For Women & Co., by Gerri Miller
Cameron Myler sped down the icy luge track in four Olympic Winter Games and was a seven-time U.S. National Champion and nine-time U.S. Luge Female Athlete of the Year before trading her sled for the slightly slower pace of intellectual property law. Now the Olympic luger is an attorney, adjunct professor of International Sports Governance and Legal Issues in Sports at New York University, and a passionate advocate for empowering youth through sports.
What was the transition from training for the Olympic Games to the traditional workforce like?
When I retired from luge in 1998, I was ready for a new challenge, so I was actually excited about starting law school and ultimately, practicing law in New York. I had worked extremely hard to achieve what I did as an athlete, so the pace at my first firm on Wall Street was not something I was unaccustomed to. Prior to matriculating at Boston College Law School, I had spent about half of each year traveling the world with my sled. One of the most difficult things about transitioning from my competitive career to the working world was being in one place for longer than a week!
Are there advantages that an active, sports-minded person like yourself can bring to the office?
No question about that. Athletes and active people are generally proactive, goal-oriented, and interested in being efficient with their time and challenging themselves on a daily basis. All of those qualities are useful -- if not necessary -- in a corporate environment.
What skills that you learned as an athlete translate most to the boardroom?
[Skills like] being innovative, believing that there's a solution to every problem, learning from mistakes and staying focused on the ultimate goal [helped me in the boardroom]. I served on the U.S. Olympic Committee's Board of Directors for eight years, so I had the chance to put those skills into action on a regular basis.
What was the most frustrating thing you've learned about the corporate world?
When I was competing in luge, there were a number of days that I was the very best in the world, and that's what I was always striving for. As a lawyer, I always felt that no matter how good I was, there would always be a number of people who could do my job as well as I could. There are no Olympic Games for lawyers!
What kind of commitment does it take to get to and perform as an Olympic athlete?
I competed in four Olympic Winter Games (1988, 1992, 1994 and 1998) and was on the U.S. National Team for 14 years. I was the youngest person to make a National Team (at 15) and the youngest person to ever win a National Championship (at 16). Leading up to my first Olympic Games, luge was always a priority. I made choices -- some might call them sacrifices -- to achieve what I did. I often trained when my peers had free time, I moved away from home when I was 14 to attend a school that supported my training plan (National Sports Academy in Lake Placid) and I graduated after my class at Dartmouth. It was all worth it, though! I knew what I wanted to accomplish and what it was going to take to get there.
Do you have any advice for parents who want their child to become an accomplished athlete?
Make opportunities available for your children in lots of different sports or activities. Not everyone is going to love soccer or basketball, but you may have a future equestrienne or luge athlete on your hands. Be supportive, but not overbearing: It's a fine line to know when to push your children and when to just let them progress at their own pace. Make sure your children are learning skills on the field that they can use off the field as well. I just spoke to a graduating 5th grade class in New York City, and told them about how the Olympic Ideals -- excellence, respect and friendship -- served me well as an athlete and have served me well every day since I retired from competition.
How else do sports still play a role in your life?
I work with Kids Play International, a nonprofit that uses sport as a tool to engage and educate underserved kids in Africa. When I left my law firm last year, I traveled with Kids Play to Rwanda, where we set up a community sports program that serves hundreds of kids who otherwise have very few opportunities. One of the best things I've ever done!
What achievement are you proudest of?
I'm very proud of the fact that I was elected by my teammates to carry the flag at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer in 1994. Team USA selects the person they believe best embodies the Olympic Ideals, so it was an honor to be picked over other inspiring athletes. I'm proud that I was able to represent not just my sport, but all Americans as the team walked into the arena in Lillehammer.
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