Throw Out the Patriarchy: Jourdan Skirha
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Jourdan Skirha is the youngest female to hold an Assistant General Manager Position in a professional sports organization. In other words, SHE IS A BOSS. After competing at the NCAA Division I level, Skirha continued her passion for softball by launching her career with the Chicago Bandits.
When did you find your love for softball?
I truly loved softball since I started playing, but it really became a part of me when I was a freshman on our high school varsity team at Oak Forest High School. My coach at the time, Paige Shemoski-Stryczek, won Illinois Coach of the Year. I will always remember her as being my favorite coach. She pushed me to be the best I could be. Without her, I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am.
What is your favorite memory of playing softball?
I have two favorite memories!
We won an IHSA 3A State Championship back in 2009, my freshman year of high school. I didn’t start yet, but I filled in behind a senior all-state shortstop. She pushed me, and I became an all-state shortstop myself during my last two years of high school ball. This team was special. Even though I was “only” the first pinch runner off the bench, I took my role and ran with it. Everyone on that team had a role and pushed each other to be better. It really shaped me into being the best teammate I could possibly have been moving forward.
I had three different college coaches within my five years of college ball. The first coach, who initially recruited me, left as soon as I was entering Drexel. The other two coaches never showed pure faith in me. During my last year playing, my third head coach at Drexel used me as a pinch hitter. I was constantly proving myself in that role and was mentally torn. I was so close to quitting prior to our conference series versus the University of Delaware.
I didn’t quit. I decided to have a positive mindset.
My coach pinch hit me for a freshman third baseman in the bottom of the seventh inning. The bases were loaded with one out, and we were down 7-4. I hit a walk off, pinch hit grand slam to earn our FIRST CAA win in TWO SEASONS. Yes, we struggled as an organization, but this moment shut down any doubts I had. It felt SO. GOOD.
As a female athlete, was there a time when you were judged on your appearance rather than your ability?
Absolutely. Growing up, I was, 5’4 and skinny as a twig. I always heard that I wouldn’t be powerful as a right-handed hitter and that I should become a slapper. I was also told that I wouldn’t be a “college type of player.” I never agreed with those coaches and kept working harder.
Yes I was small, but I still hit home runs. One piece of advice – never let anyone tell you what you are or what your abilities are.
As the Assistant General Manager for the Chicago Bandits, have there been specific times where your players have faced sexism in sports?
I think every time one of our players sees that an MLB player signed for a $300 million contract it hurts their hearts. They are literally at the same spot those players are at – but they don’t get the recognition.
We have had Olympians on our team, and the best to ever play our sport right here in Rosemont. Sometimes it is still hard to fill out our stadium, which is just ridiculous to me.
Have there been instances where you have faced sexism in sports as a female AGM?
How about when the press release came out that I was being promoted to the AGM and I saw a comment on Facebook reading, “Now we can chant we have the hottest AGM in the game!” … like that’s what I want to see when I am being praised for my work ethic and drive for these players and organization.
What advice would you give to a girl that dreams of playing professional softball?
Don't quit! This game is special because it is a game of failure. You have to be mentally tough to succeed, which personally helped me thrive in my own career outside of the game itself. The chances and opportunities will still be here – hopefully at a more deserving level. We are currently working super hard to get it there for the future generation!
How do you personally throw out the patriarchy?
I fight back. I don’t let comments or statements slide. If I feel I am being patronized in any situation, I make it known that it isn’t okay. I will never be okay with not being treated equally for as long as I am on this earth. This is why I feel so motivated in my current position.
I want to break the norms and build the NPF (National Pro Fastpitch) and the Chicago Bandits – and I want women to be the ones who do it.
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