Like a lot of kids his age, Don Gould grew up playing hockey outdoors in upstate New York. He continued to stay involved with the game, always keeping a deep connection no matter where he lived.
Gould is a longtime volunteer, and he recalls being with a club in New Jersey about 20 years ago. The program looked at developing opportunities for girls hockey players but couldn’t find anyone interested in taking it on.
“I had daughters, so I jumped in and helped them,” Gould said. “And it kind of took off from there.”
What really took off was Gould’s continued passion for the sport, specifically his involvement in growing girls and women’s participation. Among other roles, and in addition to his full-time job outside of hockey, Gould has served USA Hockey in a volunteer role as the Girls/Women’s Section Director for the organization since 2015.
Gould’s influence has been integral in growing the girls game, according to Kristen Wright, USA Hockey ADM manager for female hockey and staff liaison for the Girls/Women’s Section. Wright works with Gould on initiatives relating to the Section’s strategic objectives.
Moving into a new segment of the hockey membership, for girls in this case, isn’t easy, Gould said. Interest or acceptance might not be there all the time. So he saw it as part of his role to promote girls hockey for all participants through encouragement and education to develop community interest in the sport.
Gould recognizes that USA Hockey needs to have leaders in volunteer roles, like his, to help develop opportunities for young girls in hockey.
“We’re looking to help develop leadership and additional opportunities for young girls in hockey. It takes interest, it takes people with passion to go out and do it,” Gould said. “We’ve got to have leadership.”
Gould’s passion for his role shines through every time you talk to him, Wright said.
“You can immediately tell when you have a conversation with Don that he is passionate,” Wright said. “Not only about hockey, but more specifically about making a place for women in the game, making a place for little girls to join the game and making sure everybody can play hockey.”
His passion lies in those areas but so does his experience. He has a knowledge base that many other people don’t have, Wright said. He’s also surrounded by plenty of people who are just as passionate about girls and women’s hockey as he is, she added.
Three key areas Gould has helped fuel are growth, visibility and leadership.
“We have to be represented,” Gould said. “We wanted to have every affiliate work with us, specifically on promoting the female side of the game.”
Growing the game is always a focus, and Gould said they’re hoping for six percent growth, adding that the girls and women’s section has already seen incredible, consistent growth over the past few years. Growth was as much as 6% in a given year, or higher, overall between the ages of 8 and 18, Gould said.
Those numbers don’t just happen. Gould believes you have to be focused in order to see it come to fruition, making it a tangible goal.
“It seems to be working,” Gould said. “We’re pretty happy about the path we’re on right now.
“We’re trying to create leaders. We’re trying to create visibility and trying to grow the game.”
Leadership being another key component, USA Hockey has put on a female leadership summit each year with Gould’s involvement; the third one is coming up in 2022.
Gould’s role is a unique one in that he’s a male volunteer in charge of a girls and women’s hockey section, Wright said. She offered praise for how Gould navigates bringing together the 12 USA Hockey district representatives and athletic directors, which includes U.S. Women’s National Team captain Kendall Coyne Schofield, and former players Julie Chu and Meghan Duggan, to support the initiatives.
Gould is a key ally in growing the girls’ game, Wright said.
“We knew that it was important to have male voices in the conversation as well,” Wright said. “We don’t only want to empower women. We also want to empower men that are in the women’s game and that support the women’s game.
“We need people like Don Gould to be saying the same things we’re saying, to support the growth of girls hockey.”
With all that Gould has accomplished, he says there’s still room for more. Part of the work still to be done is opening people’s eyes to the diversity in the sport. A large focus is certainly giving more girls and women exposure to hockey, especially in urban areas, Gould said.
For all the work Gould has put into his role with USA Hockey, he also recognizes part of his work is finding more people out there like him who have a passion for the work and want to do the job. Whether it’s inspiring the next generation of volunteers, or showcasing emerging leaders throughout the women’s game of hockey, Gould continues to feel re-energized by the sport he loves.
He has also reflected on the experiences that three of his four children had while playing hockey. One of his sons is a goaltending coach for the women’s program at Princeton University.
“Those kinds of things that you look back and say, ‘Yeah, it does rub off. It does mean something. It does matter,’” Gould said. “And it does inspire you to keep going.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.