Melis Abacıoğlu | Kızlar Sahada: Life Lessons from the Soccer Field

Melis Abacıoğlu | Kızlar Sahada: Life Lessons from the Soccer Field



I'll talk about soccer It means a lot to 3 billion people on the world. who happen to be fans. But, what does it mean to you? Is it a source of crisis about who will get to watch what and what room. or is it something you love with a passion I believe that soccer is a tool to challenge perspectives To me and I hope for the thousand women who joined " Kızlar Sahada" in the passed 2 years. Soccer is a tool to empower yourself, and others. So, let me take you back to 2012. This is me at 26. As a math and artistry double major, I decided that being a manager in healthcare industry was not the right path -so to say- career choice for me to follow So I said, ok, What's my real passion? So, around that time, I discovered that my real burning passion is for supporting people to become physically active. I followed that passion, and I started my own corporate wellness company to help companies organize sport events for their employees. I thought all Turkish companies would line up in front of my door, like knock on my door and be like "Oh my god, you have the best services and I wanna get your services!" That did not happen like that. So well, I was pondering, I was happening a friend of mine, Sera, gives me a call. She says: "Hey, let's play soccer tonight" I didn't know it was destiny calling me I just casually said: "Ok, let's play" Well it turns out It was destiny calling me That night, I played soccer for the first time in my life. 17 other women and me, On Akatlar soccerfield. It felt fantastic. You know why? Because through out life I was scared to look like too ambitious for anything, because then people would not love me. They would think that I was greedy, stubborn, gold-getter, hard-hearted bitch, so to say. I was so scared to look like I was ambitious for anything. I was scared to death to give %100 to anything in my life. Because I thought it would not be cool. So that night I played as part of a team and I realized that being a part of a team, It's ok to be eager to win. It's ok to want to win so badly that you put everything onto that field. Because it's not for yourself. It's for the team. Then you can be really ambitious. And that's a perspective shift. That really inspired me. I went back home, and at home, I felt invincible Even though we lost 62 at that game and I promised, I will offer this platform to every single woman out there. I will give them a chance to go onto the field. So, the story of "Kızlar sahada" "Woman's on the fields" started. Kızlar Sahada is a soccer tournament for women. In the passed 2 years about thousand women from 46 corporate and individual teams joined the tournament. This year will be extending the tournaments to high schools students The tournaments also funds non-for-profits. With those funds, we help train families in gender equality and fund pre-school education of girls. There are many many stories of empowerments and perspective shifts at Kızlar Sahada. I would like to share 2 stories with you tonight. Please meet Barış Karakullukçu. She is the CEO of Mudo. Mudo played as part of "Kızlar Sahada" tournament in 2014. And Barış Hanım was a part of the team. She played. You might think she was the team captain. But no, she was not the team captain. The team captain was Funda Aydın. She's 24 years old and she's not the CEO. She works at one of the stores of Mudo as a sales consultant. and when she was employed for 2 months at Mudo. Barış Hanım approached Funda, and said "Funda you know what? You really have a passion for soccer. Why don't you lead our team of Kızlar Sahada, at the tournament?" I find that very inspiring. Mudo came second last year in the tournament. But I think, they are truly pioneered in changing our perspectives. In questioning what leadership really means and what hierarchy really means. Here is another story. It is the story of Şükriye. Şükriye gave me a call about a year ago in March 2014. When she gave us a call, She was very soft-spoken, she asked about the tournaments. We gave her information. and then, at one point, she said: "You know I'm not really sure can I really build the team, would the HR department allow us build the team?" You know she really had questions and during that month she gave us several calls. -I would say- And then at the end of those several calls She gives us a call and she says: "Hey, I builded the team, I got approval, Now, you can come to our company, give us a speech about what we should do next." So, we go racing to the company, going to the meeting room. 12 women in the room waiting for us. And then I remember There are 2 of us and I am like "Ok, why are you here?" And the woman to my left says: "I am here for Şükriye." and wow! She really convinced them. And then I asked the woman to her right. And then she says too: "I am here to support Şükriye." And the next one says: "I am here for Şükriye." Other one says: "I am here for Şükriye." The other one says: "I am here for Şükriye." It turns out everyone in the room is there for Şükriye. I was so impressed by this Because she's never been on a soccer field before, she's never played soccer before. But she was so inspired by it She really convinced everyone in the company and she builded a team. The most beautiful part of the whole story comes here: The team that Şükriye built went onto quarter finals. Out of a team, of Şükriye supporters, became a true real team. Out of Şükriye, who's very soft-spoken on the phone, became a roaring team captain. In her words, I will put it in her words, She says: "She found out that she can achieve anything if she can show enough passion to convince people to support her." At Kızlar Sahada, she felt like a true winner. A perspective shift can go a long long way And I think Şükriye is the perfect example for it. So, in the beginning of the talk I told you, you know, we were waiting for 3 months and nothing happened Now, Actifit is actually solid business. and I have an incredible team with me. and there are here tonight. We dream that, one day, We will reach not only a hundred teams but thousands teams in Turkey. We dream of a future We're thousands of women get the experience of team spirit through Kızlar Sahada and push their comfort zones. We dream of our children growing up thinking they and everyone around them regardless of their gender they can play any sports they fancy we dream of a world We are fathers, mothers and partners support the women they love. Whatever passion they're following be soccer or anything else. Now imagine yourself on the field Put the shoes on and give that ball a kick Imagine the thrill of pushing your comfort zone and imagine the change that will follow it. We imagine that everyday for you. For every women who is sitting in front of us. Join us in the game and join us in challenging perspectives. Thank you.

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