Sometimes, you do not know that your greatest passion in life is missing until you have lived more than half of your life (statistically speaking). But at least you are one of the lucky ones… After all, you found your passion and so many hum through life never finding their true joy. I am one of the lucky ones.
My name is Lisa. I am 52 years old. I have always loved sports: both watching and playing. Especially hockey. In the 1970s, growing up in the Chicago suburbs I wanted to play hockey. I begged my mom but was told I was not allowed to because “girls didn’t play hockey.” Instead, I was relegated to figure skating – which I did for a couple of years before taking up soccer, basketball, gymnastics, swimming, and floor hockey (which was open to everyone somehow).
In high school, I added track and field to the mix and dropped gymnastics. In my twenties and thirties, I did triathlons, ran, did masters swimming, cross-country skied marathons and snowshoed. They were all fun at times, but I would eventually lose interest/get bored and stop.
STARTING HOCKEY AT AGE 48
I was 48 and trying something I had wanted to do literally all of my life.
At some point in my late forties, I was telling someone I was having a drink with how I had always wanted to play hockey but had not been allowed to do so as a kid. She suggested that I try it now. I looked at her like she was from another planet thinking, “I am too old”. More drinks were ordered, the subject changed and eventually we parted going our separate ways.
But the seed had been planted and the idea germinated in my brain. Eventually, I realized she was totally right: I was an adult who had the means to try out something I always wanted to. There were plenty of women and girls playing hockey and knew that there were already women in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
I went online and Googled something like “Women’s hockey Bay area”. I found the Northern California Women’s Hockey League, and it turned out they offered a Give Hockey A Try Day (GHATD). I signed up as soon as they announced that reservations were open.
I was 48 and trying something I had wanted to do literally all of my life. It’s fair to say I was feeling a little overwhelmed… I was nervous. I was excited. I think ultimately, I was terrified I had made hockey so big in my head that it would disappoint me. Being the oldest participant at GHATD exacerbated that fear, but as I got dressed and the reality of being able to play hockey settled, I just went with it.
MEANT TO BE ON THE ICE
I loved it more than I could have ever imagined loving it.
When I stepped onto the ice in the gear and started “skating”, the nervousness and fear disappeared. All I felt was pure and simple joy. I felt as though I was always meant to be in hockey gear on the ice. Hockey had not disappointed me in the least. In fact, I loved it more than I could have ever imagined loving it.
I immediately signed up for every clinic geared for adult beginners in the Bay area that I could find (so long as it did not conflict with another). I attended stick and puck sessions whenever I could. Unfortunately, ice time in a place like the Bay area (and my home rink of Oakland Ice Center) is very hard to come by. There are a limited number of locations with ice. We do not have winters that allow for outdoor rinks or frozen ponds. Adult hockey competes for ice time with kids’ hockey, figure skating, speed skating, and curling. Plus, I have a child to raise and a law firm to run.
I tried to get onto the ice at least three days per week even with the difficulty in finding ice time, and quickly learned the reality of hockey. It’s a blast but it is really hard to learn and it is a long, long process. It can be more frustrating than a teenager, and even though it doesn’t talk back – it will still smack you in the face. And yet, still I get to the rink and I work hard. When I am frustrated with something, I switch it up for a few minutes and I am instantly brought back to the joy.
As I skated into my third year of playing, I knew I had something to give to hockey. In Summer 2019, having returned from an amazing hockey camp in Montreal run by the phenomenal Caroline Ouellette and Marie-Philip Poulin, I was joking with the hockey manager at Oakland Ice about becoming a coach. He responded that anyone with the right credentials could be a coach. I said something like “even a 51 year old who could barely play competently?” and he said yes.
I completed all the certifications needed and am a level 1 certified USA hockey coach with specific training for 8U and girls. I started coaching in November 2019 and plan to be more involved this season (post Covid-19) with the 8U and girls programs at Oakland Ice. I am also completing my 10U program, so I can be more involved generally in the Oakland Bears youth hockey program.
The Oakland Bears’ girls program is growing and spending time on the ice with both the girls (all ages) and the 8U kids has been transformative for me. I get to teach and inspire these kids to be the best people they can be – on and off the ice. And most importantly, I am a female these players get to see on the ice. It helps them all to see that women can be positive role models and give them something to strive for.
NURTURING YOUR PASSION AT ANY AGE
Since I started on this journey, I have been fortunate enough to have had people from all over the world reach out to me and tell me that I have inspired them. Parents of the kids I coach, some of those teen/tween girls I work with, and many people I skate with have said the same thing.
I cherish my time on the ice and I love sharing my passion for hockey with anyone who will listen (or watch my stuff on Instagram). I started a really challenging sport at age 48 and can’t imagine my life without it. Hockey may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the lesson I hope to impart here is that everyone has a passion. Do whatever you can to find it. Don’t settle for something less. Once you find your passion, nurture it. Savor it. You may need to get way outside of your comfort zone or routine to find it. It’s only too late to try to find that passion, that thing you do for your own joy and fulfillment, when you are confined to a hospital bed or are dead.