Innovative class matches this high school senior with a future digital career path

Waukee High School Girls Track coach Erica Douglas finished a recent public speaking event by saying, “If you coach girls, you need to know how to talk girl.”

She told Clay & Milk a bowling coach stopped her after asking what she meant because he would say something and a boy would understand, but the girl would start crying.

“So that was the realization that I may know something that other people might not know,” Douglas said.

So she wanted to start a website to provide female athletes and coaches with information on leadership, communication and performance.

She just didn’t know about web design. unnamed (2)

The “Perfect Girl”

The Waukee School District offers an APEX (Aspiring Professional Experience) program that is a collaboration between education, business and the community. Courses are industry-driven based on economic trends with its curriculum developed by partnering with industry leaders.

It’s open to junior and seniors at Waukee High School but the class of 2016 also consisted of students from A.D.M, Johnston and Van Meter.

“So I reached out to a teacher (Scott Palmer) and said if he had a girl that was an athlete I think that would be a cool aspect of it because that’s the whole purpose of the website, to empower girls to be more than their sport,” Douglas explained. “Well he said he had the perfect girl.”

That girl was senior Emma Durflinger from Van Meter High School.

She Plays for real

The APEX program started in August of 2016 with each student being assigned a client to work for.

“So being one of the only girls in the class and being the only athlete really was given the ShePlays project,” Durflinger, 18, said.

Durflinger worked on the site all of first semester and the site launched on Jan. 1, 2017.

“She was amazing” Douglas said. “She enhanced what I was thinking.”

And it was a cause Durflinger believed in.

“I’m a strong believer for equality and especially in female athletics because I know what it’s like to be in it and treated not the same,” Durflinger said. “I have a little brother a year younger than me and doesn’t understand girls can be just as good as guys.” Primary-Logo-2C-1.png

Durflinger said she “always had a thing” for websites when she was younger but never thought she could make a career out of designing them.

“Until I went through this APEX program because for forever I wanted to be a psychologist,” Durflinger says.

This fall she will study Interactive Media Technologies at Indian Hills Community College.

A unique experience

Douglas ran track for Iowa State University and with her father being a coach, she spent her childhood around athletics. But when Douglas started coaching she realized her experience wasn’t what everybody goes through.

“I saw there was a need for education,” Douglas says. “How to not only coach girls in sports but also for the female athlete and the things that they go through but don’t vocalize themselves.”

Coach D Headshot
Erica Douglas

Douglas says jealously is a major issue within girls teams and dealing with it as a coach is brittle.

“They go through all these emotions and lots of times I see other coaches, well meaning people, diminish what they’re feeling,” Douglas says. “Instead of helping them learn what they are going through to cope with it and handle in a mature way. Buck it up, or we treat girls like we treat boys doesn’t help them any.”