What Gender Equality Month means to me: Michele Amidon
Avalanche female ambassador on those who influence athletic opportunities for womenby Michele Amidon / Special to NHL.com
The NHL is celebrating Gender Equality Month in March, and throughout the month, NHL.com will be featuring women who are Making Hockey Happen.
Today, Michele Amidon, a former U.S. Women's national team player who is the NHL female ambassador for the Colorado Avalanche, and was USA Hockey's first director of women's hockey, writes about what Gender Equality Month means to her.
On June 23, 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act was passed and a huge leap forward for equal rights across the sexes was made. I was born 16 days prior to that landmark event, and to me, it should be continually celebrated and cherished. Of even greater importance are those who have questioned, disputed and transformed gender biases to create equal opportunities for girls and women in sport.
I was fortunate to have spent my entire childhood participating on numerous boys and all-girls sports teams as well as 25 years of my professional career in athletics. That participation in youth and collegiate athletics taught me leadership, communication and organization skills that enabled me to be successful in life. There is no question that sports can offer youth a healthy means to physical activity. Sports also teach children how to set achievement goals, be a good teammate, and learn the balance of risk versus reward under the umbrella of a solid work ethic. In the big picture of life, it helps prepare athletes for failure and success in a safe and competitive environment. As a professional, these life skills have helped me to be committed, resilient, and successful within a traditionally male dominated ice hockey industry.
Much has changed since 1972, but there is still great progress to be made. Recently, a high school ice hockey player in Pennsylvania was subjected to gender bias, bullying and harassment during her team's championship game because she was the only female on the team. Reading Alyssa Wruble's story brought back memories of mine, growing up playing on teams where I was the only girl.
Fast forward to 2020, and it's hard to believe girls and women are still enduring those gender challenges I withstood on the baseball, track, soccer and ice hockey arenas decades ago. Yet, I am reassured and pleased to see the massive support for Alyssa. The majority of society and the hockey community at large recognizes the damaging gender injustice that was displayed during that sporting event. Alyssa is standing tall, chasing her dreams and following her passion for athletics just like so many women before her. She may not know it, but she is helping to build a foundation of women's equality in sports that deservedly grows like compound interest in a bank account that gets more noticed every day.
Gender Equality Month helps me reflect on and celebrate those who have directly and indirectly influenced my own athletic opportunities, which in turn encourages me to pay it forward. My personal heroes are my parents who registered and drove me to baseball, track, soccer and ice hockey practice and camps because they saw my passion, love and drive. I also credit my three brothers who treated me like an athlete and not just their sister. The 1980 Kingswood Oxford Girls Prep School, the 1979 Saint Lawrence University women's team, the 1990 USA women's national team and the Bowdoin women's Collegiate alumna all faced adversity and persevered so that future generations like me had opportunities to play and coach professionally. And I can't forget the leaders of the former Canadian Women's Hockey League, the current National Women's Hockey League and the Professional Women's Hockey Players Association who strive every day to create opportunities for little girls aspiring to be just like them. That support is the compound interest I mentioned before, because it all contributes and allows for incremental changes that made a difference in my life.
I believe, if you can see it, you can be it. I applaud the NHL, the NHLPA and the clubs for providing exposure to our talented female players and professionals. There are now so many stories of female trailblazers in sport who are breaking barriers which will only increase as time goes on. Women are now scouts, referees, players, coaches, in the broadcast booths or in the front office. This is the second time in my life that there has been a huge female historic movement within sport, 1972 being the first. I am excited for what the future holds for our aspiring female athletes & professionals. As one of my favorite movies put it, "If you build it, they will come."