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The Importance of Having the Right Mindset as the Only Girl on an All Boys Team


Your biggest critic is yourself. That’s what my dad always tells me. It’s easier to be hard on yourself than it is to be easy on yourself. It’s easier to constantly bring yourself down than it is to bring yourself up. It’s easier to compare yourself to others than it is to accept yourself for who you are. Hockey is mental. Yes, it’s physical but, sometimes the mental part is more important than the physical part. You can’t be a good player with the wrong mindset. The mindset is the most important part. 

I started playing hockey much later than all of my teammates. Most of my teammates started around the age of 6, I started at 14. I had originally done gymnastics for 7 years prior to hockey but I started to lose my spark during the 2021-2022 competition season. I had started to really fall in love with hockey after going to countless Seattle Thunderbirds games that year. The Seattle Thunderbirds are a part of the WHL (Western Hockey League) and I have been going to their games since I was around 6 years old. I hadn’t attended one of their games since before Covid but, once I started going back, I couldn’t stop. I fell in love with hockey. I was inspired by how amazing the players were. Their skating, their stickhandling, their passes, their shots, everything. I wanted to be just like them.

At the first practice of my first season, I found out I was the only girl. That wasn’t ideal for me, but I knew I had to deal with it. I was the newest player on the team, fresh out of learn to play, I knew that things wouldn’t be easy for me right away. When we started doing drills, it wasn’t easy to keep up. I took the longest on each drill and I felt really embarrassed about my skill level and that I couldn’t keep up with everyone. Sometimes when I would be the last to finish the drill, all of my teammates would be tapping their sticks on the ice for me. You think that would make me feel good, right? No, it made me feel embarrassed. 

I rarely got to spend time with my teammates during practice in my first season. One of my coaches quickly realized that I needed some help in developing my skills. So, for the most part of every practice, I just worked with him the whole time instead of being with my teammates. I always got really frustrated when I had to work with him. It’s not that I didn’t want to develop my skills, I just wanted to feel like I was a part of the team. And when I worked with him, I didn’t feel like I was a part of the team at all. And I felt that way the whole season.

I was so hard on myself that whole season. I had such a huge fixed mindset. I would tell myself over and over again at every practice and every game the same things. “You’re the worst on the team. I can’t do this. This is embarrassing, I’m embarrassing myself in front of everyone. My teammates don’t like me. That was a bad shift. There’s a reason I’m on the 4th line every game, I’m the worst player on the team.” Those were the things I told myself all season long. And, I wish I could go back to that season and tell myself that things would all be okay and that I don’t have to feel the way I did. Because of that fixed mindset I had, I would hold myself back from every opportunity I had to learn. If I got to learn something new about skating, “I can’t do this, this won’t work”. If I got to learn something new about shooting, “I can’t do this, this won’t work”. Just the same things, over and over again. It’s not that I didn’t want to learn, I just didn’t know how to let myself learn.

I was extremely hard on myself during my first season. I was the worst on my team, and the pain of being the worst on the team and not feeling any progress is a gut wrenching feeling. There were so many times that season when I would come home from practice and just cry because I hated being the worst on my team. I hated the feeling of not making any progress despite how hard I was working. I would work so hard just for it not to pay off. 7 months of my life wasted on being the worst player on the team. 215 days of my life wasted. I was so confused. If I had been working so hard all season, then why wasn’t I making any progress? Why wasn’t I getting better? It just didn’t make sense. What was the point of being on that team if no one talked to me? What was the point of being on that team if I’m the worst player? What was the point of being on that team if I was on the 4th line all season and got about 5 minutes of ice time per game? What was the point of being on that team if I wasn’t making any progress? What was the point? 

It’s been a year since that season has passed and whenever I think about it now, I can’t help but be disappointed with how I thought of myself that year. I didn’t have to feel the way I felt. I didn’t have to tell myself all the things I told myself. I didn’t have to cry after every practice. I’m disappointed in myself last season for not finding the opportunity to make myself not feel that way. It was right in front of me the whole time. I just didn’t reach far enough to grab it. It makes me sad reflecting on myself from that season. I feel bad for the player I was last season. The feelings I felt shouldn’t be felt by anyone. It was incredibly challenging and everything was so difficult to try and overcome. I feel very grateful that this year I am a part of two teams and that I don’t feel the same way I felt last season on either of those teams. 

This season (2023-2024) I got the opportunity to play on two teams. One co-ed where I was the only girl again. And an all girls team, where I wasn’t the only girl. With my co-ed team, although I’m the only girl, I don’t feel how I felt last season. I’m willing to learn and try new things. I know that I have to try new skills to become good at them and to be able to use them. I know that my teammates support me and that they are willing to help me. My teammates encourage me all the time and I always try to do the same for them. I feel happy and I feel confident, I feel like a whole new player. The main difference about being on a co-ed team this year to last year is that my teammates talk to me. They include me all the time and I don’t feel alone. I feel like I’m a part of the team, like I’m important to the team. I’m not just another player on the team this year on my co-ed team, I’m a player who is a part of an inclusive family where everyone loves each other. For that, I am forever grateful. I love my teammates so much. Although I may not show it all the time, my love and gratitude for them is infinite. 

With my all girls team, the support I am surrounded with is unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of before. Everyone is so supportive of each other in every way possible and we all lift each other up at every chance we have. We don’t care about skill level, we don’t care if someone is better than the other. We just play our game and have fun. I’ve taken on the role with this team of being the team hype man, always getting my team pumped for our games. I’m always dancing on the ice and singing at the top of my lungs. I’m always yelling words of encouragement to my teammates on the ice from the bench. Anyway I can support my teammates and make sure they don’t feel alone, I do. I remember one of my last practices of this season with my team vividly. I was skating during warmups when one of my teammates came up next to me and said, “you’re the most optimistic person I’ve ever met”. That was the best compliment I’ve ever received. I always like to be optimistic about what’s next and just let what has to happen, happen. I always try to be optimistic with my teammates and it clearly shines through. I don’t want any of my teammates to feel the way I felt, which is part of the reason I’m always so optimistic with them.

I don’t think I really knew what a growth mindset was in my first season. I’ve heard of it, I just never knew what it actually was. I didn’t know what a fixed mindset was either, I didn’t know there was such a thing. Now that I know what those mindsets are, I’m having a much better season. I didn’t know how to learn last year. And, if I would’ve just told myself, “the only way you’ll ever be able to do it is to just try and see what happens. If you don’t get it on the first try, then keep trying until you get it. Don’t give up and don’t be hard on yourself. You’re learning something new, and you can’t be able to do it without being willing to learn how.” then maybe I wouldn’t have been in the dark place that I was last season.

Being the only girl on the team made me feel so alone, like I didn’t have anyone. There was no one for me to relate to, no one else experiencing the same things as me. There wasn’t anyone for me to talk to or anyone to hang out with. It was just me. None of my teammates really talked to me the whole season, just 2 or 3 of them occasionally. But otherwise, there was no one. And when there’s no one around you who relates to what you’re going through or is experiencing the same things as you, it’s incredibly isolating. It was like I was trapped in a bubble surrounded by things I didn’t want to be feeling because I was the only girl on the team and there was no one else like me. It was just me, and that was excruciating.

I think that girls who play on an all boys team all struggle with the same thing, their mindset. Since we’re girls playing on a boys team, there’s this pressure that we have to play as well as they do. That since we’re girls we’ll never be as good as the boys. That if we “play like girls” then we’re not good at hockey. That if a girl plays hockey then she won’t go anywhere. So, we constantly push ourselves as hard as we can and put this unnecessary pressure on ourselves to be just like the boys. We don’t have to be like the boys, we just have to be us. Just because we’re girls doesn’t mean that we aren’t good players. We can be just as good as the boys if not better than them.

It’s really hard being the odd one out on the team, the one who’s different from anyone else. Because, there’s no one else like you so you have to try to deal with the obstacles that come with being the one different person on the team all by yourself. You have to deal with all of the mental challenges the best that you can and thrive the best you can in an environment like that. And I did that for 215 days. Sometimes, those 215 days felt like a week, and other times it felt like 10 years. Sometimes, it can feel like you’re making significant amounts of progress whereas other times you feel like you’re stuck. You just have to try as hard as you can to get unstuck. That’s a really difficult thing to do and I know that because it was extremely difficult for me. But, in the end, I started to feel like maybe being the odd one out wasn’t such a bad thing. Except when I had come to realize that, the season was already over.

Having the right mindset is something that’s extremely difficult to have. But, it’s so incredibly important. You can be a hockey player with the wrong mindset. A good one? No. You can’t be a good player with the wrong mindset. Sure, you can physically be the best player with the best skills. But, you won’t be a good teammate. You need to be able to allow yourself to learn new things and allow yourself to grow. Without the right mindset, you are putting yourself in a dark place that no one deserves to be in. Hockey is mental. Yes, it’s physical but, the mental part of hockey is the most important part. More important than skill, more important than how many goals you’ve scored, more important than how many games you’ve played. More than anything, the mental part is the most important part. 

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