by Cheryl Pounder Hockey As a Canadian role model with 2 Gold Medals in Olympic Women's Hockey, Cheryl Pounder discusses the impact we have on young female athletes.


An 8-year-old girl watches the opening ceremonies to the Winter Olympics, looks at her Grandma with wide eyes and a heart full of hope and says, “I’m going to be there one day.” It would take almost 20 years to land on Olympic soil, a journey that was driven by her Grandma’s response: “If that is what you want, believe in yourself and give it everything you’ve got. You will never know unless you try.” That little girl was me! Women’s hockey wasn’t in the Olympics – but the seed had been planted. Grandma’s impact was profound.

30 years later, I sit on my couch and watch the opening ceremonies with my two girls (8 and 6)! My 8-year-old has been playing hockey for 5 years – but who’s pushing?! They both smile with anticipation and believe that anything is possible. This is what the Olympics represent to me – hope and opportunity! An energy jumps out of the television and says ‘why not you’? I can’t help but think of Grandma and the courage she had as a young female athlete in the 40s. I was also ridiculed for my ‘boys’ skates and called names for playing the game that I loved. I continued the journey because I LOVED the team game that I had chosen! My children aren’t aware of the adversity or challenges that we faced – why? Impact, courage and change.

My husband and I were watching the Leafs game a few years ago and our 3-year-old stayed up for the first period. She walked up to the TV, turned to me and whispered, “Mommy, I think they are boys.” I was confused. She repeated, “Mommy, the Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t girls.” My husband nearly dropped! She had only seen Mommy and her 20 Aunties on the National Team play! It was all she knew.  I learned a valuable lesson that day! We are often a product of our environment. Don’t be afraid to get outside your comfort zone. We impact our children every day!

As a parent I often ask myself, how do we encourage our children to stand tall, find their passions and have the courage to chase them? How hard do we push? After all, every child is different. Some of us have the child that dances and waves to us while playing their soccer game (extremely frustrating, isn’t it?) or the other that will run over anything in front of them to get the puck (we secretly love it, but don’t want others to think we encourage it). Every parent wishes they had the answer. One thing I believe in is to let them discover their passions. Try a variety of sports, skills, music etc., and let them explore within their own lives! I believe that their energies and smiles will tell us! If they wake you up for a 6 am practice, you got ’em! Engage in their lives, don’t just participate (I have to remind myself of this one all the time).

I love the game of hockey. It doesn’t matter which form! Sledge hockey, ball hockey, house league, intramurals, rep, professional, national! I believe the game teaches so many valuable life lessons that go well beyond sport. It teaches hard work, discipline, commitment and most importantly, relationships. Kids need to learn how to work together (even the ones that don’t get along) and respect individual differences (parents as well). We don’t always win, but the arena provides a forum to learn to persevere when faced with adversity. A valuable life lesson.

– Cheryl

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