ANAHEIM, Calif. — Call it the empower play.
More than 75 representatives from local hockey organizations around the country gathered Friday and Saturday in Anaheim for USA Hockey’s first-of-its-kind summit, Game On: Empowering Women in Hockey Together.
Billed as a women’s leadership summit, Game On addressed a range of topics, from inclusion to managing your thought process to increasing confidence.
“Our girls and women's section knows that female leadership is an important component of our long-term goals for growing the sport,” said Kristen Wright, USA Hockey’s ADM manager of female hockey. “We know that we need female volunteers that are empowered and able to go back in their communities and make a difference. The one piece that we felt was missing when we did our planning was the how-to skills necessary to be successful as a leader. So we wanted to put together a workshop that had all different components of leadership, whether it's strength-finding, goal-setting, communication, how to connect and build allies, we wanted to make sure we connected all those dots for the participants and this workshop.”
Attendees came to the Honda Center — home of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks — from more than 30 states. And after seeing the third and decisive game of the Rivalry Series — won by the Americans 4-3 in overtime — to cap off the weekend, those who soaked in the knowledge and advice said the experience was priceless.
“It has been absolutely amazing,” said Seattle’s Anne-Marie Dion, 27, who is director of female hockey for the Pacific Northwest Amateur Hockey Association as well as coach for a Washington Wild 14U Tier II team. “It really re-sparked all this joy and affirmed why I do what I do and why I love working in girls hockey.
“Meeting all these incredible women has been so thrilling, just to get a chance to talk to them and share problems and issues and know that what we're facing in Washington isn't unique to us, it is happening everywhere. And I think the importance of how girls can grow up to be leaders and how we as women, and as leaders and women's hockey can influence how our girls feel more confident.”
Those points were part of the impetus to create this summit. Not only will the attendees — which ranged from coaches to top administrators — take what they learned and disseminate the info to their local organizations, they created a new nationwide network to help solve problems or bounce ideas off through the contacts and new friendships made in Anaheim.
Angie Vaught — a 45-year-old from Austin, Texas, who is president of the women’s section for the Texas Amateur Hockey Association and runs her own rink, which includes many other responsibilities — has been involved with hockey for 19 years in her city.
“We've never focused on just girls and women's hockey,” said Vaught, who was in a USA Hockey committee meeting a couple years ago when this idea was first brainstormed. “This year, we're starting our own girls program. So I'm really excited about that and the timing of this is perfect, the networking of this is amazing.”
While one of the seminar highlights was hearing from 2018 Olympic gold medalist and U.S. Women’s National Team star Kendall Coyne Schofield about her experiences as a woman in hockey, another had to do with how females treat each other. One striking point made was that females need to be more encouraging to each other instead of having a moment straight out of the movie “Mean Girls.”
“I'd say anybody that knows me — and my parents will probably laugh — for most of my life, I will speak my mind. I don’t shy away from that,” said Kim Weiss, a 30-year-old from Rockville, Maryland, who among her many hockey roles is involved with the Washington Pride Tier I and Montgomery Devils Tier II programs and whose family runs a rink. “So I think one of the biggest things that I took away was just listening and empowering others and how relationships, building trust and empowering others are keys of leadership. That was something that I knew coming in was something I needed to work on. I felt like I got more tools to do that.”
The summit also proved to be a learning experience for USA Hockey. While there are many tools and resources USA Hockey makes available, including on its website, those items don’t always make it down to their intended audience.
“I think some of the resources we talked about specifically that we know are important, we actually need to do a better job of developing,” said Katie Holmgren, director of program services at USA Hockey who conducted a seminar about growing the game. “So we talked to people about making sure your program pathway for girls in your association is clear. But what tools are we providing to them besides this hands-on course where they're drawing something out with people around the country, and they're talking through problems? What resources can we provide so that they have tools from us to do the best job that they need to do.
“These are always important because we hear feedback and it gives us really good ideas on resources that we can develop to help everybody who's out in the field doing it every day.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.