Female athletes from Iowa are special in many ways; here at the IGHSAU we work to recognize the “Iowa Girl” and share our enthusiasm for the good that she represents. There is something unique in every Iowa Girl, whether that be leadership, dedication or compassion. Each one has a story worth sharing.
Welcome to the Iowa Girl Project. Join fellow Iowa Girl Mia Laube as she shares the stories of Iowa Girls who are taking the skills they learned through their education and athletic career above and beyond. These women are making a positive impact on their communities, big and small. They inspire the next generation to compete in sports and conquer the challenges ahead.
Proud to be an Iowa Girl!
Iowa Girls INSPIRE GROWTH.
Not every girl is lucky to grow up with the support system she needs. Realizing this, Erica Douglas created She Plays, a nonprofit that works to empower female athletes across the state of Iowa.
Erica Douglas was very fortunate to grow up with a coach in her household.
Douglas, an Ames High School graduate, went on to run track and field at Iowa State, where her father, Steve Lynn, was the men’s coach.
“As an athlete, I always had my dad,” Douglas said. “He was always a positive influence in my life.”
Following in his footsteps, she became an assistant track and field coach at Waukee High School for over a decade. While she was part of the program, she helped coach the team to numerous state titles and Drake Relays appearances.
This is where the idea for She Plays was born.
“When I became a coach myself, I realized that not everybody has somebody they can turn to like [my dad],” Douglas said. “It was really after my dad passed away that I worked to make sure I carried his legacy on.”
She Plays began as a blog, social media presence and provider of mindset tips, and it slowly grew into a powerful mentoring resource for female athletes.
“Girls need somebody that says, ‘I’ve been there, I see you, and you’re going to be okay,’” Douglas said.
She travels to speak at schools, hosts events for coaches and meets one-on-one to do what she describes as “goal-setting and mentoring” sessions.
Everything she does is to give athletes the most positive experience possible, and it’s paying off. She uses the lessons she learned from her own struggles to inspire the next generation.
“My mom said, ‘I wish you had a ‘you’ when you were them,’” Douglas said.
The hard work she has put into coaching and the nonprofit has not gone unnoticed; it has helped her build lasting relationships with the girls she works with.
“At our visitation, the first people in line was a group of my track girls,” Douglas said. “I’ll never forget that.”
The fact that Douglas has already touched so many lives has shifted her idea of success.
“I always thought, to be important you had to be like, Oprah Winfrey,” Douglas said. “You’re more than just a single statistic. Judging yourself on that is unfair.”
Douglas appreciates that she has always been able to be “more than one thing” in her life. In high school, she was able to run at state track and state cross country while also being involved with student council, homecoming committee and even a play.
Although college was more challenging, she persevered and had an extremely successful career at Iowa State.
Now a busy mom of four, she can reflect back on what it truly means to be a female athlete in Iowa.
“It’s that strong belief that I am who I am,” Douglas said. “It’s appreciating all of the people that helped me get where I am today. It’s having the courage to follow your dreams. A true Iowa Girl has those core values and doesn’t waiver and keeps chasing her dreams.”
Douglas, an Iowa Girl through and through, will continue to inspire up and coming Iowa Girls for generations to come.
Written by Mia Laube. Mia is a freelance writer for the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union. She is a graduate of Marion High School and currently attends the University of St. Thomas where she studies journalism and communications. As a former Iowa high school student-athlete, Mia is excited to share the stories of the "Iowa Girl" through the Iowa Girl Project.