When Crista Samaras walks into a circle of Row New Yorkers she immediately owns the space. Facing each teenage girl, she kicks her program off with a rallying cry that rivals the kind you might find on a football field. “Break down, huh!” she yells. Thirty-six girls repeat back the cry – but in smaller voices. Crista demands more. “Break down, huh!” the girl’s volume grows. This would be the first of many moments throughout the night that our girls would be asked to take actions in the face of fear.
“I want you to be strong in your body and deliver a strong message. We need our message to be clear, we don’t want to start with any ums or sorry’s. In this class we’re going to use periods after every sentence.” Crista speaks while deliberately standing in a power pose; her feet firmly planted apart, her chin up. “Always stand like this – with confidence,” she instructs.
Crista is the founder of Brave Enterprises, a company built on 15 years of experience working with thousands of teenage girls. She aims to get to the real base of insecurity, fear, grit, resilience, and bravery. Through her years of coaching girls from under-resourced communities she had a realization: bravery, grit, resilience and purpose could be the differentiator between winning and losing, between the haves and have nots. “Teams were beginning to fear us for the best reason – they knew we were coming for everything they had.”
Crista’s goal is to help people respond to their fears with brave action. She uses a 3 step method: honesty with self, witnessing brave action, and taking brave action.
It may be hard to believe that practicing bravery for a mere 2-hours can transform girls – but we saw it happen as the night unfolded. By starting with micro actions to create bravery and building on them, Crista helped students let go of shyness, to speak with purpose, to hold themselves up, and be washed over with confidence. Becoming brave is tough work. It requires us to face our fears and push ourselves way out of our comfort zones (which we did by doing various, and mostly hilarious, activities).
“We can only be brave if we are first afraid. Fear is the cue to know when to be brave.” Failure, she told the girls, is coming.
“Being brave is just making sure you’re ready when it does come. You want to dance with failure, you want to kiss failure, you want to take a shower every day and let failure rain on you. Why? Because you become less scared of failure the more you interact with it.”
By the end of the training our student-athletes circled up with their newfound bravery. With purpose and intention, they stated their names, their strengths, their identities. They spoke in the way that some of us sing in the shower, or dance when no one’s watching: without hesitation, embarrassment, or shame. They yelled their truths and stood in power poses. As a team, they gave one last “break down, huh!” – but this time in confident, brave voices.