As a child, every February marked a sad time in my life. The calendar in my family’s kitchen was only one page away from March, which marked the end of hockey season. At the conclusion of my third grade season I wrote a poem in which I compared the season ending to losing my best friend. I loved to play hockey with all my soul, but little did I know that my “best friend” would literally shape the rest of my life.
I was seven years old when I declared that I wanted to play ice hockey. Fortunately, my parents were extremely supportive of my mission however many of the local coaches were not. One of the only girls in Illinois to lace up skates (the kind without toe picks) I faced ridicule and was cut from several teams that I was very qualified to play for. I remember walking into the rink for tryouts with my head held high, even though the coach had already told me he would never allow a girl on his team. I was determined not to listen to the naysayers, not to mention that tryouts gave me more ice time to play the sport I loved. And always, in the back of my mind a voice told me that if I was good enough, and if I worked hard enough, I would prove everyone wrong. I loved to play hockey in spite of, or maybe because of, all the people who told me I shouldn’t. A shy girl in school and social settings, I made my mark on the ice.
Had I listened to any of the coaches who thought I was better suited for ballet flats, I probably would have had a nice life. I would have gone to college, found a job, made some friends. Thankfully I tuned those coaches out and doors began to open. I was an above average student but my academics were not remarkable, yet I skated my way through the admissions department at several Ivy League institutions and chose to attend Yale University. I have traveled through most of Western Europe and played professionally in Switzerland. I don’t just have friends I have a tight band of teammates who are more like sisters, as well as a wonderful husband who I met on the ice. When my playing career ended, my experiences sparked the interest of employers which led to interviews, which led to jobs, which led to a career with the National Collegiate Scouting Association (NCSA). My degree and athletic experience got me in the door with NCSA but it is the intangible lessons and skills learned from competition and adversity that empowered me to rapidly advance to an executive level position.
Hockey has not only enhanced my life, it has defined it, and I’m sure someday my children’s lives will be shaped by sports in ways I cannot even begin to imagine. Through NCSA I have the opportunity to work closely with girls to help them reach their own athletic and life potential. Girls today are blessed with many opportunities to compete in sport, and I am certain the world will reap the benefits of a new generation of talented, motivated, team oriented women. With the proper focus and guidance girls can turn what was once considered a pass time into so much more.