Jessica Stratton: How Mentorship Has Saved Me

* High school teammates hug at the 2022 Drake Relay

Photo Credit: USA Today Sports

I would encourage all young women to seek out a mentor. In life and in sports.

Jessica Stratton - Old Saybrook (CT) High School, Class of 2019

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When I was in the depths of recovering from my disordered eating and second stress injury, I stumbled upon Voice in Sport, a platform that provides mentorship and professional help to young female athletes.

I had always imagined a space where I could connect with other athletes who were injured. And being injured made me feel so many things ... sometimes, it felt like I couldn't connect with my healthy teammates. Not only was it hard to talk about while I was the one on the sidelines, but I felt as though they wouldn't fully understand what I was feeling.

I struggled with aspects of comparison and jealousy, and losing the "community" and social aspect of being on my team while I had to train alone made me very sad. I felt like I needed my own "community" of people who I could connect with over my current challenges in the same way that my teammates could continue training together at practice. 

When I came across Voice in Sport, it was like I had found the community that I was imagining. It was a platform that provided mentorship from professional and collegiate athletes who had already been through the challenges I was going through and who wanted to share their wisdom and knowledge to help others.

It was exactly what I needed. 

Right after I joined, I got paired with Elise Cranny, a professional runner for Nike Bowerman Track Club. She and I met virtually every two weeks for mentoring sessions and over the next three months she helped me through my challenges, like overcoming food fears, improving my body image and getting through injury. She helped me turn around my entire perspective on sport. But what was relatable was that all of her advice came from her own personal experience with challenges that were extremely comparable to mine. 

In three months, we worked together. We talked about trusting myself to do what's best for me. In all truth, those were challenging thoughts that were still lingering from my disordered eating, so learning how to come back an even better and stronger version of myself after an injury ... was something I had to take head-on. I used that time to work on the mental side of running. Elise inspired me to have hope and excitement for my future in running, despite those setbacks. 

Personally, I would encourage all young women to seek out a mentor. In life and in sports.

Elise inspired me to have hope and excitement for my future in running, despite those setbacks. 

The definition of a mentor -- which Voice in Sport mentorship is built upon -- is "a supportive adult who works with a young person to build a relationship by offering guidance, support, and encouragement to help the young person's positive and healthy development over a period of time."

Having a mentor gives you someone to look up to, someone to teach you, someone who holds you accountable, someone who empowers you.

It is different from therapy in that the interpersonal relationship stems from passion and love for a similar thing, and I think it promotes so much growth and positivity in both parties' lives. 

I never would have developed such a concrete belief in myself without mentoring. Since the original three months that I was mentored by Elise, my life has taken on a lot of lessons from those lessons: It's pushed me to be accountable, it's prevented me from regressing back to old habits, and it's build so much confidence in myself.

Being inspired by someone who has been through it before allows you to see things through a different lens. That feels like a gift.  

Jessica is a 2019 graduate of Old Saybrook (CT) High School and a junior at the University of Delaware. She was a multiple-time CIAC State Open and CIAC Class Class S Championship qualifier and placer, and held PRs of 2:22.78 in the 800m and 5:07.42 in the 1,600m. This is a monthly series where Jessica writes about important and wide-ranging subjects involving young and developing runners.