There are few prouder moments in a Fathers life than when his daughter declares her intent to attend Harvard; however I can rest a little easier knowing that I have until the fall of 2021 to save my pennies. Yet due to the fact that she is only ten I found myself digging for a little more of her selection process.
Harvard itself is in a different country from us currently, and it would be a good eight hour drive from our house in Southern Ontario Canada to the Eastern Coastline of the United States. So it would stand to reason that I had better make sure I understood why she has chosen such a storied and sought after location for her Higher Education.
“So you have chosen to go to Harvard?” We both (Mom and I) asked.
“Oh yes” exclaimed my daughter, a little matter of fact like.
“What would you be doing at Harvard?”
“Playing Hockey!” was the reply, almost as if we should have known.
“No, I mean what would you be taking as part of your schooling?”
“I would be playing hockey!”
“I understand that, but what we are asking is what courses would you take? What is it after University you want to do? What kind of job do you want?”
“I would play hockey, which would be my JOB.”
The next sentence out of my mouth was one that haunts me, I regretted it just ask quickly as I said it, and a simple conversation about hopes and dreams between a young girl and her parents was about to take a turn into equality and the current culture and perception of Women in Sports.
“There are not many paying Hockey Jobs for girls; you will have to think about something else.” It almost came out in slow motion.
“WHAT! No Fair!!!”
And she is right, it is not fair. Thankfully, as the discussion ended she was still going to go to Harvard, and I came to realize that this decision was partially made by her intently watching the Women’s Olympic Hockey and in particular Coach Stone. What a terrific role model to have in Coach Stone with not only a successful playing career, she has also become one of the all-time win leaders in Division 1 Women’s Hockey. This is why my daughter wants to go to Harvard, to learn and grow under the guidance of one of her sports most prolific Leaders.
Not only was I immediately impressed with my daughters passion for the Sport she cares so much about, but that she is also constantly looking for strong female role models to follow and gain inspiration from. The career paths for boys her age are often so easily mapped out, as opportunities are simpler to gauge and history will back them up. However when it comes to our Mothers, Sisters, Daughters and all the other women in our lives, things are not always as simple and it is the culture that needs to change.
The most popular of Men’s Pro Hockey Leagues survive not because they really are the only option, but because they go to great lengths to tell you they are. The largest of them all boasts a 36% female fan base, imagine what would happen to that number if those fans had the freedom of choice. If the marketing and the television companies acknowledged a choice is available and that Women are not only a valuable and important piece of our society, they are also strong and passionate individuals when it comes to the sports that they play.
Any child regardless of gender, race, religion or anything else needs to be celebrated for leading an athletic lifestyle in this rather sedentary and unambitious culture we live in. They need to be given every opportunity to have a positive impact on society and on our globe as a whole. I too for a moment gave into the unequal perception of gender; I will never do it again, but I had to look into the eyes of my own daughter when I did it and paid a heavy cost for it.
So I have decided to make her dreams my own, to make her hopes my hopes. Now I will probably never be able to afford a Harvard Education or introduce my daughter to Coach Stone, but I can also ill afford to accept neither being an option for a ten year old with straight A’s and passion for Hockey. It has to start somewhere, why not here. Thank you both to Coach Stone and to Harvard for inspiring hopes and dreams, and for keeping a young girl motivated to be the very best she can, each and every day.
My daughter will always be my daughter no matter where she goes or what she does, that should be the only role her world puts on her.
*Photo credit Trish Bentley