National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) fell on February 2 this year, marking its thirty-sixth anniversary. As its name suggests, this day of observance acknowledges, celebrates and honours female athletes and female sports participation.
For second-year defenceman Kennesha Miswaggon of UBC's women's hockey team, being a female athlete “means wanting to show that I can and will do anything I want in sports and prove to others that said I couldn’t.”
Miswaggon celebrates NGWSD every day, not just once a year, “by going out and doing [her] sport and working as hard as [she] can to get to the next level.”
Originally from Manitoba, Miswaggon grew up watching hockey — her father was an avid fan and her older brother played hockey. As such, she naturally gravitated towards the sport and started skating at the age of three.
Miswaggon remembers her dad jokingly telling her that she had to learn backwards skating before going into hockey. Taking this seriously, she practiced skating at an outdoor rink every day and started playing hockey at the age of five.
Ryan Smyth is an early favourite player of Miswaggon and one of whom she looks up to. Miswaggon reveals she chose 94 as her number because of the former NHL player, who wore the same number.
Miswaggon played on an all-boys team until she was 13 years old as there were not enough girl players in her hometown to form a proper team. Though they were still kids, some of the boys did underestimate her ability to play with the impression that she may not be as good as them because she is a girl.
Miswaggon said playing with boys “has brought me to where I am now." In addition to making her more confident, stronger and smarter on the ice, such experience has also inspired her to work harder and become a better player than the boys.
Although hockey used to be a ‘masculine’ sport, or more accurately, it is often perceived to be, sports are not — should not be — bounded by gender. In fact, hockey’s popularity has grown — and continues to grow — among girls. There are now several girls’ teams that Miswaggon coaches back home.
Miswaggon’s message for younger generations is that "it's possible to do anything you want, if you set your mind to it."
To her, female representation in the sports industry means “having women play important key roles in all aspects of the sport, from playing to coaching into managing.”
Like many of her teammates, Miswaggon plans to play women’s hockey professionally in the future if she can.
Miswaggon has fallen in love with ice hockey since day one and she said that she will continue to play until she no longer can. Having already missed an opportunity to play abroad before, Miswaggon strives to play in a professional league in Europe one day.