Those are the two words Yuvia typed into Google when she decided it was time to try again. Not just “hockey,” but “women’s hockey.”
In Mexico, a country where soccer and baseball rule sports, playing hockey is not an easy path for anyone, let alone a young girl. There seems to be a misconception that hockey is dangerous and therefore can’t be for a woman. Growing up in Guadalajara, this challenge was what first drew Yuvia to the sport at age twelve: she wanted to prove that it didn’t have to be just for boys. In fact, it wasn’t.
While playing in co-ed leagues, Yuvia and her female teammates endured comments about how they—for the sole reason of being women—were unfit to play the sport. Though she still enjoyed playing co-ed, Yuvia fantasized about what it would be like to play in an all-female league. This yearning was partially a product of the obstacles she faced as a female player. But it also stemmed from a core human desire: the desire for belonging.
“Being with other people like you, more women…” Yuvia says. “It’s not because you want to show off in the case that you’re better than other girls or women, it’s because you belong.”
Unfortunately, the only time an all-female league was established during her youth was when the state fashioned a women’s field hockey team. Players were assembled and provided with space, time, and equipment. While the female camaraderie was what Yuvia desired, the different type of hockey was not. The short, curved stick felt unfamiliar in Yuvia’s hand. Rather than being for the athletes, it seemed that the athletes themselves were being used so the state could fill a female quota. But Yuvia did not see her femaleness as a token, and though she desired the special quality of being on a women’s team, she was unwilling to compromise her passion.
So Yuvia focused on opportunity rather than obstacle. Whether it was a lack of female teammates, the sparse and expensive equipment, or the crack of dawn ice times that called for 30-minute walks laden with gear, she showed up with gratitude.
“We didn’t care,” Yuvia recalls. “We were like, this is what we have, and we’re going to do it.”
Above all else, Yuvia never stopped dreaming of progress and representation in the sport she loved. Together, she and her friends would wonder, “What if there’s a world or there’s a city where you can, you know, have women’s leagues…?”
In her early 20s, that dream seemed on the cusp of reality. Yuvia was invited to be a member of the first women’s national roller hockey team in Mexico. At that time, she was also playing basketball, and had been for years. In fact, many of her friends and family assumed basketball was her chief passion, and Yuvia felt they didn’t understand just how personal hockey was for her: it held her heart. As a result, she decided that her next basketball tournament would be her last.
It was. But sadly, it was more than basketball that ended. During the tournament, Yuvia’s knee was seriously injured. Her athletic career came to a halt just as women’s hockey was emerging in Mexico, and after a long recovery, Yuvia decided it was too risky to start again.
Fast forward 15 years:
Those are the two words Yuvia typed into Google when she decided it was time to try again.
She’d been living in New York for about six years when the global pandemic struck. Difficult times have an uncanny way of uncovering silver linings and unlocking resilience. Yuvia found herself working out more from home and feeling stronger each day.
“Suddenly, I was like… what if I tried again?”
So Yuvia sought out the community she’d always dreamt of. The first thing to pop-up on her internet search bar was Women’s Ball Hockey NYC. Before she knew it, Yuvia was back on the rink as a part of the first all-female ball hockey league in New York City.
“It’s super fun for me,” Yuvia shares. “… and also kind of all I wanted, so you know, I’m trying to enjoy that feeling and see what it feels like, because it’s something that I always dreamed when I was with my friends. We were talking like ‘yeah, imagine if we could go do this and that.’ And now it’s happening. It’s already done. So I want to be a part of that.”
But playing with all women has not satiated her passion for growing the game, or satisfied the need she still sees for women’s hockey.
“There’s more support, there are more women trying and playing and pursuing this game but still here, what I’ve noticed, is that there’s not enough,” she says. New York City has an abundance of space, tools, and possibility. Yuvia believes in exposing more women to hockey, and she endorses the classic phrase, “if you can see it, you can be it.”
“If you see somebody doing it, someone like you—another girl, another woman—you can totally, totally feel and know that youcan do it.”
Although Yuvia is now recovering from another knee injury, her optimism and excitement are palpable and inspiring. Hockey is not just a hobby, but an intrinsic part of her nature. Everything from skating to the blade of the stick mesmerizes her. She could think about hockey all day, and over the course of these many years, she has never stopped doing just that. Now back, Yuvia is motivated to help grow the types of women’s leagues that the little girl in Guadalajara, Mexico, could only dream about.
By, Ellie Milewski