Kay Rawlins has been surrounded by sports her entire life.

Every after-school day during her teenage years in Stoke, England, she played just about every sport possible, from netball to field hockey (her favorite) and more.

Today, many fans and followers of Orlando City SC and Orlando Pride know her as a Founder of the Club. Despite that — and Rawlins playing every sport growing up — Rawlins never played soccer. Instead, her love for the game came from fandom, specifically cheering on Stoke City at matches as a season ticket holder.

So it was almost fate that when her team, the Potters, back in the United Kingdom was looking for American-based affiliates, the vision for Orlando City began to form all those years ago.

In 2010, Orlando City was officially announced as a USL Pro team to start play in 2011, thrusting Rawlins into the role as Co-Owner, Vice President and Director of Community Relations, positions that demanded a lot from her so early on. With those titles, however, came a sense of authority, which set the tone for her very early in her tenure.

"Being one of the founders meant I never felt intimidated, no matter how many guys were in the room," she said. "Obviously, especially back in the old days, I was pretty much the single female employee — nevermind that the VP was the only female employee. Seeing how things have changed since then, especially in the last two-to-three years, having more women in leadership roles, having many, many more women throughout the whole enterprise, it makes me makes me incredibly happy."

Turkey drive 2023

March is Women's History Month, and Rawlins is one of the many trailblazing women who helped make this Club what it is today, alongside those she mentions who are still creating history in front of our eyes.

Being a leader within the team in the early days never phased Rawlins, nor does it now. Spearheading the growth of the team from USL to MLS while also growing the Club's Foundation and working diligently on community outreach over the last decade-plus all stems from the abundance of confidence that she exudes.

"I don't lack confidence, knowing my subject matter is what carries you through," she said. "It's just constantly showing up and showing you know your stuff."

That approach for Rawlins comes with the territory of being a woman in sports. Trailblazing a path in leadership, she has learned the tools and tricks of how to make a name for herself in the professional environment.

"When you're in a meeting with all guys, and they ask you a question, you answer, and you see the surprise sometimes on their faces, I just let it go," she said. "There are some battles I will get into, and others are not worth it. It's a sad fact of life that women have to approach meetings and presentations in a very different way."

Part of building that pathway came with help along the way.

"My thing is always to reach across the aisle and make allies," she said. "No cause has ever succeeded until allies get involved. Whether that's the LGBTQ community or people of color, when allies get on board and get behind them, then things will really start to happen."

"If you see women being denigrated in any way online, or people being shamed for being a woman, then be the person who steps in. You may have daughters, aunts, moms, or grandmas, and you don't want that to happen to them. So why wouldn't you be the person to step up and see something, say something? Relationship building is absolutely crucial, and I found certainly in soccer, it's a tiny world. It's really small. It's not even six degrees. You meet and find people all across the world that you know of somebody that they know. So building those relationships and nurturing them is vital."

Kay open cup

One of the most poignant moments in her tenure with the club was helping start and nurture the Orlando Pride, the first professional women's soccer team in Florida.

Over the years, the Club has grown by leaps and bounds, becoming a trendsetter in the women's soccer landscape. Not only did they bring in the world's best player in Marta back in 2017, but just a few weeks ago, they brought in Zambia forward Barbra Banda in one of the largest all-in investments in a player in world soccer history.

"We've still got a long way to go to get people to still take women's sport seriously," she said. "But it's definitely coming. It's really focusing in on who's going to support the Pride and then building the collective, getting leaders in this community. We've recently been talking about adding guys, which I still I think we should do we need allies in this game always.

"But those are leaders who we've asked to keep the Pride front of mind, to spread the word, to bring people to games, to encourage that support that we obviously have on the men's side, but we still don't have near enough people in the building. That's obviously part of my new kind of responsibility, taking that on board. And that will mean meeting face-to-face with a lot of people. It's something I am really passionate about."

That passion from Rawlins, which began on the courts and playing fields in her youth, endures to this day as she now embarks on a new journey as an Executive and Club Ambassador for both Orlando City and Pride. It's just another way she continues to be a shining beacon for women in sports, both in Orlando and around the country.