Desperate to network and fill a social void created by quarantine during the coronavirus pandemic, Syd Large asked from Milwaukie if someone on the Sports as a Job weekly Twitter chat would like to join her on a Zoom call.
Across the country in Phoenix, Alana Meraz responded with a GIF that indicated that she was interested.
What started as a networking call between women with careers in sports ending up being much more. Large and Meraz’s relationship quickly blossomed into a friendship and then a few months later, they together created a social media community that would grow just as strong and as fast.
Support Women in Sports was born.
It started as a sticker that said — you guessed it — “Support Women in Sports” created by Large and approved by Meraz. Each word in the sticker has its own color, ‘support’ (navy blue), ‘women’ (pink), ‘in’ (light blue), ‘sports’ (orange). ‘Women’ is written in a beautiful scroll and the ‘o’ in ‘support’ and ‘sports’ feature a basketball and a baseball.
The sticker, which Large posted on Twitter and thought she would sell about five of, blew up. Almost 100 people ordered the sticker between 5 p.m. and the time Large went to bed.
The stickers’ success pushed Large to create an online environment where women in sports, like her and Meraz, can celebrate, encourage and relate to each other. Good vibes only is the No. 1 rule.
“I started to realize there was a real need for an online community of women in sports,” Large said. “A lot of sports professionals are pretty active on Twitter, and there’s a lot of great sports communities on Twitter but I never saw one focused on women in sports.”
So she created one.
Large graduated from the University of Minnesota in the spring of 2020 with a degree in sports management. Her position on the Gophers women’s rowing team was the coxswain which is “the short person that yells at everybody in the boat.” Large recently earned a job at Opendorse in Lincoln, NE as their social media manager.
Meraz earned her undergraduate degree in Sports Business with a minor in event management from Arizona State University. She then attended graduate school in Spain studying sports management and law. Her dream position is to be the special events coordinator for Major League Baseball.
The duo compliments each other perfectly.
“I’m very visionary and she’s very organizational,” Large said. “So it’s nice how we really balance each other out.”
July 7, 2020, marked the day of the first tweet from the official Support Women in Sports Twitter account.
Just a sticker that's starting a whole community of uplifting women & highlighting their accomplishments in the sports industry 🙂 pic.twitter.com/AHSDsghtvV
— Support Women in Sports (@SupportWSports) July 7, 2020
They sold out of stickers on July 12. Each sticker is delivered with a hand-written ‘thank you’ note from Large.
On July 15, the account had 1,000 followers. It is now up to 4,500 in a matter of three months and still climbing rapidly.
One week after Support Women in Sports hit 1,000 followers, the sports community was shocked with the news that 15 women who worked at Washington’s N.F.L. team claimed they experienced sexual harassment by several team executives and personnel over the course of more than a dozen years.
“Really listening to the community there and saying like ‘hey this is a really safe space’ [and] ‘we’re here to uplift other women in the industry’ kind of set our voice and tone for the account,” Large said.
Support Women in Sports wants to highlight the good things women are doing in sports and inspire the next generation of young women to chase after their dreams. However, it does not shy away from the difficulties of being a woman in a male dominate field.
In response to the allegations against Washington football team executives, the account tweeted a poll that asked “Ladies, have you ever experienced harassment while working in or competing in sports?” Of the 216 women that voted, 76.9% said ‘Yes’.
The community of women in sports was able to process and talk about their experiences in a safe space.
Another way the account gives women the opportunity to tell their stories is through the ‘Amplifying Women’s Voices’ form. Women can submit a statement about their story and it will be shared via Support Women in Sports.
— Support Women in Sports (@SupportWSports) September 15, 2020
“It’s like unlike any social account I’ve ever run before because it’s really community-driven,” Large said. “We pride ourselves on listening to our community and stating really fluid with our community and listening to their wants and needs and tapping into what they like.”
The account continued to gain more traction.
The T-shirts sales that began Aug. 10, helped the platform to 3,000 followers in one month.
Meraz and Large knew they need to do something big to continue the upward momentum of their platform. Meraz was adamant that hosting a podcast was the best next step for Support Women in Sports. Large’s lack of experience with podcast held her back at first but eventually, her friend convinced her.
“I love the podcast,” Large said. “The podcast is probably one of my favorite parts of the platform now.”
Some of Large’s favorite guests on the 12 podcast episodes to date are Anya Packer, the director of the National Women’s Hockey League Player Association and Chelsea Suitos, merchandising manager for softball and baseball at Nike. Another favorite is an episode about Hudl, a service that helps teams improve using video. A guest that was particularly memorable for Meraz was Alexis Mansanarez, who writes about the WNBA for The Athletic and is a fellow sneakerhead.
“It’s really a library for women in sports to come and listen and hear other women in sports talk about talk about their stories, their experiences and how it came about,” Meraz said.
The newest adventure for Support Women in Sports is a Creative Fund. Announced on Oct. 7, the Creative Fund will consist of the money from the sales of special edition holographic stickers.
A Letter to the Support Women in Sports Community:
Thank YOU all for your support and we want to continue to grow and make an impact at such a rapid rate. pic.twitter.com/tEuhbw4Ojd
— Support Women in Sports (@SupportWSports) October 7, 2020
“Unpaid creatives is a very common theme in this industry,” Large said.
The Creative Fund aims to combat this theme by paying people to create designs for the Support Women in Sports platform.
As for the future of the platform?
“Have a website where we can do a lot more journalism type work,” Large said. “So hopefully more people will be able to share stories in a really awesome space.”
Large also wants to have 10,000 followers before the end of the year. Meraz is on board for both of these goals and would also like to have a Zoom or in-person meeting with people in the community they created through Support Women in Sports.
Meraz and Large, an unlikely pair who met only by a “happy accident”, are cultivating a social media platform that is taking the sports community by storm and creating a positive space for women in sports to uplift each other.
“There’s so many bad vibes that come out of being a woman in sports, that we just want to tune out the hate,” Meraz said. “Yes, we will talk about those issues that are happening in sports, but also will reinforce it with the positivity and the community that we have found within creating Support Women in Sports.”