Member Spotlight: Meet Erica

Name: Erica Harris

Pronouns: She/Hers 

Position: Founder and Chief Purpose Coach for PurposeFULL Seed

Catchphrase: I don’t have your answers, but I do have the questions that will lead you to the answers within you!

What’s your favorite soccer memory?

Brandi Chastain’s penalty kick in the 1999 World Cup is definitely one that is etched in my mind. Though, it wasn’t just Brandi’s goal—it was also watching Briana Scurry save a penalty just before that. As a Black girl watching her make that save for the U.S Women’s National Team was just such an incredible moment. Can I tell you my favorite playing memory?

Of course! Let’s hear it.

It was in a high school championship. I was playing defense at the time and one of the players on the other team got a breakaway and it was very clear that I was the only one that could stop her. I chased her down and did a slide tackle (laughs) not an illegal one! But then I suddenly heard a pop in my knee and it was so painful that I blacked out for a moment. When I came to, the first thing I said was, “Did I stop the goal?”

Well, did you?!

(Laughs) I did! But I think this story is just so reminiscent of who I am as a person, that my first thought was, “Did I get the job done? Did I do right by my team?” Honestly, the incident was followed by several surgeries, but it still meant more to me that I helped my team.

I’d want you on my team that’s for sure! What do you think is the greatest thing about women’s soccer? 

The sense of community. There is a fearlessness about being on the soccer pitch and women in soccer develop this at an early age. I think the deep community bond comes from being with a group of strong women who all have the same goal in mind. I grew up in Flint, Michigan, and I was one of the few people of color on the pitch. But for me, that was part of the beauty. I played basketball with all of my Black friends and soccer with all of my white friends, but when we were playing together we were one team and we all respected each other as equals. We are all still in touch to this day; in fact, many of them joined Brandi’s Corner in February when I was a guest host!

Aw, that’s amazing to hear. As an executive career coach, what makes you love what you do?

I am so compelled by the idea of helping people to see themselves with clarity, with all of their brilliance and genius. I love the moment when I help people embrace who they are on a deep level. What I do is teach them to ask, “If this is who I am as a person, does what I do in my career match that?” And if it doesn’t, then I guide them to see the choices that they could be making. I tell people all the time: I don’t have the answers but I do have the questions to help you find your answers.

I really don’t think that people do that self-assessment enough.

Right! People don’t do that enough. When people come to me and they say, “I’m in a career transition and I’m trying to figure out what to do,” I don’t even let it go there yet. Firstly, I ask who are you? And if they can’t answer that clearly, they’re bound to be on the wrong path.

Well, they’re lucky to have you! There are millions of women who love soccer but not many see working in and around the game as an option. What advice do you have for women hesitant to turn their passion into a career? 

It starts with realizing that the first barrier is you. We have a tendency to look externally and say that the reason that I’m not doing what I love is based on this or that. So first, you need to give yourself permission to say, “I’m going to find the thing that makes me happy and my joy is more important than any specific salary or title.” But the second piece of that is that I can coach people into realizing that they can have the salary and the title as well; there’s always a way to make your career align with your sense of self.

It can be a daunting task doing that alone. In what ways could women who want to break into male-dominated industries benefit from career coaching?

Career coaching helps you understand and trust yourself. Women bring something so phenomenal to any space. But we still underestimate the nuances and brilliance we bring to a working environment. Women need to know that our perspective is so valuable but the important piece of career coaching is teaching people the language and skills they need to demonstrate to others that their perspective is needed

Absolutely! I think that we could all do with lessons on how to talk about our assets with confidence. What inspires you even when things are tough? 

I am an unapologetic Christian believer—I’m a person of faith. Faith has been my rock my whole life, but no more so than last year when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I held on to the phrase, “I am a believer, and believers believe.” I said that to myself two hours before I got the call with the diagnosis. And really, in that moment, it was about proving my belief that God can heal me and that I could live an abundant and full life. Faith was my saving grace: that there’s something larger than me that I’m living for. That’s the light that I hope people see in me and gravitate towards.

That was beautiful—thank you for sharing it with us. What’s a soccer organization doing work for underrepresented communities that you admire?

I started thinking about this question when I was speaking on Brandi’s Corner the same week as Crystal Dunn. When she highlighted her story and the Black Women’s Player’s Collective, I started following what they were doing and the work of all the organizations and individuals connected to that, like LeBron James promoting More Than A Vote. The connection right now between social justice and sports is palpable. I love that gender equity is such a focus. I’m proud that my daughter is invested in these issues. She’s a basketball player and she keeps saying that the WNBA players need to be paid more! Let’s not underestimate how important this work is for our young people.

I love that this work resonates with your daughter! Tell us what experiences and strengths led you to become involved in Women in Soccer?  

Well, it’s a funny one actually, Maria Murnane (who works for WIS) called me completely out of the blue. I almost didn’t answer the call since I didn’t recognize the number. She basically said that she’d come across the work I do as a career coach and would I be interested in speaking on Brandi’s Corner to inspire WIS members? I instantly saw the link, soccer is all about learning to adapt and adjust to change and that’s what I guide people in. What Maria didn’t know is that I’ve been a player and soccer fan my whole life. It all happened for a reason; women in soccer are so connected!

Erica, you were meant to be a part of WIS. Thanks for everything you bring to the network.

(Interested in career coaching with Erica? Be sure to check out PurposeFULL Seed)