In 2015, LeShonda Martin found herself married to professional football player Sherrod Martin, living in a new city and searching for a sisterhood that at the time did not exist.
It was then that she decided to create an organization called WAGS (which stands for Wives and Girlfriends of Sportspersons) Redefined. Her goal was to ensure that women who are typically isolated had a space where they could have a sisterhood and navigate through the transient lifestyle that accompanies professional athletes.
Today, under the WAGS Redefined banner is a website, a print and digital magazine, and as of this weekend, the inaugural WAGCademy Conference, taking place Saturday, July 21, at Hudson Loft in Los Angeles.
Martin began with the National Football League WAGS and then proceeded to include WAGS of all professional athletes. The thought process was simple: athletes’ wives and girlfriends need each other to maneuver through their day-to-day struggles.
She endeavored to change the narrative and conversation about these women beyond the glamour and calamity often displayed by a few on reality TV shows, such as E! network’s WAGS (Wives and Girlfriends of Sports Stars) franchise, with shows based in Los Angeles, Miami and Atlanta. Martin wants people to know most are involved with respected organizations and engaged in community service.
Saturday’s WAGCademy Conference will offer a weekend of classes and workshops designed exclusively for the women of the sports community. Topics include wealth management, the “real” behind reality TV, and social media and influencer optimization, among others.
Rolling out had the chance to speak with Martin and get a preview of the inaugural WAGCademy Conference.
Are there additional pressures to being an athlete’s wife that we don’t know about?
One of the first topics that I wanted to address was identity. In the world of professional athletics, the players are often idolized and put on a pedestal. There are many women who are in the background. These women wonder where they fit in the formula. A lot of times with the constant travel and uncertainty of the lifestyle, there is a lot of pressure to be the stay-at-home or wife and not pursue your career until your man is done with his career. The common phrase is that professional sports careers are “not for long,” so you should sit in the background for a few years [until his career ends].
There is also pressure from the guy. My husband is very supportive of me and loves the ambition within me and would rather be married to the next Oprah than someone just worried about taking care of all the domestic duties at home that day.
I realize that’s not every man. As a woman, we want to be the apple of our man’s eye. If your man wants you to stay home and not work because you are relieving other stresses or pressures from the world, then many of the wives opt to stay home. But, in that, there are struggles because we want to do more. You want to pursue your purpose and your passion, and you wonder when is the right time to do [that].
With great power and influence comes great responsibility, how does community service intertwine with WAGCademy?
The reality is a lot of WAGS are all about giving back. Philanthropy is a staple in our community. So today, we are doing a community event at the L.A. Dream Center, which includes backpacks and supplies for the students and additional things that involve us giving back to the L.A. community.
When did you decide that you wanted to start doing conferences?
I had the vision where the ladies could gather to have common questions answered, be inspired and have fun. I feel like conferences are so important. We live in an increasingly visual world. While it’s great for marketing, it’s not so good for personal relationships. My undergraduate background is [in] psychology and sociology, so I always have been fascinated with how people tick.
Conferences allow WAGS to connect face to face and bond over our experience and give us a platform to inform people of who we are outside of reality TV. There is also a panel on reality TV because the platform is so large.
I was really big on getting resources that, as an athlete’s wife, weren’t readily available to us. A lot of sports organizations will have services that focus on the player and not the wives. Wives have a lot of influence over our homes and our husbands, specifically when it comes to [employee] benefits and their career. I’m trying to make waves for those organizations, so we can get the tools needed to help ourselves and our husbands.
Will this be a WAGS-only conference?
We are having a mix of WAGS and non-WAGS. There is a relationship therapist who has experience in that arena. I found that to be important because marriages among professional sports athletes experience a divorce rate of around 60 percent and, within the NFL, the average is as high as 80 percent. If we can inform WAGS on what the pitfalls are, then maybe they’ll be equipped with what to do if issues arise. In addition, we have a Retirement Game Plan Checklist so WAGS know next steps on what comes after the game. My two focuses were to make sure we had expert knowledge on relationships and retirement for professional sports.
Although this conference is designated for WAGS only, Martin firmly believes in inclusion and hopes to also include the general public in the future.
To learn more about WAGS Redefined and the inaugural WAGCademy Conference, visit wagsredefined.com/conference.