EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Girls compete. Women empower.
NFL reporter Laura Okmin created her GALvanize foundation and penned the above tagline after spending years as a successful reporter but noticing one thing: the lack of a strong network of women.
"I always thought that women learning to empower themselves will change your life, but women empowering other women changes the game," Okmin told Vikings.com.
Since officially launching GALvanize in 2011, Okmin has hosted seven boot camps (with two more scheduled in July and August) to give women the tools they need to succeed in the world of sports – both in front of the camera and behind.
Okmin's most recent boot camp took place in Minneapolis last week. Twelve women between the ages of 18 and 25 traveled from all over the country to spend two days at the Minnesota Vikings practice facilities. Day one focused on building relationships, increasing confidence and preparing for any number of scenarios that occur.
"We're preparing for everything that's going to happen, but at the same time knowing that none of it might," Okmin said. "All I try to teach is preparation, hard work and treating people well. That's the foundation. That's the one thing that doesn't go out of style.
"The business changes, women in the business change, what they're looking for changes," Okmin added. "But if you have those three things down, you're good. You're good in this business, and you're good in life."
FOX's NFL reporter Laura Okmin hosted a women's broadcasting bootcamp at one of the Vikings spring practices last week.
Okmin encouraged the group and reminded the women that they were all there to support each other and help each other build and develop skills. She stressed the importance of networking and maintaining genuine relationships.
Megan Nipe, a graduate of George Washington University and Minnesota native, attended Okmin's boot camp and said the experience was invaluable. Nipe currently works as a sports videographer in Eau-Claire, Wisconsin, and as a freelance sideline reporter for college basketball.
"Probably the best example for seeing how crucial [relationship-building] really is was to see the relationships that Laura had with almost everyone in the Vikings organization," said Nipe. "We could see that she had a genuine relationship with those she works with, and she's been able to build on that trust through the years. That was the biggest lesson I took away from our boot camp."
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer spent some time Tuesday evening doing what he does best – coaching the attendees and firing them up for the next day. The entire group enjoyed meeting with Zimmer and considered it a privilege to get so much insight and advice from the head coach.
"We saw all those [qualities that make] Coach Zimmer so great on the field," Okmin said. "But the girls also really got to see who he is, starting with a father to two amazing daughters."
While day one was all about prep, day two was action-centered. The 12 women worked diligently to create and write stories; conducted sideline interviews with players, including Harrison Smith, Adrian Peterson and Terence Newman; and finished by doing stand-ups on camera. Throughout the day, a number of individuals throughout the Vikings organization spoke with the group and answered questions. Former Vikings Matt Birk, now the NFL Director of Football Development, also stopped by to offer advice.
Nipe said the entire day provided her with experience she'll take with her as she continues pursuing her career. She especially valued people willing to share their own stories with the group – from Smith's rise as a prominent safety in the league to Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren sharing his background and passions.
"My favorite part about being at Winter Park – besides getting Coach Zimmer to laugh with me – was getting the chance to hear the stories of what really makes these great players and business men and women tick," Nipe said.
Okmin expressed gratitude for the hospitality that the Vikings showed throughout the entire process, from Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and Warren, to the public relations staff, to the VEN department.
"It was amazing for girls to have this organization take them so seriously and show them what's out there for them," Okmin said. "I want these young women to see that there's so much more to sports than just standing on a sideline holding a microphone.
"It wasn't just giving them a great day," Okmin added. "It changes their lives."