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How to watch women’s Olympic ice hockey with your three-year-old daughter (and why it matters)

February 18, 2010 – 9:23 AM

Team USA faces off this afternoon against Finland in the final day of preliminary round play. Medals rounds ahead!

By Emilie Liebhoff

I recently took my three-year-old daughter ice-skating for the first time.  I skated a few laps, did some quick crossovers, and pivoted back and forth.  She was amazed.  (I’m sure she thought, “What did you do with my mom?”)  Then, with knees bent and arms out, she tried. “Look Mommy, I’m doing it.  I’m doing it!”  It was heartwarming: She wanted to be like me.

This is an exciting Olympic year for me.  It’s the first time my daughter is old enough to really watch Olympic women’s ice hockey with me.  She’s seen men’s football.  She’s seen men’s golf.  And, she’s seen men’s baseball.  Now I get to show her my sport, and the strong, skilled, athletic women who play it.

Here are three reasons why I’m watching with my daughter:

1)    Encourage her to be a sports fan.  Not only do I want to show her that women play ice hockey, but I also want to encourage her to watch sports and to excited about the women playing them.  Men and boys follow sports — but not enough girls and women do. Watching the Olympics is Step One to develop the fan in our daughters.

2)    Show her female sports role models.  Growing up it was tough for me to be a sports fan: Sure, Wayne Gretzy was an amazing hockey player, but he was a guy.  That’s not the case now for our girls. There are incredible female athletes who our daughters can aspire to be like, and who can be positive influences in their lives. (This US team has 15-first-timers plus veteran Jenny Potter — mom! — and superstar Angela Ruggiero, the first female non-goalie to play men’s pro hockey).

3)    Teach her the game. When you are an educated observer, your daughter will notice!  She’ll appreciate and admire your ability to watch the game, root for your team, and know what’s going on. This also is a chance for you to help your daughter build her own sports knowledge.

I did play hockey in college, but that experience isn’t required to watch — and enjoy! — the games with your daughters. Here’s help:

— First, when watching don’t say, “Wow isn’t she pretty?”  Instead, use this opportunity to emphasize the skill and strength of the players.  “Look, Jane, isn’t it impressive the way she stickhandles the hockey puck?” Or, “See how fast she can skate!” Remind them of the finesse and skill required to keep possession of the puck, particularly because checking isn’t allowed, but body contact is.  Point out, that women can use their bodies to protect the puck.

— Show your daughter that you understand the sport. Mention some of the rules. One key rule is offsides: The easiest way to explain it is to always let the puck win a race between the player and the puck.  If the puck crosses the blue line into the offensive end, the puck must cross the line before the offensive player.  If the puck gets sent out of that end and crosses back over the blue line, then all offensive players must follow the puck out of the offensive end.  The puck always needs to win the race.   For more rules and information, click here.

— Make it a point to interact while watching the game.  Have your daughters notice, for example, that when there are only four players on one side of the ice it means that team must have a penalty.  Conversely, the other team must have a “power play.”  This is a good chance for the power play team to score because they have an extra player.  Sometimes, you will notice an exciting moment when a team will “pull the goalie” to put an extra offensive player on the ice.  This usually happens if a team is trying to tie up the game and there is a minute remaining.

— And, importantly, show your daughters that when women score, they celebrate.  (Girls sometimes feel they are being conceited if they celebrate).  Expressing happiness after a goal is OK and encouraged!

— Also point out that ice hockey is not about the individual, but is a team sport. Highlight the fact that there are five players on the ice and that they all pass the puck to each other to work toward scoring a goal.  They also work together to defend and protect their own goalie.

The Olympic games occur over an exciting two weeks.  Use the games as a chance to not only bond with your daughter, but to ignite her interest in becoming a sports fan.   You may be developing the next generation of female athletes. See  Olympic women’s ice hockey schedule here.

Emilie Liebhoff teaching her eldest daughter to skate

Emilie Liebhoff is former co-captain of the Dartmouth College women’s ice hockey team, mother of two daughters, founder of Moms as Mentors™ and the Director of Strategic Initiatives at the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools.

  1. 7 Responses to “How to watch women’s Olympic ice hockey with your three-year-old daughter (and why it matters)”

  2. Your point about female sports role models is a good one. Your lucky daughters have you to look up to and to emulate, but many little girls are not encouraged to have an interest in team sports, and are not exposed to them very much as preschoolers. Look at this link about the longer-term benefits of team sports to girls:

    By thatsally on Feb 18, 2010

  3. emilie, this is so important to shar! Thank you for expressing thefun and learning in a user friendly manner. I am so gald you posted this fabulous experience to help mom’s,grammma’s aunts andother female friends of young girls understand how they can help shape girls to be more self confident (often a result of sports and teamwork), interested and involved with the joy of sports (ice hockey is the beginning to model the the concept you shared). You go girls, the world of sports opens up so much!

    By betsy ratenr on Feb 18, 2010

  4. Emily,
    This is wonderful insight. As a former coach for a high school girls’ dance team, I watched young women criticize and alienate each other constantly. We also much teach these ladies to respect one another and work as a team.

    By Kate on Feb 18, 2010

  5. What a great article on supporting our daughters. Your advice about steering away from “Isn’t she pretty” is so important and extends beyond sports. Despite my strong feminist values, I sometimes have to remind myself here at school not to comment on a student’s appearance (“cute sweater!”) as a means to engage. There are so many things that girls are and can be – smart and strong should start the list at school and in sports.

    By Koreen on Feb 19, 2010

  6. Emily, as always your wisdom and role modeling are to be admired. Were your ears burning? We had a lengthy discussion about your time as a hockey player in college while watching a women’s game. The impression you have left on both my daughters continues to this day. I, too, have been watching the Olympics every night with my two girls. We are still trying to figure out the rules of Curling! However, we have had fun discussing what we think they might be. More importantly, I find them relating to the commitment and love of sport through their own experiences, commenting on the relationships they have seen between Olympiads and their mothers and coaches. When you are both the mother AND the coach the relationship between love of sport and respect for each other’s talent is to be truly treasured. This year during basketball season I have seen many more mothers on the bench alongside me, instead of up in the stands. When I see that I think of you and our co-coaching days, the work that was done through Mom’s as Mentors, and the important balance it brings to the world of youth sports. Most importantly, it’s the message and positive role modeling that young girls are getting. Keep up the great work, and I look forward to following your work.

    By Dolly on Feb 19, 2010

  7. I completely agree with your sentiments Emilie! As a mom to two young daughters, I have already started thinking about how to foster their interest in sports. Your suggestion of watching sports with them and using it as a teaching opportunity is a great idea. I do hope my girls have the chance to experience the positive effects that sports had for me.

    By Elizabeth on Feb 19, 2010

  8. Why is there no women’s ski jumping in the Olympics?

    By Bobby riggs on Feb 24, 2010

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