Connecting with phenomenal people….EY Women Athletes Business Network 2017

Throughout 2017 I have been fortunate along with 24 other retired sportswomen from around the world to be in the EY Women Athletes Business Network. I have received some fantastic mentoring from a senior executive in the sports industry. My mentor Bronny has been fantastic in being open to my many questions and willing to share in her insightful life experiences in both her professional and personal life. She’s a go getter. An Aussie assassin and I love her for her constant drive combined with a real drive to help others.

As part of the programme all the mentees attended the Deedee Corradini Leadership Roundtable in Houston, Texas last week. It was a phenomenal experience on so many levels that I almost have to pinch myself about whether it was real or not. Following two days of Roundtable discussions with the group and passionate speakers we were then treated to being able to attend the IWF (International Womens Forum) Leadership Conference and Gala.

2017 EY WABN Mentees

The power of connection

The whole week was incredibly powerful and empowering. Besides all the little gems I am unpacking in my notes and wired brain, something really stood out for me.

When you meet people on a similar wavelength there is an incredible energy and connection.

Putting 25 sportswomen in a room all with strong personalities is risky! Naturally with athletes you have a competitive nature and a strong desire to come out on top (eeeeeeeekkk!!!!). It was quickly apparent that we all moved to the same rhythm, all respected each others missions and we keen to roll our sleeves up and get into it.

I consider these women pictured below and some of the others who were on the course BFF’s. I’ve been reflecting on what made us click so well and how I can continue to make powerful connections going forward???

Connecting with great women



When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and open we create a space for others to be too. As athletes we’re often afraid to do this for the fear that it may indicate weakness. This is so wrong. When we are vulnerable it creates growth. Vulnerability  makes others realise they’re not alone in similar experiences. In turn it inspires others to share and help those that may need it. Yes I get that for some this may be challenging, trust me I find it hard at times too!

Recently, I spoke at a High School Sports Awards and I shared about my experiences dealing with the sudden and unexpected death of my father at age 19. It’s not something I would usually speak about in a sports awards evening which I attend and speak at regularly. However with the encouragement of my Husband I decided I needed to be open about a devastating time in my life. After I spoke several students approached me saying that they’d had a similar experiences in losing a parent. It struck home to me, my willingness to share may not have gone in anyway to help their grief but it may have just said to one person, “you’re not alone”.

A week for the books connecting at the EY WABN Deedee Corradini Roundtable



When we truly listen we’re present. We are in the moment and engaged. One of the amazing things about our EY WABN Group was the way in which everyone provided a safe listening space without judgement. We’re all guilty of at times drifting off when someone is speaking to us. Regardless if the person is a boring bat or not, allowing someone the space to listen can create a better connection in a communication exchange.

Allowing someone the opportunity to engage with you to tell their story is a gift in itself. I know this will create more meaningful conversations and connections as a result. You will never know about someones incredible qualities until you listen to what they have to say. Take down your own filters, be free from judgement and let the other person rip. It’s incredible what you’ll find out.


Shannon Willougby and Myself with Legend Donna de Varona. So cool to be in Houston with Shannon who is also from Rotorua. Shannon is a Rugby World Champion with the Black Ferns, an E-Commerce Entrepreneur & Expert, a Pilot and an a real inspiration to me (and many others). Pretty cool for two chicks from a town of 70,000 to be part of this group and meet trail blazers like Donna.


When you have aligned values with others and organisations it creates synergy. We’re defined by our values and they’re created from those defining moments in our lives. Obviously as retired sportswoman we had a common thread but that doesn’t necessarily indicate similar principles and standards. The cultures and belief systems were diverse in the room with 10 different countries represented. When it came down to it though, we found that our ingrained value systems were certainly comparable. I overheard in one session “I never knew the values of Croatia and Japan could be so similar!”

One of the key learnings from Houston for me was when we have aligned values with others and organisations we’re committed to, we play from a powerful place. For those currently not getting the work satisfaction or personal satisfaction in a relationship, I would suggest to look at your values against the other persons or organisation. Values are important to you and how you operate. If you’re compromising your values you’re playing small. To align your values may require change.


Connecting reflections going forward

In Houston I meet and was introduced to some phenomenal humans. Women who had incredibly successful careers in business, media, academia, science, technology, arts, politics and of course sport. These people were very willing to share and to listen which was awesome. It was the start of long relationships which I am extremely grateful for.

To create lasting and meaningful relationships requires certain factors. Engagement through open communication is a skill that might come naturally to some but for others requires work. Given my experiences of last week and the 24 sisters I now have around the world I could strongly encourage taking a jump towards creating a space to allow for powerful connected relationships. It might not always come off but I can tell you when it does, it’s an amazing feeling.


**I’ll be doing a few more posts about some of the inspirational women I meet in the future. I learnt a lot from how they operate and I’m sure you will to!

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2 Responses to Connecting with phenomenal people….EY Women Athletes Business Network 2017

  1. Michelle H November 1, 2017 at 7:20 am #

    Brilliant words Sarah

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