As an avid athlete who dabbled in a few different sports, I found that I enjoyed the competitive edge sports provided. When I found street hockey, I fell in love with the physical play, the speed and the fact that I was playing with the boys.
Playing in a male dominated sport, gave me a big confidence boost because I felt strong, accomplished and I did not care that I was playing with boys, I wanted to show them I could be good if not better than they were. This lasted for two years until I aged out and I was left with playing at recess with boys just to capture that competitive spirit until I found track & field in high school.
The most negative experience I had from boys hockey was that I thought I was not an average girl; I was tough and I looked at any other girl who attempted to play with the boys at recess as competition. Instead of embracing her and accepting her into the space with the other boys, I looked at her as a competitor and I wanted to be better than her no matter what.
This misguided way of thinking stayed with me until I was in the United States Army and I entered basic training. I had waited my whole life to be in the Army and when I finally made it, I made sure I was the top female in my unit. I possessed the highest female physical fitness score and the other girls would look to me for assistance. Instead of helping them get better and be humbled that they were asking me for help, I brushed them off because I wanted to stay on top. Again, I missed my opportunity to learn and traveled to my first duty station with this same attitude.
After three years in the Army, I traveled to Alaska and I signed up for the women’s ice hockey league. Stepping onto that ice, I was immediately cut down to size. Not having played ice hockey before, I had no idea how I was going to navigate this new territory and I was terrified. I have never felt this way about anything before, but when I saw those other women on the ice (some former college players, some new like me) I had zero belief that I could play well with them.
It was then that I realized why do we as women look at each other as competition? We are all in the same boat, from the work environment to the sports world, women are wrongly seen as a minority or less than. So for the first time in my life, I asked for help at how to get better with my skills on the ice and I was hit with a mix of advice and others brushed me off (the same way I used to do others).
So I changed my behavior; any time I learned something new, I passed the information along, any time a girl who could barely skate made contact with the puck, I cheered loud and proud for them to show my support. I played a lot of hockey that year, more than I ever played in my life and the best part of being apart of this league was that I became a true champion for other women. No longer did I look at them as pure competition(unless we were playing a game! ), but I started realizing that competing against other women will not get me anywhere.
“Lower that ladder so others can climb up and join you,” famous reporter, Robin Roberts said on First Take, Her Take.
Think about that statement the next time you hop on the ice or you see a fellow woman struggling at work or in school. Use the knowledge you have to help someone who may need it to succeed as well because at the end of the day, we are all on the same team.