For the past several years now, mom Jen Loewen has been empowering local girls by helping to carve a path for them, and find a place for them, in the male-dominated sport of hockey.
“Hockey provides a sense of belonging. (My daughter’s) got somewhere to go and something to do to call her own. She identifies as an athlete and hockey is her chosen sport. It’s a place where she feels like she matters.”
That certainly hasn’t always been the case for girls in hockey. In fact, barriers continue to be broken and female athletes, coaches and managers such as Loewen continue to push for more options and more support when it comes to female hockey.
“It’s getting better, but it’s certainly not good,” said Loewen, who has dedicated the last nine years to ensure the voice of female athletes are being heard within the Williams Lake Minor Hockey Association.
Loewen was inspired to be a barrier breaker by her daughter, Rachel, who expressed an interest in playing the sport when she was just five.
“My daughter wanted to play hockey but there were no other girls,” Loewen said, noting her daughter had no choice to play that year on an integrated atom dev hockey team as the only girl.
“That was a tough year for her. The social aspect of hockey, or any sport, is important for girls. She felt very alone.”
After that experience, Loewen decided to be a part of change.
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She approached the Williams Lake Minor Hockey Association executive and asked to become the female coordinator, which led to her developing the new role herself.
Loewen also became the executive secretary so she could have a vote.
Since then, Loewen’s work in the association has fostered a noticeable growth in female registration for the WLMHA with this season having a bantam female rep team, a peewee female rep team and two all-female atom house teams as well as female registration in initiation and novice.
The work has been strategic, at times overwhelming, but also rewarding.
“It’s two-fold. It’s exciting and rewarding to see all the girls come together and having fun. But it is also exhausting. It’s always breaking down barriers for females. That’s really draining,” she said.
But Loewen hopes she is teaching by example.
“I want to show my daughter that she doesn’t have to take no for an answer, that if she wants something bad enough you have to put the elbow grease in and do it.”
Loewen said she was rewarded recently for her efforts when some of her daughter’s teammates helped her with some of her volunteer work and thanked her, saying they didn’t realize how hard she worked for them.
“To me that’s worth it. Some days I just want to quit — but that keeps me motivated.”
The dedicated mom also said she sees hockey as a lifelong love for her daughter and hopes as she gets older she will become a coach and mentor and pay it forward for all the things others have done to help her succeed in Canada’s game.