5-time WFA champion Adrienne Smith founded Gridiron Queendom to create more opportunities for girls and women in football and other professional sports. Ahead, Smith shares with Blogher, her outspoken advocacy for women in sports, and continued work to create an environment where young girls can play the sports they want to and thrive at it.
Also ahead, is a snippet of her recent conversation with SHE Media CEO Samantha Skey on the importance of media coverage for women in sports.
Tell us about your sports career. What teams do you play for?
It’s been an exciting journey! The first sport I loved was football, when at the age of 3, I tackled my teddy bear, Ginger while watching the NFL on Sundays. I also played softball and basketball growing up, and as an only child, I enjoyed team sports and all the fun and camaraderie teams offered. After many years of working, living abroad, and getting my MBA, I started playing women’s tackle football in New York City in 2006, and in 2010 I was selected as one of 45 women to represent the country as part of the U.S. women’s national tackle football team. I was also selected for the USA women’s national flag football team. Needless to say, I fell in love with the sport of women’s football and have been proud to be a part of its heightened visibility. In 2011, I started playing for the women’s tackle football team in Boston, currently named the Boston Renegades. I’ve won five championships with them, and look forward to winning more!
What is the mission of Gridiron Queendom?
I founded Gridiron Queendom in 2013 with the mission to create more opportunities in football and pro sports for women and girls. The idea came from a gap my football teammates and I all noticed: the need for greater awareness and opportunities for females in football. All the wonderful women that I had met from around the world as a member of the U.S. women’s national tackle and flag football teams were the inspiration for this as well. I wanted to create an entity that supported women and girls worldwide in their football and sports careers, whether as a hobby or professionally.
As a leading athlete, you’ve been very outspoken about championing the success of women in sports and getting more inclusion. In a recent interview with SHE Media CEO Sam Skey at TEDx Queens Village, you talked about your passion for this mission. Tell us about it.
I echo Sam Skey’s sentiments completely about the importance of championing the success of girls and women. Sports provide opportunities and experiences that are invaluable in life. Inclusion goes well beyond just the context of a game, or equal pay—it’s a way of looking at the world. It’s important that girls partake in those team experiences, and learn leadership skills, coping mechanisms, and attitude when playing sports, especially team sports. The skills girls learn when playing sports will serve them forever—at home, school, at work, and in life.
How does Gridiron Queendom support women and girls?
Gridiron Queendom is a community for female tackle and flag football players of all ages. Through our website, we offer events and programs, as well as news and articles that highlight the achievements that women and girls are making in football, whether on the field as players or on the sidelines as coaches. We also deliver programs alongside names like Jen Welter and other well-known leaders in the industry. From the Pop Warner level, all the way up to the WFA and NFL, Gridiron Queendom is a great place to learn and participate in all things football.
You also have other business notably the card game Blitz Champz. Tell us about it.
Blitz Champz is the ultimate card game for football fans ages 7 and up, and makes a fantastic gift or stocking stuffer for the holidays! I created Blitz Champz, which features 100 vibrantly illustrated cards showcasing diverse male and female players, by blending my passions for football and education (the game is also used as a fun, math learning tool in classrooms!). We are now offering custom Blitz Champz decks as well, meaning you can put your favorite photo on the back of every card in the deck. Blitz Champz has also inked a licensing deal with the NFL to offer branded decks featuring the logos of each of the 32 teams in the league starting in 2023. Check out the Blitz Champz website for more information.
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As a full-time athlete and entrepreneur with multiple projects, how do you maintain a strong and diligent work ethic?
My mom and dad were both teachers with a high standard and strong work ethic—so I was raised that way! My parents taught me to see things through, meaning if I started a task, I absolutely had to complete that task regardless of what interruptions or unforeseen circumstances may occur in life. This has served me well as an entrepreneur and athlete.
What do you do when you need inspiration or motivation?
When I need to settle down and create calmness in my spirit and mind, nothing beats a walk through nature; I live near a gorgeous part of Central Park in New York City where I have trails that I love. When I need motivation, I listen to hip-hop music and dance. When I need joy, I watch Instagram reels of babies and puppies. Of course, nothing beats watching a great football game to bring excitement and thrills into your day, as well!
What are your go-to productivity tools?
Maybe it’s a habit left over from my business school days, or maybe it’s just who I am, but I love spreadsheets! I keep track of all my projects using a simple spreadsheet. Another tool I use is a sleep app to keep track of how long I’m sleeping, and of course, who can resist the allure of your phone’s built-in nutrition and exercise apps? I work out year-round, but depending on whether I’m in football season or not, I like to make sure I get a minimum amount of fitness and good nutrition each day to keep my body (and mind) in tip-top shape.
Where can the BlogHer audience watch your games and follow your projects?!
I would love to connect with BlogHer readers! You can follow me on Instagram at @adriennethe10, and check out my football games directly via the Boston Renegades’ Facebook page from April through July which is the WFA’s (Women’s Football Alliance) football season.
What are you looking forward to in the coming year?
I’m looking forward to winning another championship with the Boston Renegades, and to introducing the NFL-branded Blitz Champz decks to football fans throughout the country. I often give talks at universities and corporate groups on winning on and off the field, working with people to help them become happier, more productive, and more effective in what they do. I’m also looking forward to meeting and inspiring more girls and young women to play football, be the best you can be, and follow your dreams.