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Day One of Game On: Empowering Women in Hockey Together

By USA Hockey, 02/20/21, 7:30AM MST


Seven influential speakers, more than 220 attendees, and one goal to grow the game

USA Hockey’s virtual leadership summit, Game On: Empowering Women in Hockey Together, kicked-off with seven influential speakers and more than 220 attendees tuning in from across the country.

With a focus on current and future leaders in youth hockey, the topics covered in the summit’s first day educated the participants on what elements make a strong leader, the importance of molding an athlete’s competence and confidence, how to effectively communicate and build a strong team, and strategic ways to market women’s sports.

Each presentation, panel discussion and breakout session were rooted in applying this information and these skills at the grassroots levels of the game, no matter what role someone holds.

The call ended with a reflection exercise to challenge participants to not simply take the new information and absorb it but to immediately apply the lessons within their lives and work. The hope being the attendees can implement these ideas while awaiting to gain more from the next round of speakers on Friday, Feb. 26. 

Despite the 15 minutes given to attendees to discuss these reflection opportunities within breakout rooms, the conversations carried into the main call and beyond the closing remarks. This only further set the tone for how everyone left empowered, energized and ready to learn more next session—all with the goal to grow girls and women’s hockey.

Girls & Women Hockey Home

Seven Secrets of Leadership – Jeff Janssen, founder and president of Janssen Sports Leadership Center

A strong leader possesses these seven components: character-based, competency, commitment, caring, confidence-building, communication and consistency. Each adds to an individual’s ability to lead effectively, which transcends beyond a coach or captain’s role. One can apply this mindset to every position a person holds within life.

“All seven of these [components] need to be in place in order to be a credible leader,” said Janssen.

Reflection exercise—Approach someone you work with within your role and have them evaluate you on the seven secrets to leadership. Compare the results with a self-evaluation.

Build & Maintain Confidence - Dr. Dean Kriellars, associate professor of University of Manitoba 

Coaches need to focus on the importance of simultaneously building an athlete’s confidence and competence. Doing so will also help maintain engagement in a sport. If an athlete is confident in executing a task within a game, they will continue to play the sport due to the enjoyment of participating. This was further demonstrated with a scientific study that shows how a lack of building confidence in female athletes is causing the drop in female participation in sport.

“At age nine, girls’ competence [in movement] starts to lack. At age 10, girls’ confidence starts to erode and continues to do so,” said Dr. Kriellars. “We must develop competence and confidence simultaneously in order to create self-competence and therefore inner trust.”

Reflection exercise—Identify two to three ways to create an environment that would help maintain your confidence or others’ confidence. How can you minimize confidence eroding behaviors? How might you increase confidence and competence simultaneously? 

Connect & Build Teams - Sarah Hirshland, CEO of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, & Jessica Berman, National Lacrosse League deputy commissioner and executive vice president of business affairs

When communicating, it’s most effective to be thoughtful. This allows for one to be attentive and authentic within the conversation.

“Before I go into a meeting or do a presentation or get on a call, I try to take a few minutes prior to reflect on what I am wanting to communicate and what I would want to hear if I were listening,” said Hirshland. “This allows me to be prepared and my communication to be thoughtful.”

When building a team, look for diversity in skill, thought, personality and experience. This will bring an ability to have checks and balances and more overall success to the project.

“A phrase I was once told that I always think back to for building a strong team, ‘diversity is the invitation to the party and inclusion is the celebration at the party,’” said Berman.

Reflection exercise—Make a list of the people you closely work with. Identify each of their strengths. What structures are in place to build trust within your team/association? Where are the opportunities to improve positive team dynamics with your team/association? 

Kristen Wright with Sarah Hirshland (right) and Jessica Berman (bottom).

Kristen Wright with Sarah Hirshland (right) and Jessica Berman (bottom).

Marketing with Lisa Baird, commissioner of the National Women’s Soccer League, Susan Cohig, National Hockey League executive vice president of club business affairs & Julie Napieralski, senior lecturer of Communications School at RIT

First, determine your goal. Second, identify your audience. Third and final, decide what to say to get your audience to reach your goal.

Napieralski added, “It can be helpful to imagine yourself as the audience and think through what you would want to hear.”

The conversation ended on how the growth around women’s sports is just beginning.

“Women control 85% of the dollar spent on everything—household, entertainment, otherwise—and it’s trillions of dollars,” said Cohig. “So, the power of being able to do that and use that in a way that advances the sport in a way that is inclusive for the next generation is incredible. I cannot underscore how important it is.”

Reflection exercise—Take an inventory of how your organization utilizes marketing, social media, or campaigns to promote and grow hockey. Are there opportunities for improvement? If so, begin to identify areas of potential growth. 


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