Bonnie Bernstein: Creator of She Got Game: Inspiring Women, Inspired By Sports

Episode 391

Bonnie Bernstein, award-winning sports journalist and creator of the incredible series, She Got Game: Inspiring Women, Inspired By Sports, shares more about her interviews focusing on elite women athletes and highlighting lessons they have learned along the way. Grit, teamwork, perseverance and resilience – how did these factors help each of them have successful careers later in life post their sports careers. This episode is filled with so much inspiration you won’t want to miss it! On this episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow.

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be, you just want to make sure you will get knocked down. But just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone, it’s Kara Goldin from the Kara Goldin show. And I am so excited to have my next guest. Here we have Bonnie Bernstein, who is just an incredible human being. But also you might recognize her from the sports journalism that she has been known for for many, many years. But she is now an entrepreneur. She is a host and an executive producer of an incredible, incredible podcast series that is on Audible called she got game inspiring women inspired by sports, and you have to have to have to listen to it. I was finishing it last night, and listening as I was finishing a few other projects at the same time and was getting a little off because I was so enthralled with so many of these conversations. So it was really really, really great. So anyway, the production company is called Walk swiftly productions. She’s going to be doing some other things I’m sure in the future too. But this incredible series celebrates the title nines 50th anniversary focusing on famous elite women athletes and highlighting lessons that they have learned along the way. And the series spotlights. 10 extraordinary women whose grit, teamwork, perseverance and resilience, learn through sports has empowered them to reach the top of their respective professional mountain tops. And I can’t wait to hear more about the background of all of this, not just of the incredible people on the series. But also Bonnie because she is a total badass, and I’m so excited to have her on here. To talk more about this, she’s usually the one doing the interviewing. So no pressure at all for me here.

Bonnie Bernstein 2:41
I’ve done enough of your podcast episodes to know that you know your way around an interview. So I feel I feel really good about this. You’re so fun.

Kara Goldin 2:49
Well, between you and Mike Greenberg. It’s it’s been quite a few

Bonnie Bernstein 2:54
nights last week. I just got Mike’s book it literally yesterday. I know I can’t even show because my dad i i tell my dad when I do press but my dad’s getting this for Father’s Day. And so I’m not going to tell my dad about this podcast until after father’s days.

Kara Goldin 3:10
Yeah, well, it’s it def definitely we had, we had a love fest on a few of these female athletes. So they named their number and they’re including Chris Avar. So

Bonnie Bernstein 3:22
Tina and Billie Jean King and it was

Kara Goldin 3:25
totally, it’s yeah, it’s such it’s such a good book. So. So anyway, but on to your project. So talk to me a little bit about first of all, welcome. Very, very excited. Yeah. So before we get into hearing all about the series, I just want to know like, who is Barney? And how did how did you end up in So Laurie

Bonnie Bernstein 3:49
M. And how did you get here? Yes. How did you get here? Well, I’m not going to go into the nitty gritty of how the whole like I was born because I think we know that at this point. But I I wound up in sports because my parents were diehard sports fans at a time when I jokingly say I was I was the I was the human clicker. When we were growing up, Kara, you and I like there was not a remote control. We were manually changing. And if I had to put a percentage on how much sports wound up on our TV when I was a kid versus any other type of programming, I would say 80% of what we watched as kids was sports because my parents were diehard football fans, and baseball fans and fans of other sports but really, for me the New York Giants and the New York Mets I think when the Mets won the 86 series I had to watch 160 of 162 of their regular season games. And so, you know, as we are all products of our environments, I fell in love with sports because my parents loved sports and in a very early age, I realized I loved writing So I had this epiphany when I was probably in my early teens, which I feel really fortunate for because, you know, sometimes it takes people to figure out what touches their heart and gives them direction. But I realized really early on that I wanted to be a sports writer. And so everything I did from activities in high school not only playing sports, but writing sports articles for the high school paper to choosing the university I went to I went to Maryland, which has wonderful journalism school and a great gymnastics program, and then worked for the radio station, the TV station, the campus newspaper, all the things did the internships worked in the local markets. And then I was hired by ESPN when I was 24 years old, and had the chance to cover the second three Pete for the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen and Joe Jackson, and which was an amazing experience and was there for three years at ESPN and then went to CBS and did sideline reporting for the NFL and college basketball was there for quite some time bounced back to ESPN got into hosting. But I think during my second stint at ESPN is where I realized there was this entrepreneurial bug that needed to be handled. And NAD was at the point when I realized, okay, I want to do this, I want to go into business. For myself, I have a passion for creating things and taking things from concept to market, but I need other skill sets. I need to learn about budgeting and p&l and all of the different aspects of our industry that you don’t have access to was talent. And so I went to work for Jerry Reinsdorf digital media company, which is called Silver Chalice. He owns the White Sox and the bulls learned all of those Affer mentioned things I needed to learn and then started my production company. I’ve been very fortunate to do some really cool projects, including she got game inspiring women inspired by sports.

Kara Goldin 6:56
That is so cool. Well, I just I feel like you’re I mean, you were a gymnast. You’re an All American gymnast. I was a gymnast, but I was not at your level. But it was through high school. And I we also had a rule in our house. We had five kids in our house, I was the youngest. And my. We didn’t have a lot of rules. But there was one rule that my parents had, which was everyone had to always be in a sport. I mean, it was just, I thought everybody did you know. And so my sister was a swimmer, I was a gymnast, and a runner, my brothers did baseball and, and football. And you know, my dad was always coaching and it was just constantly, there were some sports that I wasn’t very good at. I was terrible at softball, but I also learned, like I could laugh at myself and I could appreciate people who were better than me. And all of these right at certain things. I was much better on the uneven bars than some people who were playing shortstop and that was I right. But you you learned so much in sports that I think is is super valuable. So I loved loved the the interviews that you did. So why did you decide at this time to create this?

Bonnie Bernstein 8:18
I was, as you mentioned, this is in part, a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Title Nine for some of your listeners who that may sort of be going over their head. That’s the very famous federal law that was passed in 1972. That it’s it’s a gender equity law for all intents and purposes. But as it’s so pertains to sports, it put girls and young women on a much more level playing field, open so many more doors for girls and women to participate in sports than ever existed. And I’m a beneficiary of Title Nine, I did gymnastics, I played soccer, I did a little bit of softball, I did track and field in high school. I walked on to Maryland’s gymnastics team, I was fortunate enough to earn a full scholarship. But when I think about how much of who I am and what empowered me to navigate this predominantly male industry of sports journalism and sports broadcasting, the intestinal fortitude and all of the skill sets that I learned the life skills I learned as an athlete had been so critical to empowering me to do everything I wanted to do and be everything I am and I wanted to find a unique way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title Nine and I came across some amazing research which totally hits the sweet spot for your listenership because there’s a big element of business and entrepreneurship to it and Ernst and Young did a study several years ago, they found that 94% 94% of all female C suite executives played sports growing up now only 4%. And more than half of those women play college sports. And so that created an undeniable connection between the life skills we learn as athletes, the teamwork, the coach ability, the the drive, the work ethic, the accountability, the time management, and we could spend a whole, you know, 30 minutes talking about all of those different life skills, but how we, as women are able to harness those and leverage those to reach the very highest of the heights in business. And when I saw that the light bulb went off, because carrots so often when we’re seeing great stories about sports, it’s about the elite of the elite athletes, and they’re all amazing stories, right? But the reality is, I and I did do one gymnastics, you competed in gymnastics, most of us can’t relate to the best of the best athletes. Because if we were that talented, we would be still playing sports and whatever, you know, professional fashion that might be, but what is relatable to a broad swath of our community here of girls and women who played sports. That’s it, you don’t have to be an elite athlete to benefit from everything that we learned playing sports, and we learned playing at being athletes. And so I think it’s a really important message because the unfortunate reality is, for as many girls and women are playing sports are beneficiaries of title nine girls are still leaving sports at a higher frequency and an earlier age than boys. The why is that can be lots of reasons. Sometimes it’s they know they’re not going to get a scholarship, they know there’s not a professional opportunity. A lot of times when girls are going through puberty and their bodies change. They don’t feel comfortable in their athlete bodies anymore, and they leave or they’re bullied, or they’re still dealing with the stigma. The girl shouldn’t play sports that there they look too masculine. And so, you know, there’s a whole social element of it too. And the women we speak with, in she got game inspiring women inspired by sports teach us that you can play at any level, and still reap all of the rewards of just participating.

Kara Goldin 12:08
No, it’s It’s really incredible. I mean, some of the names frankly, I did not recognize until I started hearing them. And it was really a ton of fun. But two of them that I did recognize Laila Ali, and one of the greatest female boxers, of course, Muhammad Ali’s daughter, and of course, Shawn Johnson, because of being the gymnast and and sort of watching her for many, many years, both of these women have gone on in their post athletic careers to be extraordinarily successful business women. Yeah. But can you share, like when you think back on those interviews, in particular, like, what was it that kind of struck you? Whether it’s those two, or what were some of the things that people said that were just like, whoa, gosh, I never really thought about that.

Bonnie Bernstein 13:00
Well, I’ll answer that two ways to answer your question directly. The very obvious and consistent through line was that first as successful as all of these women are, and we’ve got some world class athletes, but we also have industry leaders, and women who are considered celebrities and newsmakers, every single one of them spoke to how they were told, they were less than they couldn’t they shouldn’t. They were rocking the boat, told to stay in their lane. And when you hear that, from women who have achieved at the level that they’ve achieved, we’re talking not just Laila Ali and Shawn Johnson, we’re talking about Chelsea Clinton. Were talking about Aisha Tyler, the Emmy award winning actress who was the very first black female recurring character on friends. She dated Joey and Ross. Now we’re talking about Sheila Johnson, who co founded ve T was the world’s very first black female billionaire. We’re talking about Amy Trask, who to date is the only woman ever to serve as the CEO of an NFL team. Every single one of these women Kara has been told, No, no, no. There there’s no place for you here. And they persevered through that they channeled their inner athletes they believed in themselves. They heard no no over and over again. And they broke through the proverbial glass ceilings. These are the pioneers and even though we know Leila and Shawn, as amazing athletes to your point, they have gone on to become incredible. This is what Elena has an entire lifestyle portfolio which is completely antithetical to you think like this boxer who’s rough and tough and yes, she’s done DIY shows on In the own network, she has her own cookbook. She has spices, she has nutritional supplements, a whole portfolio. Shawn Johnson and her husband have started a media company. They just launched like a new podcast. And she has taken influencer, which I’m not sure 10 years ago, you and I would have considered that an actual career. But there are plenty of influencers who are easily clearing seven figures doing what they’re doing, and not only serving as brand ambassadors, but investing in companies and leveraging their brand to market and help them scale. And so, you know, ultimately, I think that’s the through line. But I would say the other thing is just the variety of women that we’re talking to, there are world class athletes, there are celebrities, and there are industry leaders, and their common bond is that they all played sports, and they all harness what they’ve learned through sports to thrive.

Kara Goldin 15:54
One of the reasons why I asked you to come on to we normally talk to founders and CEOs, of course, you are a founder and CEO, too. But I think that there is this, you’re right, most of these people, especially if you’re female, and you’re an entrepreneur, I find most of them have done sports, at least through high school, many, many of them as well and to college, too. But there’s this factor of getting back up building teams, you know, you can just spot it in people. And it doesn’t matter what kind of sport that they did. And I feel like that’s what I was hearing, even in Sean and her interview that it was she continued to make mistakes, she does make mistakes, she made mistakes when she was growing up. But then she also made the steaks and was trying things that she wasn’t sure whether or not they were going to work. And, you know, it was very visible, some of the mistakes that she has talked about. But, you know, that’s part of her journey. Right. And she knew that that wasn’t going to end it for her to and I think having the confidence to know that, you know, you have to really own that. And then you have to go and take those lessons, take the fall, right, and then keep moving forward is something really, really powerful. So even if you didn’t play sports, and you feel like, you know, what am I going to learn? I feel like there’s a ton of learnings in there that you can, I found myself even reflecting back on things that maybe I learned early on that I hadn’t really paid attention to, of

Bonnie Bernstein 17:39
course, and I mean, when was the last time that you had a founder on your show? Who said, Absolutely, it worked the first time. It’s just it’s, yeah, it’s not tough happens. But if you’re venturing into these entrepreneurial waters for the first time, no matter how many books you read, no matter how many stories you hear, you’re confident that you’ve identified a white space, you’ve built out the business model, you have constructed the prototype, you’ve gone through however many prototypes to get to where you are to your at this point, we are ready to you’ve got your go to market strategy, you’re gonna fail. And one of the most critical keys to thrive and entrepreneurship is understanding how to process No, and how to deal with failure. Sports is such a critical piece of that, because it teaches us that failure is not something that should be in a personal indictment. Failure is a critical, critical key to success. And if we can teach ourselves just how to reconfigure the way we interpret failure in our minds, from a negative to a positive, I’ve actually conditioned myself to get excited when I fail. Now, I know that sounds very counterintuitive to a lot of folks. But when I fail, it tells me that something needs to be tweaked that there’s an opportunity to learn that there’s an opportunity to grow and evolve. And when I do that, it’s going to get me one step closer to Yes, it’s going to get me one step closer to success. And when you think about the difference between the entrepreneurs who truly thrive, and the ones who crash and burn, I think that’s one of the big elements, how do we take in and process and respond to failure and obstacles?

Kara Goldin 19:29
Right, and I think also just focusing on the really incredible things that you did, right? I mean, Sean is is an amazing example of that and all that she accomplished but then she had some things that she tried that she learned a ton and then you know she then jump back in and then was able to do some incredible things like build a whole business out of it. That is, is doing amazing. So I think like there’s there’s just a ton of lessons And there as well. One of the things that I also picked up on too, which, of course we’ve actually heard about over the years is the addictions and the challenges that go on for, you know, many athletes. And, you know, you and I, I’m sure saw many eating disorders, especially in gymnastics. I mean, it was, you know, really bad. And I think that that is a key thing amongst a lot of female athletes that I’ve run into that, you know, the pressures and that they’ll talk about it later on in life. They wouldn’t necessarily talk about it, you know, younger while they were involved in it, but how often did you hear people talking about that? When I was growing up? Never those or Congress or I mean as taboo? Oh, yeah, series. So

Bonnie Bernstein 20:52
there were two particular episodes. You mentioned, Shawn, another one is Bianca BelAir. So if you have any listeners who are fans of WWE, Bianca is one of the greatest WWE superstars in the world, what a lot of people don’t, if they’re fans of Bianca, they probably know her story. What’s interesting for those who may not is that Bianca was a phenomenal multi sport athlete was doing track gymnastics, she wanted to train for the Olympics and track. And she was told by more than one coach because she’s a little bit of a bigger girl that she needed to lose weight. And she took that very seriously developed multiple eating disorders, mental health disorders. And I feel very fortunate Cara, that people like Bianca and Shawn, were very vulnerable and very raw for her. We, yes, the focus of the audio series is that link between playing sports and success in business. But we go down all these different sorts of roads, from eating disorders, to mental health disorders, to racism, to social media, I, for young people, I would say if there was one episode that that young people listen to, and this this goes for anybody who’s on social media, too, is Shawn, because one of the things that Shawn talks about is image. And until you get comfortable being your authentic self on social media, which is hard, because most of the time, what do we see on Instagram, we see everybody living their best life. The reality is, that’s the life they want us to see that most of the time is actually not an accurate depiction of what life looks like. And for Sean is somebody who was on the national stage competing gymnastics in the Olympics. Being a brand ambassador for all of these different companies, there was this image that she felt she had to uphold. And when she really started diving into the social media space, it was hard for her to let down her guard, to let go of the perfectionism that comes with competing at a high level in any sport gymnastics, in particular, because of the way it’s scored. And I just listening to her be as vulnerable as she was. I just thought it was such a powerful discussion, not just for athletes, but for young women in general, because they are social media and digital natives. This is stuff they’re dealing with on the regular in a way that you and I did it when we were growing up. So I’m just I’m grateful for all of those vulnerable conversations.

Kara Goldin 23:32
Yeah, no, I think it’s, it’s definitely something that is, is is in many ways harder, like you can’t turn it off. It’s not like you walk away from a meet. Yeah, right. You walk away from a meet and suddenly it’s covered. And you know, it’s it’s made, I have a family friend and the whose was the skier Nino Brian in the Olympics who went tumbling down the hill and had a very bad break. And it’s great to hear that she’s actually back and she’s competing, but the number of people who had said she’s done, right, and she had to hear that over and over again, on social media afterwards, she was still in a hospital, you know, in China, and she’s hearing it’s over. And finally, she had to sign off in her she couldn’t listen to it anymore. So I think it’s, there are things like that, that I think we didn’t have growing up that you have to, you know, be thankful maybe for in many ways, but I think that that was a great part of Sean’s interview as well. So what is the best advice that you have ever received? As it relates to sports and business? I guess I mean, I view you as as somebody who has worn many hats and done an amazing job in everything that you do as far as as I can tell, so I, you know, that is my opinion and, and just absolutely a lovely person to

Bonnie Bernstein 25:08
so thank you the best piece of advice. Um, well, I would say across the board it is to trust your heart. When I decided that I wanted to go into sports, this was at a time when there were very few women. And I was to I to this day, I still get on social media, go in the kitchen, make a sandwich. You know, like women shouldn’t be talking about football, women shouldn’t be covering sports to this day. 2023 This still happened. So as you can imagine, and it happened even more when I first made it to ESPN when I was 24 years old. But the reason why I was able to spend so many years on sideline in the studio for ESPN and CBS is because I knew in my heart, what I was capable of doing. What I love about she that game inspiring women inspired by sports is that it’s it, it shows girls and young women what the possible looks like. But even if you don’t have a role model, if you trust your heart, it can follow your heart. And for me, if you apply everything that you learned as an athlete, when it comes to work ethic and drive and ambition and responsibility and accountability and all those things, you can do whatever you want. And I I’ve been a little bit unconventional when it comes to what women do when they grow up. And if it weren’t for the fact that I had such conviction in my heart that this is what I was meant to do. I’m fairly certain I would have never been able to do it.

Kara Goldin 26:47
Now I love that. And I think it is a great example of somebody who is, you know, maybe 90% ready to go out and do something but then you just go figure it out and and follow your hearts and follow your passion, which is exactly.

Bonnie Bernstein 27:08
But you know, it’s it’s worked for me like no,

Kara Goldin 27:11
I I love it. Well, thank you so much. And such a great series, everyone needs to go on to Audible and download this again. It’s called she got game inspiring women inspired by sports, absolutely incredible. Bonnie Bernstein will have all the info in the show new notes as well. But thank you for coming on and giving us a lot more information on you and also the series over overall and just really inspiring us with all of these stories. Thank

Bonnie Bernstein 27:43
you and Kara, thank you to you, because we need entrepreneurs like you who are thriving to lead the way and set the example and thank you for having these conversations because they’re they’re so important. So I appreciate you.

Kara Goldin 27:57
Awesome. Well, thank

Bonnie Bernstein 27:58
you. Have a great one.

Kara Goldin 28:01
Thanks again for listening to the Kara Goldin show. If you would, please give us a review and feel free to share this podcast with others who would benefit and of course, feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode of our podcast. Just a reminder that I can be found on all platforms at Kara Goldin. And if you want to hear more about my journey, I hope you will have a listen or pick up a copy of my book on daunted which I share my journey, including founding and building hint. We are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And thanks everyone for listening. Have a great rest of the week, and 2023 and good bye for now. Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight send me a tweet at Kara Goldin and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara Goldin. Thanks for listening