On the second day of the USA Hockey’s virtual leadership summit, Game On: Empowering Women in Hockey Together, participants were given the opportunity to dig even deeper into how to lead and grow girls and women’s hockey at all levels of the game.
However, before diving into new information, participants were tasked with reflecting on what “light bulb moments” they experienced from the knowledge shared in day one. One attendee mentioned Dr. Dean Kriellaars’s presentation showing how positive coaching affects a child’s competency. Another attendee spoke about being blown away by how important it is for men to act as allies for girls and women’s hockey and—even more so—finding it encouraging to see many participating in the summit.
With a continued focus on current and future leaders in youth hockey, the information covered in the summit’s second day armed participants with knowledge on the different ways to engage and empower people to continue to grow girls and women’s hockey. The topics included best practices for how to establish a girls program and continue its growth, how to lead and be involved in girls hockey, how to write and receive a grant, how to create a supportive coaching staff, why get involved with officiating, how to engage volunteers and the different collegiate paths available.
Day two featured five breakout sessions that allowed participants to choose which presentations they attended to serve their work best. These options created for more interactive and engaging conversation in each virtual room.
The summit ended with remarks from Jane Solverson, USA Hockey’s lead for girls/women’s leadership initiatives, who shared her gratitude to those who attended and participated in the two-day event. She passed the floor to Don Gould, USA Hockey’s chair of girls/women’s section, who closed out the call with a quote to help remind everyone that they have a responsibility to continue the work started from these calls.
“Take the leap. One day you will realize the impact you’ve made on girls and women’s hockey. So, take the leap now.”
No matter if you’re starting to establish a girls hockey program or have an existing program, it’s crucial to continue to face challenges and ultimately push for growth.
“Treat it [a girls hockey program] like a business,” said Lyndsey Fry, associated with the Arizona Coyotes. “You have to always be evolving. Never become complacent.”
While many youth programs are coed, it’s important to acknowledge this can retain female participation to the point where these athletes can experience an all-girls team at the 16U or 19U level. That doesn’t mean a coed team should be the only answer. Find the opportunities for collaboration within your local rink to help better establish a girls program.
“Sometimes a prominently male program is in the rink, but that doesn’t mean they own the rink,” said Kimberly Weiss, associated with the Washington Pride. “So find a way to work together to grow your girls program.”
In the last few years, there have been many strides for women in sports and hockey. But during this time of COVID, concerns exist around how to keep people engaged and the game moving forward. The best solution is to simply remain engaged. This could include doing something as easy as following your favorite female athletes on social media or by consistently listening to a women’s sports podcast.
“The momentum is here…it’s going to change the entire landscape of hockey. Most women thought they had to take roles in women’s hockey. That’s been blown away,” said Granato. “Women can apply, and should apply, to roles within men’s hockey.”
The focus and need for sports hasn’t been as crucial or as necessary as it is now—especially in the girls and women’s game.
“We learn about life through sport…it’s so self-evident,” said Ruggerio. “The confidence and the application you get from the ice can be applied elsewhere.”
Grants are a great way to access additional funding needed to grow your association or program. Keep these tips in mind when applying for a grant and utilizing an awarded grant.
When preparing to apply for a grant, create a checklist and designate who will deliver on what.
When writing a proposal, use language found on the grant program’s site. This keeps you organized and shows you read their guidelines.
Within your proposal, limit the use of acronyms or jargon. Try to use linear language that everyone can understand.
Always remember to follow the guidelines and answer the questions the grant program has outlined.
A grant proposal shouldn’t read as a mystery novel. Make it obvious what you need and why you need it. Then share your story.
“When applying to a grant, the results are really important,” said Hines. “What is going to change within your program with their funding? Make sure you outline this for the funder.”
Every coaching staff is different from the next. However, what you’ll find similar between every successful program is a staff supportive of each other, with shared values and mutual respect, all working towards a common goal.
“I think we [Harvard] work at our culture every day. We work at it with our staff and players and people within the community,” said Stone. “Maybe there’s not one specific thing we do [to be successful], but we do try to remain consistent…we expect everyone to do their jobs.”
“When I think back to our staff, what’s unique about our group is the longevity of our group,” said Frost. “Because of this longevity and relationships, we’ve built a great amount of trust. This doesn’t mean we don’t have our arguments and disagreements. It just means we always come from a place of trust.”
When it comes to empowering your team, it’s essential to recognize the best leaders, regardless of position, and provide power to others instead of being focused on maintaining power over others.
There are a variety of ways to remain involved with hockey after your playing years. One opportunity is within officiating. You’re still part of a team, and you’re still contributing to the game.
“Officials are also a team,” said Livingston. “They [players] can’t have the game without officials.”
Becoming an official, especially as a female, is hugely beneficial for girls and women’s hockey. Girls need to see themselves in those managing the game.
A great way to build and engage a volunteer group is by assessing who is invested in youth sports—parents. Tapping into this network is a great way to retain a player and keep a parent involved with something that brings their child joy.
“Without parents as volunteers, we cannot do what we do,” said Kiosoglous. “Sport wouldn’t exist at every single level.”
Many youth athletes have the dream of continuing to play their sport into college. Not every athlete will make it to the Division I collegiate level of their game, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other paths to continue playing.
When helping a student-athlete prepare and decide for college hockey, the type of study they want to concentrate on will filter down which schools they should aspire to play for.
No matter which collegiate path an athlete takes, they should always be encouraged to own it as it is their journey. You should also help them gauge their commitment level for playing on a scholarship to fulfill their education.
“When talking about ‘commitment level,’ what we mean is you were recruited for a job and to get an education on top of doing that job,” said Marchant.