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Female athlete advocate: Okabena native wins national award for online movement encouraging change

ST. LOUIS PARK -- Underrepresented, sexualized and judged on appearance rather than ability are all things Courtney Place has experienced during her career as a female athlete.

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Okabena native Courtney Place started SEE US, an online movement to raise awareness about inequality in women's athletics. (Special to The Globe)
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ST. LOUIS PARK - Underrepresented, sexualized and judged on appearance rather than ability are all things Courtney Place has experienced during her career as a female athlete.

The Okabena native knows her experience as a female athlete isn’t unique, which sparked a fire within her to create SEE US, an online campaign for female athletes to share their experiences and to spread awareness about the stark differences between male and female athletics.  

“I’m hoping the movement has changed a lot of people’s perspectives on what’s OK and what’s not OK in regard to female athletes,” said Place, who graduated last month from Augustana University in Sioux Falls, S.D., where she played on the volleyball team.

The movement that’s been gaining traction was further bolstered last month when Victoria’s Secret announced it as one 20 PINK GRL PWR Project winners. Place won $10,000, which she plans to use directly for the SEE US movement and to host interactive workshops encouraging high school athletes to embrace their abilities with confidence.

Launched in February 2018, Place said she got the idea for the online movement when she visited Europe to discuss the possibility of going pro. She quickly realized that her parents and close friends likely wouldn’t get to watch her compete, because women’s sports aren’t often televised as frequently as men’s athletics. That reality wouldn’t be different if she played in the United States, which only has one professional volleyball team.

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The daughter of Keith and Julie Place of Okabena, the 2015 Heron Lake-Okabena graduate still has vivid memories of hateful and lewd comments spewed from an opposing school’s student body as she competed in volleyball. She also played basketball and competed in speech during her time at HL-O.

“I hope the movement helps shape the conversation differently, or even have the conversation,” she said. “When I was in high school, nobody did anything about the crowd’s chanting. It was just the norm.”

Her idea has not only earned her $10,000 to further her movement, but landed her a career. Place is now the media marketing specialist for Her Next Play, a new company in Edina that empowers female athletes to confidently launch successful careers.

“I saw our missions suiting one another,” said Place, who now lives in St. Louis Park, of her career opportunity, which allows her to continue heading the SEE US campaign.  

Place said she never could have imagined she’d be doing what she is today, but is happy for the opportunity to be a female athlete advocate.

“I’m trying to help as many female athletes in Minnesota as I can,” she said.

SEE US is on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and online, seeusmovement.weebly.com/ .

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Okabena native Courtney Place is raising awareness about inequality in women's athletics through her SEE US online movement. (Special to The Globe)

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