Season 2, Episode 1: Learning Through Athletics with Cait Finn

Cait Finn is the Assistant Defensive Line Coach, First-Year Coordinator, and Assistant Director for Leadership Programs at Hobart College. Finn joins us to talk about her sports background, burnout, weightlifting, being pregnant in a pandemic, and so much more.

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Cait: [00:00:00] When I was in grad school with a football coach, I was struggling because I was like, I really love empowering women, like I’m all about it, I want to do that work. But I really love working with football and I really like coaching guys. Like, I’m really good at that, too. And so I’m feeling guilty about it. I want to lift other women up. And he kind of just looked at me and he was like, listen, he said, you are lifting other women up by doing this and don’t let anyone tell you you’re not. He goes because not only are young women seeing that they can do this if they want to and they can pursue these roles. But you’re also influencing a generation of young men to be comfortable with powerful, strong, independent women in their lives leading them.

Caroline: [00:00:41] Hi, everyone. Welcome to the first episode of Season two of Forward Progress. I’m Caroline.

Soph: [00:00:46] And I’m Sophia.

Caroline: [00:00:47] Really excited to get the ball rolling again and talk to some more amazing guests this season. But as always, we’re going to start off the episode with what’s been happening in sports.

Soph: [00:00:56] In our first episode of our first season, we talked about WNBA action on and off the court. Well, we have seen a ton of progress from that action since the summer. Vote Warnock was worn on the T-shirts of many WNBA players. I’m pretty sure all of them as they were walking into the building to go play their games. Raphael Warnock was since then voted into the Senate to represent Georgia, defeating Kelly Loeffler. And word on the street is she’s going to sell her ownership stake of the Atlanta Dream. LeBron James wants in.

Caroline: [00:01:29] Even my dad texted me and was like, you should message LeBron James and see if they’ll make it a public entity so everyone can have a share like the Green Bay Packers. A lot of people have already tweeted about that. So I’m just going to retweet that.

Soph: [00:01:43] I feel like everyone had their hand up. Yes I want to be in on it.

Caroline: [00:01:45] Like, yes, it’s like five dollars. I want to buy something.

Soph: [00:01:50] Yeah, that was really cool. I think a lot of us saw all the action of or what’s going to come of not playing games or playing games in a bubble or what’s going to come of wearing T-shirts. And this action just proved that this is more than a T-shirt. It’s more than just words on T-shirts, more than just athletes speaking up and using their voices. It’s really using their platforms and using their social capital to get involved and make a difference in the world and try to make it better. If you’re an owner of a team and you don’t respect black lives, you’re going to hear it from your players. It’s a different generation of players and they’re not sitting down and shutting up. They’re speaking out and making sure that their lives matter to all people. It was huge to see that Senate race and it’s not even I mean, political, whatever you made black women’s lives political, especially when they play sports. So they’re good at playing that game.

Caroline: [00:02:42] Mm hmm. We are now, in the end, NWHL bubble season, Isobel Cup, which is in Lake Placid, Herb Brooks Arena, love it, historic. I was watching one of the games today and they said that Herb Brooks Arena is an Olympic sized rink, which is eight feet longer and is a little bit larger than what their standard rink size is, especially in the United States. You know what? Women adapt. Not a problem at all.

Soph: [00:03:09] More ice, more fun.

Caroline: [00:03:11] Yes, all the games are streamed on Twitch and the semifinals and final will be televised on NBC.

Soph: [00:03:17] Sweet. So now we get to watch women’s hockey on national television. That’s not the USA playing in the Olympics,

Caroline: [00:03:24] Right.

Soph: [00:03:25] The Red Sox hired Bianca Smith as a minor league coach. She’s the first black woman to coach pro baseball.

Caroline: [00:03:31] You love to see it.

Soph: [00:03:32] You love to see it. I was watching Megan Rapinoe’s postgame interview after they just played Columbia. They asked her a question about how she feels about all these young players getting their first caps or getting their first goals. Midge Purce scored her first goal. Catarina Macario is coming on. She’s a young player; born in Brazil. Recently, she just got her eligibility to play for the U.S. team. She scored a goal in the first couple of minutes of the match, and they asked how she felt about it. And she goes, “it’s a whole lot of you love to see it.” And I immediately thought of you.

Caroline: [00:04:02] Love that. OK, what games were just on?

Soph: [00:04:06] Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are –

Caroline: [00:04:09] Tom Brady?! Screw Tom Brady. Coach Lo and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach.

Soph: [00:04:14] Coach Lo and Maral Javadifar are in the Super Bowl. And Todd Bowles. Byron Leftwich, Kevin Ross, who is their DBs coach, who I got to meet with Coach Lo a couple of summers ago. Bruce Arians. He’s put together one of the most diverse staffs in NFL history, if not the most, both racially and gender wise. And it’s hard not to root for him, especially with what this podcast is about of just bringing in the best people and you’re going to win. The Tampa Bay Bucs prove that. The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Buffalo Bills. And I’m a little a little sad. Andy Reid is a great coach. I have so much respect for him and Eric Bieniemy. They’re phenomenal football team. And both head coaches are people that take hiring and practices really seriously. And I appreciate that.

Caroline: [00:04:54] Alright. And what was the recent news with the Washington football team?

Soph: [00:04:57] They hired Jennifer King full time. She was a year long intern. They have a year long coaching intern. And she got hired up there, full staff. You love to see it. Ron Rivera.. Just hiring the right people, and Jen King is such a great person. Got to meet her. And she’s so humble and just someone that represents women really well and black women really well. Huge fan of her. I’m so glad that she’s on full time. She deserves it.

Caroline: [00:05:18] And last one here. A’ja Wilson got her own statue on the campus of South Carolina.

Soph: [00:05:24] She was wearing that white suit when she was getting it to, like, looked so good.

Caroline: [00:05:27] Chef’s kiss

Soph: [00:05:29] She gave a really emotional speech. The quote from it that so many people were talking about was “the same campus my grandmother couldn’t walk on is the same campus that houses the statue of her granddaughter.” Aja Wilson talking about her grandmother being black and having to walk around the campus when she needed to go to and from places because of segregation. I think we’ve had a lot of discussions about racism over the last year in a way that’s really open, more so than we’ve been allowed to in possibly a long time. I just appreciate how honest she was in that speech to say something like that and to really understand that we are only moving forward because of our ancestors are blowing at our backs and pushing us forward. And, you know, I felt that in my soul when she said that. I just felt all that. I think so many of us feel like we’re carrying on the legacies of our families when we know the trauma or we know the hardship that we’ve faced. And my great grandmother has a third grade education. My grandmother moved her family to a country where they didn’t speak the language. And, you know, my mom talks about learning the language by watching TV and learning how to speak English. And, you know, I understand the hardship the women of my family have faced. And just I have so much reverence for hardworking women and going through all that they go through. Their stories are so, so often silenced and never heard. So I’m so happy that A’ja Wilson talked about that because, yes, the statue is of her, but it’s very much a product of the women that she’s come from. There’s something special about A’ja Wilson. And I’m so glad that she has a statue. It’s such a cool one.

Caroline: [00:07:02] And we have a special guest today, Sophia, tell us who we’re talking with.

Soph: [00:07:06] Oh, my goodness, what a treat. We are coming back season two with a fantastic guest. She’s currently the assistant defensive line coach at Hobart College, which is Division three, and she’s an assistant director of leadership programs. She is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and holds national level coaching certification from USA weightlifting. She’s a soon to be mom, a fantastic friend of mine. And now Caroline’s. The one and only Cait Finn.

Soph: [00:07:34] Welcome to our Season two, episode one with the one and only Cait Finn. Hi Cait!

Cait: [00:07:44] Hi

Soph: [00:07:44] You’re shy to start, but we’ll get into it. You also have a million titles. I think you are someone who I can’t see you doing one job, yeah.

Cait: [00:07:51] I feel like that’s a fair assessment and I’ve come to terms with that myself.

Soph: [00:07:56] You’re an assistant defensive line coach at Hobart, but last year you were with the linebackers, correct?

Cait: [00:08:01] Correct.

Soph: [00:08:02] You’re also an assistant for the first year kids.

Cait: [00:08:05] That’s actually part of my role with the team this year, even before covid hit, the plan was always to start to build out some more of these programs. And this is one of the programs that the head coach and I had kind of been dreaming about. So this year, I took over and started launching a program for our first year football players to help them transition. And I think it ended up being even more pivotal this year because it was such a different year for them, right. To transition to college for the first time, but to have all these restrictions in place and to have football, but to not have football to really get you going. This year, I am the assistant defensive line coach and I’m also the first year coordinator for the football team, in addition to my full time role at the colleges and my full time role, I’m the assistant director for leadership programs at our Centennial Center.

Caroline: [00:08:47] That’s a lot! That’s a lot

Cait: [00:08:49] All good stuff though

Soph: [00:08:50] Can I ask you just what are some of the things that you do with the first year students to get them acclimated? Because I know as a first year person in college, it’s already difficult for them to be part of the team. And you’re kind of like the dummy in a walk-through if you’re in person. Anyway, there’s not a lot of personal attention on you. So what are those things that you do with them, especially in a quarantine type of situation.

Cait: [00:09:10] Yeah, yeah. I think we got to peel that apart a little bit. We have the layer of the quarantine and then we have the layer of the program that I work with. It will and should look a little different for every program. Right. I think that we’re a D three program and we’re D three program that has a really big philosophy around culture and team and establishing that right from day one. And so a little bit of a different mindset around that first year player possibility, right? One guys step on campus. They know and the upperclassmen know that anyone can earn a spot doing anything depending on what we need and what their skills are and how that all fits together in the big picture. So in our minds, the first year program just became an extension of a way to do that, to continue to support that concept, as well as give these guys a little extra support transitioning from home for the first time, many of them. And then you add in the layer of the pandemic and this being the first year where we’re really rolling this program out in this rendition. A lot of it ended up being around that academic support. But we have a great academic coordinator already, our offensive line coach is an alumni. So he and I partnered a lot. And so it was things like time management workshops. It was things like checking in with the guys and maybe identifying who needs a little extra support early on. And so they would start doing more regular meetings with me, things around support on how to interact with faculty and staff on campus, whether when things are going well and when they’re struggling with things. And then the vision for it as they shift into their spring semester is to start to focus more on helping them connect with other things on campus, like our career services, like leadership education, like our football alumn, helping them create those connections, as well as empowering and educating them on how to do that on their own was kind of the vision that we have for that first year program. So it’s it’s tying all the pieces together. It’s that big picture model football academics and student. Right. Student athlete.

Soph: [00:11:03] And I love that you’re a coach and you’re doing it because I don’t know how many coaches have that hands on approach of, oh, hey, we’re going to actually help you interact with other people on campus. It’s not just “I’ll see you for meetings. And I’ll see you for practice. I’m outside of that. Just get your work done and and good luck.” Can you tell me about where you grew up and how you first started playing sports, your first interaction with sports and your team experiences and what that was like?

Cait: [00:11:29] Girl, you’re pushing it.

Caroline: [00:11:30] Oh my gosh

Cait: [00:11:30] I’m getting up there and I got to remember.

Caroline: [00:11:32] Oh, my gosh. Come on.

Cait: [00:11:34] So I moved around a lot when I was younger for a ton of different reasons. I was born in Arizona, lived in California. I’d say I predominantly grew up in New York, though. And I would attribute sports to being that space for community and connection for me. Oldest of three, dad was really big into sports. Mom was an athlete in high school and college also. And so sports are kind of just a thing, right? So I started young four or five, probably soccer was my first real big love, my first love in terms of athletics. And I played that all the way through high school and a little bit in college. Yeah, it was sports that when we were moving all those times that kind of gave me my “in” to make connections with people and make friends and feel like I belonged because I had a role and a job and a purpose. And I enjoyed it a lot. That was kind of my anchor for a really long time.

Soph: [00:12:24] Did you bully your younger siblings? I’m curious. Like, did you just, I don’t know, block their shots all the time in basketball or just you push them down like you’re trying to score? Were you nice?

Cait: [00:12:35] Nooo I wasn’t that. I didn’t. My sister and I were pretty close in age under two years apart, and she’s very athletic as well. So we just grew up playing together and then my brother six years behind us, and he didn’t quite catch the sports bug the way we did. So it was a non thing. But I will say I probably actually had a similar experience to you, Sophia. I was I was five five at ten. I stopped growing when I was ten. So like, I was always the tall kid. The athletic kid. And so I was always playing up. In soccer, eleven, twelve. I was playing like maybe a little older. Yeah, twelve, thirteen. I was playing on a U(under)-19 team. Right. Like just because that’s where I fit athletically and it made sense and I preferred that. Right. I like that challenge.

Caroline: [00:13:14] Ok, you mentioned that you played soccer in high school, but I also have seen a photo that you played on the football team as well.

Cait: [00:13:20] That is accurate. Soccer was, I would say, my first love, my main love. For a long time I played anything and everything though. Basketball, softball. Eventually, softball transitioned to track and field, which became another big passion of mine. My dad’s one of eight, and so I had tons of cousins running around and we always were kind of just goofing off. And I was raised in a household where the message was, you can do whatever you want and it’s not going to be easy, but you can figure it out and we’re going to support you on it. And I remember in sixth grade, I was on the bus coming home and I heard another girl on the bus talking about how she was going to play football. And I didn’t really think much of it until I heard people picking on her for wanting to play and telling her “girls can’t play football, you can’t do that.” So, like, keep in mind, this is in the nineties, so no one was really doing it at that point, at least not that was vocal and being talked about like nation wide. Right. Like there were a handful of us probably that we didn’t know about each other. I just remember kind of that got my my back up a little bit. And I was pissed for her and I was like, no, you can’t tell us we can’t do this. And so, like, the next day or that week, I went into my teacher’s, he was the modified coach and I said, “I want to play, what do I have to do?” And he was like, all right, let’s figure it out. And in New York State at the time, and I think it’s still the same to either play up for a school like so to be a seventh or eighth grader playing up to varsity, you have to take a physical fitness test. And it turned out that there was a law in place at the time kind of protecting women in that sense, that if there was no women’s team girls’ team, you could take the physical fitness test to play on the team that was being offered for the boys. And so I did that and passed and was fine. And so I played for two years for school, seventh and eighth grade before I went back to soccer for my school, because the plan was to play in college and I needed to be playing for school for that. I played two years I was running back and a safety my first year, my second year, mostly just running back at that point. And then I was also captain my second year with myself and three other guys on the team. It was an adventure.

Caroline: [00:15:24] Did that other girl, you overheard on the bus? Did she end up playing?

Cait: [00:15:27] She played for a year. She was ahead of me, so she played her eighth grade year and then she stopped. It just wasn’t her thing. And wasn’t for her athletically, I think for her it was a little bit more, and she and I’ve had conversations about it that back then it was more about kind of proving that point can tell us that we can’t. And so then my eighth grade year, my second year, another young woman, my year played with me as well. So I was always one other female on the team. So we kind of started it all. And then it took until five or six years ago to see anyone else in our school district playing. So that’s twenty year gap almost. They both played varsity and it was really awesome to see them kind of push that progression further for us.

Caroline: [00:16:04] You said your goal was to play soccer and college. Did you end up doing that?

Cait: [00:16:10] Yes, not how I anticipated. I fractured my femur in a car accident my senior year of high school. And at that point was. Already pretty burnt out and was kind of burnt out on sports in general.

Caroline: [00:16:23] I understand.

Cait: [00:16:23] Yeah, I’m shifting away and I ended up playing two years in college on our JV team as a goalkeeper, even though that wasn’t my position because my body just wasn’t back at that point. I was always a defender, but I played in the net before and was athletic enough. And so it was a way to kind of stay connected.

Caroline: [00:16:39] I was always the defender when I played soccer. I only played when I was like 13. It was so great playing youth soccer when I was little and when it would be coed and just like step on the boys and like, push them down. Oh. That was my favorite part honestly. So great.

Cait: [00:16:54] I was a little bit of a rough soccer player, which makes sense. Football made me a phenomenal soccer player if I’m being really honest. Not that I was afraid of things before, but you get picked up and thrown on your head in practice, even though you’re in full pads, you’re not going to really be afraid to dive for the ball. Or people would always ask me if I got hurt playing football. And I was like, no, I think I got hurt way more playing soccer like way, way more than ever, playing football.

Soph: [00:17:16] That just makes me think each one of us has played against boys at some point in our lives. Like for me, I played eight years of Little League Baseball and I was the only girl on the field for eight years. I think there’s the assumption that, well, because you played football that now all of a sudden all these girls are going to come and want to play football. But you talk about the gap. It takes a decade or a decade and a half or however much time until the next girl who wants to play. And she also feels like she’s the only one. Also, I’m not surprised at all that you were captain on your high school football team because you are just a leader. You are the way that you carry yourself. You’re a fantastic communicator and teacher. And I think that’s the core principle of being a leader is the way that you communicate with people and the space that you create when you’re there and in person. And so it doesn’t surprise me at all that when you were younger that you were a captain. Did you always know that you were going to coach or was that kind of something that you thought about later after your playing career?

Cait: [00:18:16] Well after my playing career. Coaching in general, coaching anything was never really I coached in high school. I could coach soccer teams in high school. I enjoyed it. I always knew I was going to be an educator of some sort that was in me and to me, and that’s a big part of my coaching philosophy, is that coaching is education, right? It’s more than just the game and it’s also the game. And you got to win and you want to win. And that’s why we’re there. But it’s that and a lot more. And so I always knew I wanted to be an educator and that kind of morphed and evolved and pivoted in different ways. I thought at one point as a teacher and public education. And then I got into social work and I was a social worker for years after my undergrad, and it was actually becoming a competitive weightlifter. I took about eight years off of athletics and put on a lot of weight and was really miserable and didn’t have a great relationship with sports at that point. I’d been so burnt out. And walked into a gym and started training and then met my coach at the time. And he is the I would say the first one, other than my dad, the first one he really saw like the coach in me before I did. And so I started competing in the sport of weightlifting. So that’s what you see in the Olympics, snatch and clean and jerk. And ended up competing at the national level, competed for years in my twenties from like my mid twenties to my early thirties. And he’s the one that kept pushing me to coach and pushing me to coach and pushing me to coach. And it got to a point in my career when I went back to my masters in my late twenties, where it was kind of like I had to decide at that point between being the athlete and being the coach. And I never thought I would face that decision because I thought my athletic days were way behind me. So it was cool to refind that passion with sports and athletics, but also to find this passion for coaching, which I absolutely love. And it’s what got me into college strength and conditioning, which is what reunited me with football. And it just kind of went from there. So no, I didn’t know I wanted to coach until much, much later and I wasn’t sure what that would look like. I just knew that I was a coach and I was an educator. And to share that, those messages, those lessons that I’ve learned, just like what I find really valuable and what I’m really passionate about.

Soph: [00:20:20] Oh, I love that so much. No, I really do, because I think there are some leaders that are told that, hey, you’re a leader, people look up to you. I think you’re really good at this. And they’re like, no, it’s not me, that’s not me. I’m just being myself. And I think it’s because coaches might be perceived to look one way like that. All screamers and yellers. Right. And that’s just not the only model. I think some of the greatest leaders are actually the quietest people in the room, people that observe, the people that watch and they wait and they’re purposeful in their actions. And I.. That’s not always me.

Cait: [00:20:58] But, you know, I would take that a step further, though, and say and I would challenge you to think and this is like leadership and this is my coaching philosophy, that the best coaches and educators and mentors like whatever tag we want to give them, leaders, any of it are the people that can read the room and know their players or the people in the room so well so quickly that they can shift, not change who they’re at their core, but they can shift their actions to meet the people they’re working with, where they are in order to get them to where they as the coach or leader or mentor or educator sees them, sees their capability right, to help them get from where they are to where they could be. That, to me, is a really good coach. You know, there’s times when if I’m screaming like my guys know, there’s a reason for it and it’s rare, but there’s a need for it. But like you said, that ability to observe the room, read the room and shift and maybe someone else needs to do the talking right now. And I just need to see the ripple effect of those words and watch. And that’s how you get to know your players.

Soph: [00:21:58] No doubt. I love the way you said that you have to be meeting the needs of the people that you were serving and not your own.

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Soph: [00:22:39] Well, I don’t want to ignore this fact: you are pregnant.

Cait: [00:22:42] I am!

Soph: [00:22:44] You are about to give birth. What is it, five weeks now?

Cait: [00:22:47] Six and change or we’re at like forty four days. The official countdown, I think forty three.

Soph: [00:22:51] How do you feel?

Cait: [00:22:53] Well, I just got really nervous (laughter)

Soph: [00:22:56] Just now? So sorry.

Cait: [00:22:59] Oh, it’s that close. No, I’m really excited. I’m scared. If I’m being really honest. I think I have to be.

Soph: [00:23:06] Yes, please.

Cait: [00:23:07] Yeah. It’s it’s like all of it. It’s it’s exciting. It’s terrifying. And I think it’s probably like that no matter what. It’s my first time. Then you add in like a pandemic and all the unknowns going on right now in the world where it is. And it’s like, wooo is this what I’m doing? I’m bringing another human into this. But I’m also like, really excited too.

Soph: [00:23:26] Get all the sleep in the world that you can.

Cait: [00:23:28] Working on.

Soph: [00:23:28] You should be in hibernation right now.

Cait: [00:23:34] I mean, that has been the silver lining of the pandemic. Is chilling, feeling the kicks.

Caroline: [00:23:38] Have you had any interesting cravings?

Cait: [00:23:41] I have not. I thought I would because I’m a food person to begin with, but I eat weird food before that. So I’m like, oh, pickles and peanut butter like that. So I ate that when I wasn’t pregnant. So no, I really haven’t. I was really lucky I didn’t have any of the crazy morning sickness in the first trimester. No, no weird cravings.

Caroline: [00:24:02] So we know you really haven’t been on a field this year, this season. But just kind of what has it been like working through your pregnancy as a coach or as a teacher?

Cait: [00:24:13] Yeah, it was hard, less hard maybe as a teacher. I think before the semester started, there’s always this anxiety around how is this going to be perceived. Right. Am I going to be thought less of? Am I going to be thought as weak? As it, Right. Especially like being in the industry of football and being one of the only women and all of that. And I think that I am so fortunate and I don’t want to say lucky because I think it’s intentional. As I’ve gotten older and further along in my career, it’s been really important to me to work with people that are going to challenge me and help me grow, but also have a lot of the same philosophies and values as I do. And to be OK with turning down other opportunities that don’t line up with that. And I’m really fortunate to be in that position now with an incredible staff. I mean, that’s why I took the position in the first place is our head coach, Kevin DeWall is just phenomenal and really supports his staff and his players and that culture. And he says it and he lives it, too. Right. He’s a father of two young girls and family’s really important to him. But there was still that part of me that was a little anxious about telling him because it was like I’m still a new coach on the staff. I’m still figuring things out. I’m still managing all of that. And he was so supportive of it. And so it just allowed me to kind of launch into some of the other areas that we had wanted to grow. I did end up staying remote the entire year. So even when we were able to do some in-person practices, stuff like that, I wasn’t there, which was really tough for me mentally. But to be able to get to know the first year guys through the computer, but through one on ones with them and workshops with them and still be able to develop some of those relationships. And still to be one of the people that they would call when there was a crisis like that was huge for me as a coach to have that kind of connection. So it was important to me to put up my boundaries that I felt safe with health wise. It felt really good to kind of be supported in that and to still be able to contribute and feel like I was part of supporting the staff when they’re struggling to figure it all out, too. Right. This is new for all of us, pregnant or not.

Soph: [00:26:04] Yeah. No one else on your staff is pregnant, so.

Cait: [00:26:06] No one else on my staff is pregnant, but exciting times. Their partners were so like we were kind of like all living some of this together. So but not physically at least.

Soph: [00:26:15] And it’s also good because you are with your partner right now. You have help and support and and love in that. So you have that and you have a job. So it’s.

Cait: [00:26:25] All good things. Totally

Soph: [00:26:25] But there are some people that can’t say that right now. So, yeah, we’re going to recognize the struggle because I know athletes have talked about it who have been pregnant and they withhold it from their teams for as long as possible because they understand that there’s a lot of repercussions and a lot of things that you can face that are negative. So that’s a totally real fear. And that’s the importance also on your head coach being supportive of you. That’s huge, because without that, it’s really difficult to feel safe in your environment if you’re pregnant or not, just to have someone who understands, not just because they have daughters. Just because you have daughters, doesn’t make you a feminist, doesn’t make you someone who is capable of understanding other people’s families and their experiences.

Cait: [00:27:02] It takes a special person to build the culture that he’s creating there. And I will shout to the rooftops about him, but for as long as I can. He’s done a lot of cool things for a lot of us. So I’m with you.

Soph: [00:27:11] Ok, who or what has inspired you to make the positive changes that you’re making in the sports world?

Cait: [00:27:17] Oh, that’s a that’s I don’t know if it’s any one person. It’s tough because I was thinking about this before we got on the call. Right when I was in college, I was like heavily involved. I was a women’s studies minor and like really involved in a lot of those things. And like, I really believe in a lot of that firmly. But I also got, like, really burnt out on it. Right, because you get so fired up just like sports. You get so fired up. I get so invested. And I think anyone that’s working in any form of social justice work, whether that’s gender identity, race, religion, any of it, it’s very easy to get all consumed and really burnt out by it. And I did. Similarly to athletics. I got a little burnt out on it. And I was like, I can’t do this work anymore. I can’t do it. It’s just it’s exhausting. I’m burnt out. It’s really hard. And I took a break from it for a little bit. And then I started doing things that I was passionate about and things that excited me. Right. And things that not just because I felt like they had to be done, but also because they kind of reinvigorated me. And I almost see it as instead of like one person influencing me. But the women who are just doing it right like that inspires me. And I can’t even tell you how much I feel like I’ve accomplished just by going out and doing it and not shouting out and not saying like, hey, look at me, I’m doing this more just like, no, I’m going to do it because this is awesome, because I can and because I’m really good at it and just put my head down and do the work and the impact that has on other young women that I’m not even aware of and only hear like little bits of and the impact that that has on young men. Like, I had a conversation when I was in grad school with a football coach. I was struggling because I was like, I really love empowering women. Like I’m all about it. I want to do that work. But I really love working with football and I really like coaching guys. Like, I’m really good at that, too. And so I’m feeling guilty about it. I want to lift other women up. And he kind of just looked at me and he was like, listen, he said, you are lifting other women up by doing this and don’t let anyone tell you you’re not. He goes because not only are young women seeing that they can do this if they want to and they can pursue these roles. But you’re also influencing a generation of young men to be comfortable with powerful, strong, independent women in their lives, leading them and being at that level. And so it is just like a really interesting reframe for me. And to kind of get back to that original question of I don’t know that it’s any one person, but to be able to, like, step back and say we need the change makers on the front line shouting and saying, this is not OK, this needs to change, it’s needs to change. But then we also need the people maybe tucked back a little bit more, just doing it and living it so that people can see that and see that that is happening. And so I think as much as I value education and want to always be shouting and teaching, I’m learning that there’s other ways to do that, and there’s been a lot of women ahead of me that have done that, including some of the women at the NFL level, including colleagues at the college level coaching, just seeing them get out there and do it and rock it and realize that I’m doing that, too. And that’s awesome. And that’s going to continue to ripple out in crazy, crazy ways.

Soph: [00:30:13] Oh, I’m so inspired. I want to just.. No I really am because like that.

Caroline: [00:30:18] Don’t say you want to run through a brick wall, because that is your go to phrase.

Soph: [00:30:22] I love that. The whole point of this and what we’re doing is not because Caroline and I absolutely love podcasts or because we want attention.

Caroline: [00:30:31] Honestly, I really don’t listen to that many podcasts.

Soph: [00:30:33] No you don’t. And so here’s the thing. Like, I love what you said. And I think that’s the point of this. Is because the progress that you make is daily and it’s a struggle and it’s done by people that will never get the spotlight ever like it’s the people that are behind closed doors. When we talk to Venessa Hutchinson, it’s nobody really knows Venessa. And I’m like, OK, she is a game changer. She is representing so many things and doing the work every day and not at all searching for credit because we haven’t gotten it for centuries and we’re still not going to get it. We’re just doing the work because we’re going to move the needle. We’re going to do it. And I just think, like, I don’t really care if I’m a household name. I care if I’m making a difference in the world and if I’m doing exactly what I was born to do.

Cait: [00:31:30] No, no, I’m with you. I’m fully with you. I the only thing I would say to that, too, and this is something I struggle with is. Yes, one hundred percent, all of that. And it’s not an and or. Right.

Soph: [00:31:39] It’s it’s both/And.

Cait: [00:31:41] It’s more, it can be both. And it’s OK. And I think historically a lot of times as women were taught not to want that validation or were taught not to want that limelight. Right. And I’m uncomfortable with it at times. But at the same time, like, it’s also really nice validation. Right. And so I think that that’s not why we’re doing it. But it’s OK for us to celebrate each other and enjoy when people do recognize that we’re kicking ass and doing it.

Soph: [00:32:07] Please treat us the way that you treat anyone else who does all the work that we do. But I think that’s the purpose of it, is us doing exactly what we’re supposed to be doing in our jobs and doing what we’re passionate about. It’s really important. But also the doors won’t open just because we exist.

Cait: [00:32:24] Totally.

Soph: [00:32:25] We have to be really intentional about opening doors for people that don’t look like us, because it’s been the mistake of in particular white women that get jobs and go, oh, yeah, now the door is open for everybody, and it’s like actually you’ve never included women of color, you’ve never included non-cis people, you’ve never included gay people in this. So we have to be really intentional about who are including and just understanding that not one woman represents every woman and all of those things as well in all of it. So it’s not by accident that we are here. It is not by accident that you’re on this podcast like you’re making a difference in everyone’s life.

Caroline: [00:33:06] All right. So we have our recurring questions that we ask all of our guests. All right?

Cait: [00:33:10] Yes.

Caroline: [00:33:10] All right. I know Sophia has briefed you on these.

Cait: [00:33:14] Ooo (laughter).

Caroline: [00:33:15] They’re not that tough

Soph: [00:33:15] These are the easiest ones.

Cait: [00:33:15] These are the one’s I overthink

Caroline: [00:33:21] People have gotten a little tripped up at first. OK, so number one, what is a sport that you wish you saw more of or knew about growing up?

Cait: [00:33:29] Two part response to this. I wish that I had played football longer. I wish that I had started it sooner, and I wish that I had allowed myself to continue with that longer. I’ll say that much. In some ways, like I wish it was now right where the world is now. And it wasn’t right twenty years ago. That’s like the one piece that kind of came right to my mind is like I wish that I knew that football was an option for me and I didn’t have to fight my way into it because I think I would have been a pretty badass football player. Right. And I was I was an athlete, a powerful fast. I was not afraid to get dirty and get in there. And now knowing what I know the coach about, like all the different positions and what different types of athletes are good at, like, I wish I had had that back then. But the sport that I truly do wish that I had more exposure to that I wish that most youth have more exposure to earlier on, my strength coach in me is going to come out a little bit here, is weightlifting. Truly, I think that we specialize our youth way too early. And that’s a part of why we’re seeing all these crazy injuries now. When I was a strength coach in college, I would get kids coming, kids, adults coming into the weight room that didn’t know how to jump rope, that didn’t know how to skip that, didn’t know how to move their bodies. Right. And they may have been like rock star athletes in their sport, but they couldn’t function or move. And that’s what I love about the sport of weightlifting. Right. Like we have this connotation of like bodybuilders. That’s what weightlifting is. But it’s not it’s truly, really graceful and athletic. And it’s about sequencing and being explosive and and being able to change direction and being able to absorb force and generate force. And so I wish that for me as a child and also the youth that we were exposing more of our kids to tumbling and weightlifting earlier. And I’m not talking about a lot of weight on the bar. I’m talking about like technique and learning how to move their bodies and control their bodies. That level of kinesthetic awareness, once they do get to high school and college level, would be a total game changer for some of them.

Caroline: [00:35:25] I think it’s funny that you said jump roping because I had a teammate in college who oh my God, she could not jump rope.

Cait: [00:35:32] They don’t know how to skip. They can’t process it. Yeah. And I’m talking like some high level athletes and I’ve been at some big places. Even some of our top D1 athletes watch them move. And it’s like, have you ever done that before?

Soph: [00:35:43] Do you think it has anything to do with there are some kids that don’t grow up playing outside with neighbors and other kids because.

Cait: [00:35:50] I feel like that’s a huge part of it.

Soph: [00:35:52] All three of us grew up playing like twelve sports. There wasn’t a sport that we didn’t try playing in so many different functions and movements in different sports, which is why it’s so fun. When you get burnt out with one sport, you get to use totally different muscles in another, all those things. But I’m pretty sure if anyone learned how to play hopscotch as a kid, you know how to skip.

Cait: [00:36:12] Yeah, I mean, I think that’s a big part of it. We were even saying it was like my generation of athletes, right. That that was starting to happen. And we weren’t like the video game generation yet. We were maybe the very beginning of that. We were still the group that was playing outside a lot and running around playing a lot of sports. I do think that that’s a big part of it. But I also think it’s that with how we’re overemphasizing one sport so that you can get scholarship to college. Right. They only learn how to move that way and they learn how to move that way really well. So we know they’re physically capable of it. All of these foundational things have been removed. And then the one other place where they would get that potentially has nationwide been pulled back so much is Phys(ical) Ed(ucation), so many Phys Ed programs are getting cut back and chopped down and.

Caroline: [00:36:53] Oh my God, we had jump rope for Heart doing double Dutch and regular jump roping in elementary school.

Soph: [00:36:59] I can drop all of the research articles as to why phys ed is really important, why specialization is really horrible. We can go into all of that. I can drop all.

Cait: [00:37:08] I think that’s all of it. I do. I think it’s truly big picture. All of those things, no doubt.

Soph: [00:37:12] Ok, OK, next question. Leaders are readers: book recommendation.

Cait: [00:37:16] Oh, I wasn’t prepared for this one!

Soph: [00:37:18] So sorry.

Caroline: [00:37:19] She just drop this one sometimes, sorry

Cait: [00:37:23] Oh gosh, I love them all. Personally. I always comes to mind for me and with coaches. Ron McCaffrey, CEO, coach book and definitely a little bit more strength coaches. But I think it’s just a great book because he talks about culture and the big picture. I like the book mindset and a little bit older now by Carol Dweck. She talk about growth mindset versus fixed mindset. So that’s another one that I just kind of reframed me a little bit earlier in my coaching career. I’ll throw those two in the mix for now.

Soph: [00:37:52] Sweet. Thank you. All right. Last question, Caroline.

Caroline: [00:37:57] What is your ideal ice cream sandwich?

Cait: [00:38:00] I’m not going to lie. This is the question I was most hung up on because I don’t eat dessert. I could live on appetizers, so I to go out to the restaurant and that’s my thing, salty, greasy, crunchy. So I couldn’t even wrap my head around an ice cream sandwich because I couldn’t even tell you the last time I had one.

Caroline: [00:38:19] OK, that’s all right. What’s your go to appetizer?

Cait: [00:38:24] Buff(alo) chick(en) dip. Any sort of dip variety. But buff chick dip, although right now third trimester heartburn not allowing that so much. But buff chick dip is the go to. 100 percent

Soph: [00:38:34] Amazing.

Caroline: [00:38:37] Sounds good.

Caroline: [00:38:38] Well, thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Cait: [00:38:42] Oh my gosh. Thank you so much.

Soph: [00:38:43] I mean, I’ve heard so much about you, but certainly loved hearing the kind of route you took into coaching and leadership education and definitely your experiences of being burned out with sport and just facing burnout in other areas of your life, too. I think that’s super relatable. And, you know, you don’t hear a lot of people talk about it just in general.

Cait: [00:39:04] Thank you. It was really awesome to be here and get to catch up with you, Sophia, and meet you, Caroline. And yeah, I really appreciate you giving me a chance to share my story. Stories are super powerful and we need to do more of that.

Soph: [00:39:15] Absolutely. Thank you, Kate. And I’m so excited to see what you do in the future. And I think you’re going to be a great mom.

Cait: [00:39:23] Thank you. I hope so. That’s the plan.

Caroline: [00:39:29] Thank you to Coach Finn for being on our podcast and thank you, Sophia, for introducing her to myself and to our audience and to the world. I know you have known coach Finn for a little bit. What were some of the biggest things that you learned about her during our discussion?

Soph: [00:39:45] Ooo, yeah. So I’ve known Cait for a little bit now. And we finally got to meet at the Women’s Forum for the NFL last year in Indianapolis. And someone that I got along with really well, she’s incredibly intelligent. One of the things that I learned in the discussion talking to her was just how her approach is so holistic. I know people talk about that as a philosophy. It’s one thing to talk about it. It’s another thing to mean it. You know, I think she’s really interested in every phase of what it means to be a fantastic person. She’s a teacher first. And I think the best coaches really take pride in their ability to teach. They don’t brag about, oh, I had this playing career or I’ve coached this player and whatever and all the things you might put on a resume. She takes pride and she’s very diligent in her work as a teacher. So I took that away. First and foremost is how she leads others and how she’s developing other leaders as well. You know, I said it before and I’ll say it again, I think leaders create more leaders. Cait is someone that I think does that in a very unique way. Yeah, I admire her. What’s something that you loved about the conversation with her?

Caroline: [00:40:47] I really appreciated when she brought up burnout within and outside of sports, because that’s something that I know I’ve experienced multiple times on and off the field or court, and I know other people have as well. So I think just talking about burnout, if it’s going from sport to sport or just realizing, OK, you know, there is more to sport or there’s more to myself or my life or anything that I bring to the table than sport, but also just getting burnt out of doing work in general and in life.

Soph: [00:41:20] She approaches coaching in a very humanistic way, in a very realistic way. I think us as coaches, we can sometimes hold ourselves to a standard that other people don’t really hold themselves to. And we don’t talk about burnout because it’s seen as this thing that’s bad or that you’re undisciplined or that you don’t care. And the reality of it is that burnout is something that happens when you care a lot and you are super diligent and very disciplined. And it can still happen because we’re humans and not machines. So it’s about developing a different method.

Soph: [00:41:49] I’m so excited for her to have her baby. I think she’s going to be such a good mom. She’s so detailed. I remember meeting her and we were just talking about football and stuff and she’s so even detailed in the football part of it. But just about everything. I’m so excited for Cait and everything that she does, like she’s so good for Hobart. They have a really good coach in her. She’s also the first woman ever to coach football at Hobart.

Cait: [00:42:11] It was great having Coach Finn on the podcast.

Soph: [00:42:14] And we hope you guys enjoyed it, too. Please leave comments like on our Instagram or on our Twitter. Or DM Caroline, we absolutely love reading that. Be sure to follow Cait Finn on Twitter and Instagram. We’re going to link all of the stories that we talked about at the beginning of the podcast and any information about Cait Finn in our description, you can find it on bestavailableplayer.com and.. we out.

Caroline: [00:42:40] Forward progress is produced by Caroline Mattise with a little help from Sophia Lewin.

Soph: [00:42:45] True.

Caroline: [00:42:45] And is brought to you by best available player. Find more podcasts, articles and video content related to sports and entertainment on bestavailableplayer.com. All the music in this podcast is by James Barrett, a good friend and an even better musician. Be sure to check him out on your favorite music streaming platform. And because we’re all about inclusivity and accessibility, each podcast of Forward Progress will be transcribed and available on bestavailableplayer.com.

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