UW Center for Leadership in Athletics

March 4, 2024

Our Space in Sport Recap

Thank you to everyone who was involved in the Our Space in Sport Conference! High School girl and non-binary athletes attended sessions highlighting inclusive movement, leadership, mental skills, nutrition, and physiology. This event would not have been possible without the passion and support of our guest speakers and sponsors. 

Event Sponsors: King County Play Equity Coalition, Opal: Food+Body Wisdom, Seattle University, Swire Coca-Cola, USA, WISE Seattle, Women of Washington.

Session Descriptions  

Keynote: Alison Mariella Désir Sport for Change

Discussing the power of sport as a vehicle for connection and social change. Participants should expect to be actively involved, as there will be some movement exercises and Q&A with the crowd.

Nutrition: Monika Van Winkle Connecting to Body Wisdom through Sports Nutrition

Practicing the fundamentals of sports nutrition can help every athlete honor their body’s strength and wisdom. Learn how to recognize diet culture and begin moving away from what our bodies look like toward all the amazing things our bodies allow us to do.

Physiology: Elizabeth Carey Knowing your body

A myth-busting primer on adolescent athlete body development and female athlete physiology, including periods, body changes and more.

Mental Skills: Sarah Smith Mental training skills for optimal performance.

Explore the research-based connection between mental training and sports performance, and then work on a few skills, including self-talk and visualization.  Athletes will come away from the talk with tools to reflect on their thinking before and during competitions.

Leadership: Dionna LeachHannah Olson Level Up Your Leadership!

Explore how your leadership style shows up while playing sports and ways that it might shift and change.  You will flex your leadership muscles and come away with your own “Power Statement” that you can use as an athlete!

Closing Panel Kara Ma, Kolo Suliafu, Rosalie Fish

Speaker Bios

Alison Mariella Désir is multi-talented: a founder, a doer, an activist, a connector, a visionary and an unapologetically straightforward communicator with a passion for movement, mental health, and racial equity. Alison got her start in the running and outdoor industry unintentionally, after seeing a Black friend train and complete a marathon. Inspired, Alison went on to run her first marathon and discovered that she had found a powerful tool to manage her depression. She’s been working to share the transformational power of running and movement ever since. Alison is the author of Running While Black and the tv host and producer of the award winning show, Out & Back w/ Alison Mariella Désir (now streaming). In 2023, Alison was named as one of the “45 Most Adventurous Women of the Past 45 Years” by Men’s Journal and one of the “Changemakers of 2023” by Well + Good.  Alison lives outside of Seattle with her partner, Amir Muhammad Figueroa, and their son, Kouri Henri Figueroa.

Monica Van Winkle, MS, RDN is the founder of Nutrition in Action (nutritioninaction.net), a Seattle-based private practice and is currently a performance nutrition consultant for Pacific Northwest Ballet and Seattle Pacific University Athletics. Monica recently co-founded The Embodied Athlete to address issues of under-fueling and overtraining in sport and dance. Previously, she was the Sports Dietitian for the Seattle Mariners (8 seasons) and the University of Washington Huskies (5 seasons), where she was also an affiliate faculty member for the University of Washington Physicians Sports Medicine Fellowship. Monica has a special interest in working with athletes who’ve sustained traumatic brain injuries. If she’s not in her office, look for her rambling somewhere through Pacific Northwest cedar and pine forest or reading up on how to tame her wild rescue pup, Franklin – his namesake is her favorite baseball player, of course.

Elizabeth Carey is an author, writer, and head cross-country coach and assistant track coach at Garfield High School in Seattle. She’s the author of GIRLS RUNNING: All You Need To Strive, Thrive and Run Your Best, with Melody Fairchild. Her work has been published by The New York Times, Outside, Runner’s World, Women’s Running, Trail Runner, SKI Magazine and DyeStat. An endurance coach since 2002, she’s USATF Level 1 and SafeSport certified, and ran Division I cross-country/track for Columbia University

Sarah Hirst Smith is a high school psychology and math teacher, a mental training consultant, a competitive rower, and a mom.  After earning an undergraduate degree in psychology and a teaching certificate, Sarah moved to Seattle to train full-time and made the US National Rowing Team in 2003, 2004, and 2005.  She then began coaching the Pocock junior girls team, who won and got second at US Youth Nationals in 2006 and 2007.  After a break from coaching to raise her twins, Sarah has gotten back into the rowing world through being a Volunteer AssistantCoach with the UW women’s team (2021-2023) and is now working as a mental training consultant with that team, as well as multiple teams at Seattle Academy, where Sarah is a full-time teacher.  In her spare time, Sarah loves backpacking with her dogs, Fozzie and Annie Sue,and her daughters.

Dionna Leach currently serves as the Director of Athletics and After-School programs at St. Thomas School in Medina, Washington. With a background that includes roles as diverse as Assistant Director of Athletics at Lakeside School in Seattle, health and fitness teacher, and student service coordinator, Dionna continues to commit to providing holistic education. Originally from Mill Creek, Dionna holds a bachelor’s degree in family psychology and earned her Master of Education in athletic administration from the University of Washington. She is dedicated to creating inclusive learning environments where every student feels valued and strongly believes in the power of education beyond traditional classrooms.Outside of work, she enjoys traveling with her family, attending sporting events, charcuterie board workshops, and exploring new coffee shops.

Hannah Olson, PhD holds a dual role within the University of Washington’s College of Education as Director of the Center for Leadership in Athletics (CLA) and Assistant Teaching Professor.  At the CLA, her primary area of expertise is within coaching education, developing research-based curriculum and courses for coaches and administrators. Hannah is the CLA’s team leader, lead facilitator, and primary project manager.  On the academic side of the house, she helps drive the Intercollegiate Athletic Leadership (IAL) M.Ed. program, teaching multiple courses, and is responsible for student advising, curriculum development, and internship management.  Additional teaching duties include undergraduate coursework focused on youth development through sport.  Prior to joining UW, Hannah worked in collegiate, interscholastic, and professional sports and has over 20 years of coaching experience.  She earned her M.Ed. (IAL) and Ph.D. (Educational Leadership and Policy Study) at the University of Washington and her B.A. (Psychology) from the University of Virginia.  She has two kiddos (6 & 8) who are the absolute best!

This conference would not have been possible without the generous support of the King County Play Equity Coalition. Learn more about their work here!