our culture at Navigate, and I have found this more valuable than ever in my new season of life as a mother. While we all love to work hard toward our goals in the office, we are all human, and I have found that honest communication with your team is a crucial strategy when managing all that life can throw at you.

None of us can run full steam, full time, all day, every game. The final piece of being a successful Mom in Sports is finding what resonates with you to rest and reset for the next game. The key is to identify the self-care strategies that work for you. A game changer for Dayna has been outsourcing. She says, “Outsourcing can be a huge stress relief, whether it is a cleaning service or a meal delivery subscription. Don’t feel guilty for taking that leap if it takes something off your plate and helps you feel more accomplished.” Lindsay says, “Find your quiet moments, whatever feels good to you, throw in a load of laundry between meetings, or bake homemade bread because you love it. Find something that makes you happy and feels good to accomplish”. I love both recommendations because guilt is a big struggle for most moms. We often feel as if we need to be executing some grand, productive task in order to avoid missing out on productivity. Asking for help, hiring help, or even doing something simply because you truly enjoy it, are ways to fill up your own cup, which will allow you to give that energy back to your family and job.

When my journey of working in sports began almost 10 years ago, I had no clue how my coworkers who were Moms in Sports got it done. I was constantly inspired by their abilities in the office and in raising their families. Now that I am in the position myself, I realize it takes a great deal of hard work and determination. The system and strategy will look different from mom to mom, but we can all agree that Moms in Sports face a unique challenge each day, however it is all possible with a winning mindset and a championship team beside you.

Tess with her son, Finn, and baby #2 on the way!

Key Takeaways:

  • Family is the priority – build a strong foundation of trust and honesty with your team and be a part of an organization and culture that cares about you as a person and encourages a healthy work/life balance.
  • Outsource help and do not feel guilty removing those tasks from your plate to make room for other priorities.
  • Therapy/podcasts – find what speaks to you.
  • Do not glamorize the grind – work hard! But recharging and being there for yourself and your family are important to your wellbeing and will make you a better employee in the long run.
  • Read the book ‘I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time’ by Laura Vanderkam
  • Protect your time – block off some time in your calendar for the things you NEED to get done (i.e. doctor’s appointments or a can’t-miss school event for the kids).