Dr. Robin West Recognized as January ECNL S’Hero Award Recipient

RICHMOND, VA (January 12, 2017) – The Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) today announced Dr. Robin West as the January S’Hero of the Month award recipient for individual and community leadership. As part of Amazing Young WomenTM movement, the ECNL is sharing the stories of S’Heroes who are role models for our nation’s young female athletes who are balancing their drive to become elite athletes with the pressures of fitting in with social peers.

S’Heroes are a part of the Amazing Young WomenTM campaign designed to showcase strong, successful women who embody the fact that drive on the soccer field translates into life lessons. The ECNL is calling on all who love sports to join them in supporting youth female athletes as they recognize their own potential, define their individual paths to success, and prepare to be our next generation of leaders using the hashtag #UNSHAKABLE.

Studies have shown that driving factors behind girls dropping out of sports include limited exposure to the inspirational journeys trail blazed by positive role models, and social stigma; where player traits that are so valued by teams are often not promoted for young girls. By age 14, girls are dropping out of sports at two times the rate of boys 1.  The Amazing Young Women campaign encourages young female athletes to embrace their competitive nature, and prove they cannot be shaken from the path to their dreams. Those recognized as S’Heroes have taken a spirit of leadership and inspiration from the field, and have demonstrated that it’s not just about a phase of your life, but a way of life.

“The focus of an elite athlete is to be the best when you compete, striving to raise the bar every time you play,” said Jen Winnagle, ECNL Commissioner. “The ECNL provides a platform for young women to embrace their talents both on and off the field, helping to develop and motivate these amazing athletes to reach new heights through all phases of life.”

S’Hero – Dr. Robin West

Photo Credit: CSN Mid-Atlantic

Dr. Robin West is a pioneer for women in the sports, beckoning ESPNW to ask if she is currently the most influential person in the professional sports medicine field. West was the first female to be named lead team physician in Major League Baseball (MLB) with the Washington Nationals in 2015, and became the first female head team physician in the National Football League (NFL) in 2016 when she was hired by the Washington Redskins. She currently holds both of these positions, and continues to practice as an orthopedic surgeon while sitting as chairman of Inova Sports Medicine. She sees patients of all ages and athletic abilities, performing surgery several times a week.

In addition to being the only female head team physician in the NFL, she is also 1 of 2 female head orthopedic surgeons in the NFL. Only 1 of 8 women total in nearly 300 team physician positions.

West’s road to success was paved by determination and a great support system. Her interest in becoming a doctor began early on when she asked for an anatomy book at age 5. It was here when she set her mind on becoming a surgeon. Raised by her mother, she was encouraged to follow her dreams. West believed that any goal she set she could reach, and that the options were limitless. Her mother made sure of that, having raised West on her own and desiring the best future possible for her daughter.  West was drawn to math and science, and eventually this passion merged with her love of sports, helping her to narrow her focus on a career in sports medicine.

Sports medicine and orthopedic surgery are areas that have traditionally been dominated by males, with only 4% of the orthopedic surgeon industry being women. This was a non-factor to West when she set her sights on learning more about what this field has to offer. In high school, she was on the boy’s swim team, and often found practicing water polo with her teammates.

West furthered her swimming career as a member of the Johns Hopkins women’s swim team, where her busy schedule made for the majority of her training to occur with the men’s team. She credits her drive and mental preparedness to her athletic experiences and the nontraditional training environments she was exposed to along the way.

Her time as a competitive athlete also helps West relate to her patients, as she knows first hand what they are fighting to get back to. Although each situation is different, the mindset of coming back from an injury is very similar from case to case.  It helps her understand what their goals are and how she can safely assist them to recover, no matter what the expectation.

Recently, the tables were turned, and she found herself in the her patient’s shoes.  West competes regularly in triathlons, and recently was involved in a terrible bicycle accident. This time she was on the receiving end of trauma care. The injury forced her to take time away from work, reigniting her love for her career.

“My mom always told me, you want to find something that you love to do. I hope people can look for that and stay true to themselves no matter what. I hate missing time at home with my family, but I feel the same about time away from my job.  Not a lot of people can say that,” West said about her passion for the sports medicine field. “My favorite thing about sports medicine is that I can take care of athletes of all ages and abilities. I love to challenge myself to make them the best they can be.”

While West is now a leader in her field, she spent 11 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers working under Dr. James Bradley. He recognized her talents early on, especially when working in crisis situations. NFL Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis noted that she had a calming smile and comfort about her. These assets along with her skills as a surgeon are what led her to other opportunities, and eventually to Washington DC to work with both the Nationals and Redskins.

West’s passion, unwavering determination and ability to refine her skillset in her profession are what have made her into the woman who broke the glass ceiling for women in the sports medicine field. She not only broke into the professional sports medicine field; she is thriving in it and making a positive impact. West is highly regarded and thus sought after by professional teams, individual athletes and other organizations. By perfecting her talents and using her maternal instincts, she is whom athletes look to for advice and treatment in injury situations.

West paved her own way, and shares her story to inspire others to do the same.  She is a sounding board for those that dream big, constantly encouraging others to take action and live their own dream.  Anything is possible when you believe in yourself.  Dr. Robin West, you are an Amazing Young Woman. Thank you for sharing your story.


About Amazing Young WomenTM: The Amazing Young Women campaign is a dynamic platform of online and local market activations that showcase and celebrate female role models offering an aspirational focus for all female athletes and teens as they prepare to be our next generation of leaders. The ECNL is calling on all of the nation’s women to join the movement to celebrate the endless potential of today’s girls.

Women of all ages can share their personal moments of inspiration where they defined what it is to be #UNSHAKABLE through elevated stories and social media. Every share and submission helps drive a movement that celebrates the power of what it is to be a girl today.

About Elite Clubs National League ®: The Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) was founded in 2009 to enhance the developmental experience of female youth soccer players in the United States through: (i) improving the competitive environment through creation of a true national competitive league; (ii) improving the process for identifying elite female soccer players through a systematic scouting and identification program based on national competitions; and (iii) improving the daily training environment at top female youth soccer clubs through developing best practices and training and organizational guidelines for its member clubs. The ECNL is sanctioned by US Club Soccer and is sponsored by Nike Soccer.

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For media enquiries:
Blaze Byrd
Email: blaze@eliteclubsnationalleague.com

1. Girls drop-out at different rates depending on where they live. Sabo, D. and Veliz, P. (2008). Go Out and Play: Youth Sports in America. East Meadow, NY: Women’s Sports Foundation.