Beginning to play hockey can be scary and difficult. As a junior in high school, I am embarking on my third year of playing hockey and I've noticed, over time, how so many girls start hockey in their teenage years. Many girls (especially those who are older) fear the sport because they are afraid they aren't strong enough, or will never be good enough. With so many teams being comprised of girls playing with varied years of experience and skill, it's no wonder either.
But the benefits outweigh the struggles by far, because no team is as much of a family as a hockey team. At first some girls feel out of their element, unable to keep up with those who have played longer. They know the frustration of being the slowest or one of the weaker players, not being sure where to stand at the start of a play or what is allowed and what isn't. Yet, for those who can face it head on and give it their best, it's truly amazing. Joining a hockey team can help develop so many skills to be used later on in life.
At first it's hard to find anyone to talk to or people to click with. It's awkward and difficult, as is making friends anywhere else. Be patient. Everyone is out of their element at first, despite how welcoming a lot of teams tend to be. Try to interact with your teammates and talk on and off the ice. Embrace the warm welcomes, whoever they may come from. Hockey brings together people from all walks of life, and you never know who you'll meet - you might just end up making some of the best friendships you'll ever have.
Meeting people isn't the only struggle, you have to get on the ice. If you're new to hockey, or skating in general, it's expected that you will need help. Don't be afraid to ask for it. Whether you're asking for help to skate or need pointers on a new skill, most people are willing to help. Skating is a necessary part of hockey and it's very difficult and awkward to learn, but it's so much fun.
When starting hockey, the other fun part of it would be games. The night before you could have pasta parties - with my team, this is the best part of a game! The night before, everyone meets at one girl's house and we all eat pasta to load up on carbohydrates to provide energy during the game the next day. On game day, you might be nervous - most girls who start playing in high school have always said that the time before their first game they were extremely nervous. It's normal. Take some time to stretch, breath, and relax. If you're lost on the ice, another player will help you, whether it's on the ice before the play or on a printed layout of the ice while you are off ice. Everyone is out there playing the same game. Ask your coaches and instructors questions. A lot of the time you may know where to start the play, but once the puck moves, you aren't sure where to go. Ask for an area of ice to keep in mind on where to go, or another player to follow.
Hockey is an amazing sport, and playing it is an amazing opportunity. It's a chance to be a part of something more than yourself. It's a huge mental challenge, and it shows you how mentally and physically strong you truly are. Every time you fall, on ice or in life, you get back up and try again. From the start, you have a team of 13+ other girls there to support you. These girls will be there for you just as much as you are for them. Only through playing, you'll learn that if anyone ever touches your goalie (a huge no-no in hockey), the next thing to touch the offending player will be your fist. This sport gives you another family that you love despite all the times that they drive you crazy.
So go ahead and start hockey. Push through the challenges and enjoy yourself - you will love this sport as much as anyone else, and you have every right to play. Even if it's scary at times, its benefits outweigh its difficulties, and any player would agree.