March is Girls Sports Month. USA TODAY High School Sports has partnered with the Women’s Sports Foundation for a series of pieces in which female athletes share their views on topics such as leadership, mentoring, perseverance and the important role athletics has played in their lives. The Women’s Sports Foundation is dedicated to providing safe and equitable sports opportunities so that all girls receive the significant health, education and leadership benefits sports provide both on and off the field. The WSF shapes public attitude about women’s sports, gets girls active by supporting community organizations with funding and resources, ensures equal opportunities for girls and women, and supports physically and emotionally healthy lifestyles. You can find the WSF on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Visit WomensSportsFoundation.org for inspiring athlete content and resources for parents, coaches and student-athletes. For previous Girls Sports Month coverage, click here.
One of the hardest things to deal with in the professional world is dealing with job-related criticism, and Danica Patrick has had plenty of experience with that.
Thanks to her celebrity and a heavy marketing push, Patrick is perhaps NASCAR’s most famous driver. She lives under a magnifying glass and has every move scrutinized. She’s as much at home in the spotlight as she is when she returns to the Phoenix area, where she lived for years and still owns a residence.
It was back in Phoenix, during a recent visit with youths at an educational center, that Patrick gave advice on how to deal with critics or those who might say negative things.
The key, she said, was two-fold: Finding a job you enjoy and working as hard as possible.
“That’s really the most important thing in not letting someone say something that gets to you: You find something you love to do, and then you know that you’re putting in the right amount of effort,” she said.
“People can make us feel bad about ourselves when we don’t do as much as we should, so we have a reason to feel guilty, a reason to feel defeated.
“If you’re working your hardest and you know you’re doing everything you possibly can do, then how can you be mad or let someone you said affect you when you’re doing your best?”
To do her best, Patrick has become more immersed in the parts of her sport other than driving on race day. In NASCAR, teams like Stewart-Haas Racing hold weekly competition meetings and expect drivers to pop into the race shop from time to time — something that was foreign to Patrick during her IndyCar days.
“I never went to my race shop in IndyCar — ever,” she said. “Shoot me. It sounded really boring.”
“You gotta work really hard (in NASCAR),” she added. “You do. It is really hard work to be good in NASCAR. And it starts with me showing up (at the shop) and showing my face.”
It’s all part of the process for Patrick, whose supporters point to baby steps toward achieving better results in NASCAR. So far this season, she has finished 21st, 16th, 27th, 26th and 19th — not good, but not as bad as she expected. Patrick’s average finish last year was 23.7 (a step up from 26.1 in her rookie season).
While her dream has always been to compete and thrive in NASCAR, Patrick has other dreams too. Among them: to write a cookbook.
During the visit to Arizona Call-A-Teen Resources, an educational and workforce development agency that won a contest from her sponsor GoDaddy, one student asked if Patrick had any projects she was working on for the future, and Patrick brought up the cookbook idea.
But it doesn’t sound like it’s very far along.
“It seems like it’s stunted my creativity,” said Patrick, who often posts pictures of her homemade dishes on social media. “All of a sudden, now that I need to write down my recipes, I’m like, ‘Oh, that sucked.’ Because now it’s got to be like cookbook quality, you know?
“At first, it was like, ‘Oh, that’s delicious.’ Now it’s like, ‘Well, is that cookbook quality though?’ ”
Patrick attended high school until halfway through her junior year, then left to pursue a racing career in England (she later earned her GED). She told the students she leaned toward the creative arts rather than math and science.
“I think it’s OK your dreams change over time, and mine have definitely ebbed and flowed over time,” she said. “… I enjoy creating and working with paint, wood, building things. I don’t know where it may take me in the future, but your couch or your picture on your wall or your cookbook in your kitchen might come from me someday.”