Watch Along On YouTube
Olympic athletes are some of the most determined people in the world. They know how to set goals and overcome challenges. This week on Therapy Talks, Olympic Gold Medalist Kacey Bellamy joins Barb Egan to talk about the importance of mental health in her journey through the world of women’s hockey.
In This Episode:
Kacey is a 9-time gold medal winner, including both the Olympics and IIHF Women's World Championship, so she knows a thing or two about setting goals and staying motivated. In this episode, Kacey shares her story of overcoming mistakes and creating a healthy mindset to achieve her goals.
If you're looking for some inspiration and motivation, this is the episode for you!
Find Out More About Kacey:
Learn More About Switch Research:
Disclaimer: Therapy Talks does NOT provide medical services or professional counseling, and it is NOT a substitute for professional medical care.
Hey everyone. It's Barb Egan with therapy talks and on today's podcast, we're having on an Olympic silver and gold medalist from team USA, hockey, Casey Bellamy. She talks on what her career was like as an Olympic athlete and the grueling of it, how she kept a strong mindset. We talk about the strong foundation of a mental health using support from team.
And family working through stresses that come, how to face them, how to goal set and how to hone some mental skills to not only just achieve your goals, but to overcome obstacles, cuz they're gonna come and how to push through. And she shares her story of losing an Olympic gold medal or winning an Olympic silver medal as well as persistently going from two Olympics to finally her last third, one of winning an Olympic gold medal.
So I hope you join us to hear her story on resilience, mental skills, and a strong mental health foundation.
Walk us through your story for people who don't know you, who don't know maybe women's sports or women's hockey, like what was that journey like for you? Yeah, definitely Def long career for sure. I started playing nice hockey when I was five years old, my brother was playing at the time and mine was a ballerina.
My mom put me in dance, just any mother would do to a young daughter. And I just, it wasn't my thing. And I remember one day putting my brother's equipment on disgusting probably, but I did it and I've been playing ever. And my dad was a little hesitant about it, but my mom said absolutely always was supportive in following my dreams.
And I think after my dad realized that, it wasn't that dangerous and I could handle myself and I think he got on board a little more, but. Women's hockey, right? Not a lot of options back in the 1990s. So I had to play boys hockey. And so that was really my first sense of, facing any type of adversity in my life.
It was challenging just, trying to make myself feel part of the team and not really feeling welcoming by some of the parents or, some of the boys on the team, but over time it got better. It was especially fun, when you got into body checking and I was able to hold my own and being able to hit the boys and opponents and, if I ever got hit, some of my teammates would actually stick up for me.
So I think there, when that sort of happened at first, I felt okay, I belong or I'm good enough to hold my own. So they respect me a little more. But definitely, Boys like those five to eight years I played with boys really made me mentally strong. And I really I give a lot of credit to my parents because they didn't let me give up.
They didn't, let me quit. They were always behind me and supporting me even on my hardest days. I felt like I always had to prove myself. And just how my parents raised us. Four kids just never to be quitters, just always give your all, and that was the mindset I had growing up. And I'd say from there.
After boys hockey, you have to make a decision because you're, they're getting bigger and stronger. So I made the decision to go to prep school and it was the best decision I made best four years of my life. I learned so much about me personally about hockey, about social life, social aspect of everything, time management It just prepared me for, life, not just for school and hockey, but for life and all the lessons that I learned there I take with me to this day and like I said, it was the best decision that I ever made.
I didn't know how good I was at hockey yet. I played three sports at Berkshire. I played field hockey, softball, and hockey, and I didn't really understand, how good I was until I started getting recruited by college coaches. And that was an interesting time in my life because the recruiting process is, people might say it's one of the toughest parts of, their life and, their decision making.
But I looked at it as. Easy just because I, my parents didn't really put pressure on me. I knew that I wanted to stay out east. I did my due diligence and speaking to, the schools and teams that I was interested in and narrowed it down. And it was simple as that. And my brother was at the university of Maine at the time, and I made my decision to go to the university of New Hampshire because it was gonna be easier for my parents to watch.
Both of us play our college careers and U N H was amazing. I was a little homesick at the beginning, but it definitely prepared me for when I made that next step to the national team. I understood how to play my position. More defensive tactics and just defensive zone. How to play positionally in front of the net offensive defensemen I really enjoyed my time at U N H and that's where I of got my first look at the national team and that was my sophomore year.
And I made my first ever national team. The next time I got cut. So my first ever tryout for the national team was for the under 22 team. And you think about, it's the biggest stage and I'm just a sophomore in college and I'm trying out for this team and trying to represent my country. And I got cut.
That was probably one of the most devastating times in my life, you learn from it and that was the biggest thing. Oh, what did you do there? Cause you're, you're a leg up, like you're a little bit more mature than the average, just being away at prep school, being on your own time management, like you talked about, that's huge, but you're still a second year university student.
You're a sophomore in college. How do you handle that? Cause at that moment you could have said my dreams are crushed. You didn't, like you said, okay, I'm gonna use this to fuel it, to get better, to come back. And clearly as you'll share, like that works out really well for you. No for sure. And you hit the nail in the head and I think like you said, Berkshire prepared me for this situation, but I also think my parents prepared me for it too.
And as a child, if you get cut from a team, I think you personally, and you're supporting your parents. They probably would say, oh, you deserve to make the team or, oh, the coaches don't know what they're talking about. And that happens everywhere. But. Didn't I remember getting cut and we were in lake Platon and I drove three and a half hours back home with my dad.
And I didn't say one word. We didn't talk about it. I just internally took it in. And two weeks later I emailed the coach because I said, okay, I wanna make the team. I'm not gonna be mad. I'm young. I'll get over it, but I wanna know what I can do to get better. So she emailed me back five things and I used it as motivation throughout, the rest of my career.
That takes so much guts. Cuz how many of us, when we're don't get the job or don't make the team it's yeah, it's so tempting. Oh, it's somebody else's problem. Or even if you are recognizing, okay, I have some work to do. It takes a lot of vulnerability to reach out and say, okay, what can I do better?
That's huge. Yeah, it is huge. But like I said, my parents instilled work ethic in us and maybe we were talented. Maybe, we were naturally gifted in some ways, but I really think the reason I've gotten as far as I did in my career was just cuz I, I worked my butt off. I never wanted to disappoint anyone.
So when I got cut, I just needed to work harder and that was never gonna be an issue for me because it was just in my blood. Wow. And lake Placid, like where miracle on ice 1980 happened, like what a place to be. And then to experience that devastation like of getting cut and then like how you said too, it wasn't immediate that you reached out to the coach.
Like you needed some time to cool down too, so that you could probably be in a head space where you could receive. Oh, absolutely. And it was just what exactly do you know? What do you want the email to say? You wanna obviously be respectful and you respect her decision and you know that you need to improve and develop because you're still young, but this is my goal.
My goal is to make the national team. And if there's any insight on, what do I need to do to improve, then I'll take that. And you just, you do it. That's all you have to do. It's half the battle is just doing. Yeah, that's a good point. so then you got those five things and then what? Yeah. Okay. So I got those five things and ironically that camp was in August BLE going into my sophomore year, but then there's another four nation's camp right away for the senior team.
And that's usually in November. So August I got. And then I was invited to go and play for the senior team. Didn't even have to try out or anything just because of how the logistics fall in line with the NCAA year. So that was my first taste of the national team, 2006 for nations. And I was awful. I got walked around one on one.
I got just, I knew that I wasn't there yet, but it was a good experience for me because I knew where I needed to get to But it was just such an amazing experience. And was never cut again from the national team. Wow. Wow. So how did you prepare coming off of getting cut and going in and playing in that big stage?
How'd you prepare for that? Like how did you get your focus, your mindset, right? What was your self talk? I was so young that. I just tried to go into it with open arms and an open brain and an open heart. And. Just take in the whole experience and take in the process. Obviously, I was gonna give everything I had once I stepped on the ice in the weight room and practice, that was no question, but I just tried to be free.
Because I didn't know where I was at yet and playing on the senior team, it was an eye opener of, okay, this is where I need to be. And this is the work that I know that I need to put in. Yeah. So what did you do after that? It was an eye opener and oftentimes those are the times we grow the most, like as a former goalie.
I learned way more about the games that I got scored on than I had shutouts than I saved everything oh, for sure. Than as a coach, I learned way more on the games that I. Than one, always two. And I think there's that learning or growth mentality that goes along with that too, of Kim not getting stuck in failure.
And that's often where a lot of people, when they come into my office, especially it's, I'm stuck in this negative self talk cycle. Like how do I get out of that? And those are just. Great real life. Examples of, ask for feedback, take five, take three. Things of what someone says. And again, it has to be out of respect, someone that you trust their voice and that they have a balanced opinion and you take that and you work with that and you don't let your own feelings or emotions or bias get in the way and you take it for what it is and use it as fuel for the fire.
So what did you do next? Honestly, I think the biggest thing for me was. Like you just said, I hated losing more than I enjoyed winning, if that makes sense. And I was very hard on myself throughout my whole career. I think I understood a lot more later in my career, but what we're talking right now, I was on a pretty good team at U N H.
We did very well, but even though we had some games where we were phenomenal and just. Killing everyone and winning by a large margin. There were games where I, it still wasn't enough. And even though we won those games, maybe five to two, six to one, I wasn't satisfied personally with the team or my own individual effort.
So I always tried to push the envelope every day, no matter what it was, but when it go comes to playing in that first formations, I went back to N H with a different. Or like more confidence. And I think that's what happens when you do make the national team. You go to the tournaments and then, you go back to your university and you have confidence.
That's just naturally what's gonna happen. And it really helped my game out a lot. And confidence is just such a, I think it's the most important thing for any athlete to be successful, because if you. Doubt yourself 1%. You're never gonna be successful. So I just tried to every camp and every tournament use that as momentum to improve and work on everything that I needed to improve on, to get where I wanted to get to.
Yes. Yes. So you're finishing at U N H. When does the time finally come that you make the national team? You make team USA, the Olympic team. What is that? Yeah, it was a great timing because as soon as I graduated in 2009, the centralization year happened in that August. So the tryouts happened in Minnesota grueling two weeks testing, and we get told in a room, they just alphabetically name the roster right then and there and hearing my name for the first time on the Olympic roster.
Was an amazing feeling, but at the same time it was not a guarantee because throughout that year you're gonna cut five or six players to make that 23 roster. So you knew every single day you had to wake up and prove yourself. And that was probably one of the most grueling years of my life.
Just with everything, with the training, with the strength and conditioning, the mental skills, the nutrition, everything just. Came all full circle. And it was like, okay, you're not a college. You're not a college player anymore. You're actually, this is the big deal. So it was an amazing experience that first Olympics grind.
Let me tell you in Minnesota, freezing but going to the opening ceremonies in Vancouver. Seeing my parents we cried, I cried. It was just an emotional experience. But we still had work to do, obviously we had competition and it was just, I was eyes wide open being a rookie on the team.
Incredible city, Vancouver, Canada. I'll never forget it, but being able to just experience that with my parents and my teammates just was a cherry on top, even though we did lose like you said, those games that you lose lessons are learned and that first Olympics was definitely a huge eye opener for me.
Yeah. Wow. Oh boy. And so that year for people who don't know what it's like to be an Olympic athlete, especially a hockey player a female hockey player, because it's not oh, we're playing in the NHL. Then we'll just have a little trip to the Olympics. it's like a four year planning ordeal. And then that year of centralization, can you describe, what is that like?
You guys go and live somewhere. Like you said, Minnesota, and what those daily schedules, like, how do you stay in that zone for so long with that anxiety of, I could get cut today, like five or six of us are gonna go home. Yeah, definitely. And every Olympic experience I've had is completely different.
But if I look at the Minnesota one you're living. Either on your own or in an apartment or in a house with teammates. You're basically getting up, going to the rink, practicing for two hours, going to the strength and conditioning room for about an hour. Depending on the week, you're either doing yoga or team building.
But I, I just remember the strength and conditioning side of that year was. Difficult for me. And I'm not sure because I was at U N H like, yes, we had testing and whatnot and, you had to be prepared for everything, but there was just a different element of the strength and conditioning. I was sore every single day.
The things that our strength and conditioning coach. Put us through was some things were crazy. Like I had, we had to go in the pool with sweatsuits on and swim, and I'm not even a good swimmer as it is, but I'll never forget. I had to use a floaty because I was literally going to drown, but that was us treading water.
And just, I think she pushed us to get out of our comfort zone and, just mentally pushing yourself to the limit where your body. Might not be able to think you're handling it, but if you put yourself in the right mindset, you can handle everything. And I learned that over time for sure. Yeah. And honestly that you just described childbirth too.
That's like literally what I'm like, thinking about , but it's so true. It's your mindset like, cuz your body like how long you have to tread water or I remember one time we had to do like a backwards smile or three miles. Of just running like really weird physical stuff. And it was more, it was not just physical work.
It was all about the mental toughness there. How did you do that? Like how did you, when your body is wanting to give up, how'd you push through? Honestly, my teammates, I would look beside me or next to me. And, obviously some people are more gifted than others or some people can just be on the bike and go forever where I'm just like, I can't do bikes, friends that I'm just horrible or whatnot.
But the biggest thing is you can't compare yourself to other people. And I think that's something I've learned over time. Your teammates are your biggest support system at the time. Don't compare yourself to them, but they're there for support. And you're all going towards this same goal together.
And you're one. So I always use my teammates as motivation to either, push me or I push them and support each other. When you're playing on the national team for 15 years, I've played with some of the same girls for that long. And it's an amazing. Yes. Yeah. So your first Olympics is in Vancouver, 2010.
And then what happens after? Yeah, this is when the real stuff happens. You're devastated about the loss as a rookie. It's oh my gosh, you finally get to the Olympics, your dream come true, but it's totally different. Wanting to be an Olympian, then what's your main goal in life. And I realized right then and there, okay.
I don't wanna just be an Olympian. I wanna win a gold medal. And so there's a big difference in the two I've been through it. I've seen teammates that, they just, they wanna be an Olympian, but then. Once you've gone through it, you say, you know what, you gotta change your mindset.
You wanna win a gold medal. And I think that's right there where it started, because we had such a core group of young girls on the team that. You know that first Olympics, I think that there were about 10 of us that were on the team for the next five years. So we worked together. We said, okay, we need to improve this, that, and the other thing, because we were not even close to really beating Canada.
And there was a lot of turnover that, that next Olympics in 2014, Sochi brand new coaching staff kind of everything was new. And you have to go into it with an open mindset because you're on the. You have to buy into everything, whether it's the coach strengthening conditioning, mental skills, no matter what, when you're on the team that's, you.
Decision that's your choice and you have to buy in. So I remember we really honed in on mental skills. We'd brought in Dr. Hacker. That was a mental skills coach for the us soccer team back in the day. And she just was phenomenal. And it was very new to a lot of us. And I think when you learn mental skills in the beginning, you question a lot of things or you don't understand it.
And the immaturity piece doesn't help. And I think as you go through experiences through tournaments and camps of not playing well or going through personal experiences or losing you always come back to, okay what can I improve? And the mental aspect of it was something that I felt. Our team needed the most of, and even though we put so much work into it, that 2010 to 2014, we still lost in 2014.
And that loss was the biggest heartbreak of my life because, you put so much work into those four years. You buy in you're up to nothing in the gold medal game. And then all of a sudden it starts slipping away from you. And it's little things that you can control. But at that time we weren't able to control it.
Canada scored two to one, it went off of my leg deflected right into the goal. Jessie Vetter, like she was in the right angle, but since it went off my leg, it just totally, and you can. You can't control that. And so I just let it go. I couldn't, dwell on it because there's two minutes left in the game now.
And I remember we called a time out. There was a minute left. Canada kept the puck in the zone. They tied it up with 55 seconds left. Game went into overtime. We got a penalty and then Canada scored on a four on three. So that was probably the most devastating loss in my career. And you think you did everything that you could leading up to it?
And we were the better team for 57 minutes, but at the end of the day, you learn a lot from that game right there. You learn a lot in three minutes that will change your. Yeah. And like you said, this is four years of preparation of mental skills work of day in and day out, everything that you put into your body, the rest, the nutrition, the exercise, the mental exercise the stress, the good and bad stress that you're carrying day in and day up.
That's four years. That's not just one hockey season. That's for. Long years. Yep. And you could have said, Ugh, what's the point now? But you didn. Nope. Nope. And I contemplated retiring after that game, cuz it was just, it was a heartbreak. And like I said, how do you get back on the horse after that?
But we had unbelievable leadership on our team and Megan Duggan I think she's the best captain. I know personally that I've ever had, but out of Madison, Wisconsin, she's gotta be one of the best captains and for sure with the national team wearing the sea, she. One of the best captains ever, but she rallied the team.
She knew what it was gonna take. And I think from then on, from that summer of 2014, those next four years, we were a totally different program. We just changed the whole culture. We thought that we were doing mental skills, but. Ramped it up into whatever we could. And what the biggest thing was, we might have had 30 or 40% buy in from players after that loss.
We made sure when we were to go into 2018, we were gonna have at least, 80% buy-in cuz I've talked to my mental skills coach about this. She said, you're never gonna have a hundred percent buy-in and I looked at her crazy. I said, what do you mean? I go, you make a national team you're at the highest level.
You have no choice, but to buy into what you know, you are being taught, how is that a thing that you just don't do it? She goes, no, you just, you're just never gonna have a hundred percent. So I think I wanted to change that perception and I wanted to get the percentage up of our team because little by little, if that percent goes up tiny bit each day, you're gonna be in better shape when you get to that gold medal game.
And. I just tried to lead by example every single day. No matter what was expected of us, I tried to do extra and girls started doing that as well, we'd have five or six girls that stick handling doing extra one day. And then two weeks later, maybe we had three or four extra. And that little, measurable difference is something that we took every single day with us.
And I think that really prepared us when we got into 2018, because everybody was prepared confident and they didn't wanna feel the way we felt in 2014. That sting. So when you say mental skills, can you elaborate on what those are? Obviously a strong foundation of a strong mental health. And then what I work in so much of too is just that mental performance, those mental skills, mental resilience, toughness, all those types of words that you hear along with sports or business, but it's for everybody, it's not just sports related, but what does that look like in terms of being an Olympic athlete, mental skills, taking care of your mind?
Yeah. And it's funny when people ask this, it's I asked this when I was, just coming okay what I, how do you improve your mental skills? It's literally consistency and day to day. Setting your goals, setting your long-term goals, setting your short-term goals. That's gonna lead you to your long-term goal or dream or whatever you have and sticking by those goals every single day.
And you might have a day where, you have an off day and you're not feeling great. That's where you need to really be aware of how you're feeling mentally and physically okay. Give yourself a day off or no, you know what? I need to push myself a little more. I would do breathing techniques that was something that really helped me right before games.
I'd get a little anxious on the blue line during the Anthem. I remember in between periods or right before you're going out, breathing techniques really helped lower my heart rate and just calm to me a little bit. Journal writing was something that I love doing because everything you're feeling on that day, you can look back and say, wow, like I, it was true.
You go back and you feel exactly how you felt that day. And it's a powerful thing to see, oh, how far you've come, but journal writing. Talking about what you did for nutrition that day strength and conditioning, your testing scores, making sure that you're just improving 1%. Other things I would do, I would read mind, Jim, and just.
Different passages that I loved. And that resonated with me whether it was from another professional athlete or another coach that maybe was going through a situation where they had to face some type of adversity. And you might have been going through that same situation and just reading stories that can help you get by because other people did really goes a long way.
So I would try to do that and write things down as well. And there was one other thing I always did. I'm just trying to think it just O over my career. I think I, I learned what worked for me and what didn't work for me. Oh, vision board. I, my teammate and I, Brandon Decker did a vision board and that prepared us going into 2018.
And the biggest thing I think, like I said, in my previous, when I first started playing, I was always. I wanna say, I don't wanna say negative, but I was very like intense and nothing was good enough. And I always dwelled on mistakes and needing to get better. Whereas during that 2018, 16, 17, 18 year, I focused on the positive, and you can do that.
You can just take whatever you're given and you can be intense. You can work your butt off, but you can do it with a great positive attitude. And. At the end of the day, you're probably gonna do better because you're happier and you're smiling and you just have a better aura about. It's so true. And I talk, I grew, I got to grow up with Decker in Wisconsin.
I, she was reading the book at one part point, the subtle art of not giving an F. So we were talking about that a lot and I love that book. I recommended it to a lot of my clients too. I love it. But it was all about that. It was like really the basics of gratitude. What are you grateful for? And how to switch that positive mindset, which you see a lot of high achievers, high intensity athletes, business people, or just almost that perfectionistic high, intense wanna be the best, not good enough.
And that's a more old school style of thinking even sports psychology or coaching. Of very like the hard ass, like on the line kind of thing, but it's amazing what changes in the brain and the chemicals that are produced when it's more. Oh, okay. These are it's snowballing. Like what you said, writing it down.
There's such power in that. Cuz you free up some mental real estate. Wow. I really have been doing a lot like reading this chapter in mind, Jim. Oh, this exercise. Eating this, oh, I feel in control. I feel empowered. And then from that, it snowballs to that positive outlook of, oh, look at all what I am doing versus what I'm not doing.
And just how that consistency, like you said, really does change that on ice performance or whatever performance you're trying to change, whether it's in business or school or just your overall mood in life. You get rid of. Negative inner critic that can be motivating of do more, be intense, not good enough to, oh wow.
I can do this. And it's this really empowered voice. And then what happens when you listen to that empowered voice? Yeah, it's it was a game changer for me to be honest because when I stepped on the ice and peon chain 2018, yes. Went through two Olympics, whatever. After every four years you're still gonna have some type of nerves.
It's you're waiting four years to play in a gold medal game. But the preparation and, everything that happened leading up to that, that was the difference maker for me. I stepped on the ice and pion chain and I never felt more free. I remember as soon as we stepped. On the soil of pian Chan, when we were in our dorm rooms, I wrote down exactly how I wanted to be on the ice and how I wanted to feel.
And anytime I do talks, I show that because it was exactly how I felt every single game. No question, even over time in the gold medal game. I was smiling and it's crazy because, I didn't wanna feel obviously how I felt in 2014 and how the team felt. So you could easily, tighten your stick and be stressed about it and say, oh my gosh, I cannot lose another gold medal.
I cannot have three silver medals. You can't think about that type of stuff. You literally have to trust. All of your preparation and trust your mindset and trust all the lessons that you learned leading up to it. And now it's your job to just go out there and play the game you love. And that was the biggest thing for me.
Wow. So what were some of those things that you wrote down? Like you were speaking it before? It was real I will feel this way. I want to feel this way. What did that look like? Yeah, I said play free. Like free heart free mind. Whenever I played free, I always felt my best. So I made sure that was number one.
Number two was always keeping my feet moving because I. If I ever felt like I had tired legs or whatnot, I would go right to my brain that I wasn't gonna play as well. So if I always told myself to keep my feet moving, then, you always have that jump and you feel better. And then my last one was play for that little girl that first put on her brother's hockey equipment.
And that was it. That's who I played for. You have to play for that love and why. Did you start playing there? It has to still be inside of you day after day. Cuz you have to feel that love and that passion because it won't be worth it if you didn't have that feeling. Yeah. Wow. Yeah. So true. The why behind it, all the motivation.
Yeah. And then obviously, the story, we great game went into overtime again then went into shoot out, but yeah, we won and it was just a feeling of euphoria. It was crazy. It was just like every single thing that all the blood, sweat and tears, as, people say it was all worth it. And it was a grind.
Let me tell you the sacrifice You can't have a social life. You have to say no to a lot of commitments for other people. It's just, you're doing this day in and day out for a gold medal. And people only realize it when they're in it. And it was. It was a great experience, great journey.
I wouldn't trade it for anything, it is a grind for sure. Yeah. Because how does it work too, for the women's and maybe you can speak to this too, like women's professional hockey and maybe getting paid in that sense, but really for a long time, people had to have other jobs or they couldn't really do much.
What did that look like? Yeah, for sure. So after I graduated at U N H I went right to. Centralization Olympics 2010. We get paid a little bit during the Olympic years by USA hockey and the United States Olympic committee. And then throughout those other years, We got paid $2,000 from the us Olympic committee, cuz that's like you're stipend to train for the team.
So I lived off $2,000 a month from 2010 to 2017 until we fought free equality and we succeeded. And that was just an amazing story in itself, right there. Right before world championships, we boycotted and we stayed United and it was. Historic world championships and just everything that went with it.
It was amazing. And we won that. So from basically 2000 and. 1718, we're making a good amount of money. Probably double of, what we were making before, but the professional leagues, you weren't making much money now. It's getting a lot better. I remember when the NWHL first came on board, they were giving out salaries of $30,000, $20,000.
And then. They had to cut all the salaries back because it just, they couldn't afford it anymore. So that kind of took a couple more years. And now the PHF, which is the premier Federer Federation hockey pays players. Now I think the minimum salary is like 30,000. So it's really exciting.
And the P w H P a is also planning on giving players stipends this year. It's growing it's nowhere near. It should be where it should be in my opinion, but I guess baby steps for women's hockey. That's how the N w N B a started. That's how the soccer is. So baby steps that fight for equality and equal pay for women's athletics for the women's national team.
What was that like? How did you decide? Because for a lot of us, it's. What's even the point it's been this way forever. It's such a big fight. What was that like? Yeah, it was a long road because I don't think people saw the, everything that went into it. We were fighting. In talking to lawyers and having calls for two and a half years behind the scenes, before it all came down.
So we were always having leadership meetings within the team with our lawyers. And that was probably like every two weeks or once a month. Leading up to the boycott of the world championships in 2017. But like I said, it was because of the United front that we had. I remember. Our leadership group called and emailed every single division, one division three, coach and players, basically saying, please do not play because USA hockey tried to find players no matter what.
To fill that world championship roster, because to try to fill it, cuz it was, yeah, we were boycotting, but they were going after like division three players that, you know, and I'm just like, okay. But we made the effort to try to have everyone be on our side because we said, this is historic.
This is gonna help. The players 10 years from now, not necessarily us in a big way, it's gonna, yes, help us. But this is for a bigger cause and a bigger change. And EV everyone was on board and it was just so beautiful to see that United front and. We were like a different team stepping on the ice in Michigan, that's where the world championships were.
And it was one of the most fun tournaments ever, probably cuz we didn't have a pre-amp before then we just got there and played. I think it was like a day later. yeah. That's so bonding like that. Fight that shared issue that you're fighting for, and then to have victory. And like you said, it's sure there's benefits for you all on the team.
And, but it's not about the money. Like it's not like it's millions of dollars that we're signing or things like that. It's for those little girls it's for, who are coming up before us. And that's what I love about the sport. It is. Because it's a smaller sport we really had. Carve away and fight for it and the leadership within it and the women and the athletes who really fought for all of that.
Like you said, in your story, like there wasn't a lot of girls hockey, you had to play boys and now it's growing. And I bet part of your work now is speaking to a lot of girls. I know with w H L academy, you do you get to speak to all sorts of players all over. And that's like mind blowing from where it was say 20, 25 years.
No, it is incredible. And I did allude to in the beginning, I, this was my number one job, playing hockey and, trying to win a gold medal. That was my number one, but our other job was inspiring. The next generation, these little girls, the participation of women's hockey has grown so much in the last 10 years.
And I really think it's just due to just how much we have. The effort forth of going to clinics and going out and speaking to schools because we always, and I know this everyone on, the national team that I played with, we always say, we wanna leave the game better than the way we found it, because if we don't do that, then what's the point.
And it's so powerful. Just being able to go speak to young girls, young boys, even that look up to us and see our medals, or, they just want a signature and just take a photo and. It is something that they remember forever. And it's such an important moment for them in their life. And it's something I wish I had when I was their age.
Hopefully in the next 10 years from now women's hockey and the professional leagues and everything like that, hopefully women are gonna be treated much better than we are now in that sense of the sport. Wow. That's so true. And I just, for my own, I think I texted you a picture of my daughter, Ava.
She's four just started hockey cuz her brother plays and his helmet actually is not even like from, it's not even like one of the Bauer ones from the store here. It's from one of my old teammates. It's. She's on team Canada, Natalie Spooner. Oh yeah. But I sent it to him and just being able to watch them and say, watch the Olympics and go, it's amazing.
Like it's inspiring for him. It inspired my daughter, Ava. Like we signed her up for hockey now and we get to coach her and it's wow. As a parent, now that is just it just swells your heart because it's about the sport. But it's so much more than just a sport. It's the time management, the life lessons, the camaraderie, the team atmosphere that you learn in the life lessons like sport is a microcosm of life.
The resilience that's instilled the equality that you fight for. It's amazing. Yeah, I totally agree. Your daughter already has a one up with you as her mom, because my goodness, if I had a mental skills coach since birth, I don't know where I'd be.
Aw. So after pong Chang, you win an Olympic gold medal, all your hard work, finally pees off it. I can just only imagine the emotions that flowed through you. What was that like? And then what happened after that? Yeah, it was like just this relief, to be honest, because you work so hard towards this one thing that you desperately want.
And so when we finally got that, it was like, okay, now I can actually relax and rest. I honestly could have retired, I think after that game seriously, but I went home like after you won a gold medal, it's. It's way better than losing a gold medal and having a silver medal. We did so much. We went to New York city.
We went to LA we went on the Ellen show. Any, anything that you could think of? We were there and just hitting up New York city going on top of the empire state building stock exchange. It was incredible. And then the best part is just going home to your hometown and speaking. To the schools there and them welcoming you and all the signs in the neighborhoods and, the businesses and the restaurants that my family and I would go to all the time.
That was the best part, the support nonstop, even after losing and losing. And they're still behind you after, 10 years. I have so much love in my heart for Western Massachusetts. And, after that, I took a step back and I said, what do I wanna do now? Do I wanna stay in Boston?
Do I wanna keep playing, but I made the decision to move to Calgary Alberta, and it was awesome. I just said I wanted to have a completely different viewpoint of hockey. I wanted some new teammates. I played with a lot of Canadian national team players, but that gave me a big perspective. If you can believe it, seeing.
Those girls lose. And I went through that twice, obviously, so I wasn't new to it, but then seeing how they reacted throughout that year of like us being on the team, we respected each other so much as hockey players trying to win a gold medal. And you could see that. They had a fire in them like we did after losing that 2014.
So it was really cool to see. And then after a few years I actually loved the experience in Calgary. It made me fall in love with hockey in a different way. But I retired two a year ago and it was just a decision. I knew that I wanted to move on and, start the next chapter of my life. It was just something I thought about.
Since winning gold medal after pion Chang. I knew I loved the game still, but I think COVID had a lot to do with it. And I just knew that I was ready for my next challenge. Yeah. So what was that like being a pro athlete playing in Calgary in a different country, amidst C. Yeah, it was very difficult.
There, like Canada was definitely, I'd say more strict than the us. So I was even training on my own, going to outdoor rings because all the indoor stuff was closed. So I was going to outdoor rings and negative weather, just brutal blue brutal training. And it opens your eyes to man, I'm a female professional hockey player, at the highest level. And I have to train. I have to find my own ice outside at an outdoor rink because there's no availability for me to skate where these professional guys can go to their local rinks or whatnot and train or go to their gyms because they're, they just have that availability and they're I guess, a bigger deal or have money.
But it's a sad the COVID situation was very sad because. If you compare both the professional, female and male, what they had to go through during COVID to continue to train huge differences. Yep. But Hey, you just adjust and adapt and you don't make excuses because that's innate in us.
And that's all we know as female athletes, especially in hockey, you just, you continue with the grind and that's all you can. You just, I love that. Wow. That's a great perspective. Oh, wow. And so now what are you doing? Like you're retired. What does life look like for you? Yeah, it's been phenomenal. Actually.
I'm working in Amesbury, mass. There's a huge athletic complex being built and I'm running. I'm the director of athletic development. So there's gonna be turf field hockey, ranks concessions gym fitness center, sport courts, everything. And this was the perfect spot for me. Two NHL X NHL guys reached out to me.
Phenomenal guys, Trevor Smith and Joe Callahan. And the first meeting I had with them it just felt so right to me. And in my heart, I knew that this was where I wanted to be after I retired. It's been nothing but a pleasure. And then I'm actually the mindset coach for women's hockey life with you.
And that's been amazing because I wanna give back to the next generation. I wanna give back to kids who are 14, 13, who have, Dreams to be an Olympian or be a division one hockey player, and they just need a little guidance. And if I can share anything with them, advice wise that I learned over my career or something that, I knew that stuck with me.
And if you give it a hundred percent, you're gonna be a better person and player. If you continue to do this, those are the things that I wanna teach the next generation. That's amazing. On the mental health side of things. How, because how, what you described like those are, that's not just like one season that's years, that's 15 years of grueling training.
Most people don't really get what you're going through. That's a 0.1% of the population would probably go through something like this. How did you keep your just general mental health healthy in order to then have a strong mental toughness or those strong mental. Yeah, I definitely would say the support that I had around me helped out a lot.
I always had, my best friends to go to for support. My parents were always, in my corner, no matter what. So anytime I felt like I was struggling, I remember there were times where I wanted to quit. In 2015, because I just wasn't having fun. I was getting sat a lot and I just broke down and I just, I said, dad, I think I, I am done.
And this was during Christmas camp and he said, you know what? Just go to camp. And, just don't think about anything, just go out there and have fun. And if you're still feeling the same way after then we'll talk about it more. And ironically enough, I went in there with such a free mindset and I played great and I had so much fun.
And if it wasn't for him clearing my mind, then I probably, might not have a gold medal right now, who knows. But it's that support like I said, now we totally have to borrow somebody else's voice sometimes. Yeah for yourself. That's true. But you also, you're not, you don't understand what you like.
I didn't think I could go through the amount that I did and then I would go through it. And I said, wow, that wasn't as hard as I thought so. You know what I'm saying? You can do so much more than you think that you can. And I think if people have that open mind, open heart and just give it their all, then they'll see.
Yeah, that mindset. Cause often we build it up so much more in our head or I can't do it or it's gonna be so much harder. I can't cope. It's so overwhelming. And then it's not as bad when we actually face it. But like you said, it does help with good support around you to face those mountains. And you're gonna, you're gonna have anxiety.
You're going to have. Times where you're just not feeling great, but I think that just comes with it and you just have to learn how to overcome it. Like I played on the national team for 15 years, probably did on ice, off ice testing three times a year for that many. And I was always anxious about that and I was prepared, but you're still gonna be anxious and that's okay.
Yes. It doesn't mean that it's a bad thing. It's there for a reason and it will subside when she faces. Exactly. Oh, that's good to know. Yes. Oh, and Casey, how about anything else if people are listening especially for parents, like maybe they're listening and their kid is an athlete, or maybe it's someone not even in the athletic world, but it's business.
And they're like, wow, I wanna, keep chasing my dreams. And I've had setbacks, like who hasn't had setbacks in their life. What would you say to. Yeah, I would definitely just, honestly, by the end of my career, I tried to live, trying to get 1% better every single day. And that's a measurable thing.
You can sit there and say, oh, I had a shitty day, or I, sorry, I had a bad day yesterday. Okay. Let's let that go. Let's not dwell on it, but what are you gonna do today to improve? You can. One chapter of a book. Okay. That was better than I did yesterday. Awesome. Or you're gonna try to, what are you grateful for today?
Think about write five things down that you're grateful for little things like that. If you can do consistently on a day to day basis, you're just gonna go up and that's just facts. Yeah. I love it. The 1% can I improve 1% today? And it is, it's really small stuff, but that's the stuff that counts with consistency.
And you gotta love what you do. I always, I think that is so important. I think you do sometimes have to do stuff that you don't like in order to get the things that you do. But you'll know what you're passionate about. And, I think that doing something that, you feel in your heart that is important.
I think that is the most important thing in life. Yeah. So true. Ah Casey, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your story, your expertise, your tips. This is amazing. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Barb. I appreciate it. Any time. I love talking about this stuff and you're always, great.
When we come on these meetings and you just, you put things into perspective for me as well. So it's amazing. Aw. Thank you. All right. We will be in touch. We'll send you all the stuff minutes out so you can share. And just again, thank you for all you do. Just all the give back that you do. Thanks Barb.