Reily Kirsch-Loredo

Luckily one of the first people I met when I moved to to Madison from South Carolina was Paul Weisensel.  He began playing hockey with MGHA in 2014 and he couldn’t stop talking about how much he loved it. He told me I should try it….I had never even been ice skating before, but he told me the league was inclusive of everyone no matter their identity, orientation, or ability/lack of ability to play hockey…even if you didn’t know how to ice skate.  I met some of the other MGHA players at FruitFest and they also shared the same enthusiasm about the league. I thought about joining but I wasn’t ready yet…

My identity to the world and who I was didn’t feel congruent because I lived most of my life in an environment where even if people “knew” you still didn’t talk about it.  I felt a lot of shame about who I was; even though I was was accepting of everyone else, I did not accept myself. I felt like I lived in two different worlds, I wasn’t out around most people and then when I was around my friends who knew I could be myself.

I have played with the MGHA league for 3 seasons now and the league has been a huge part of helping me have confidence to be myself. MGHA is a hockey league where your teammates cheer to encourage you when you have the puck, even if everyone knows you hardly know how to skate and you can hardly hear the cheering over your own thoughts trying to remember everything you learned about skating with the puck! That encouragement made me want to keep playing and never give up.

For the first time, I found a safe place I could be myself. Unlike the rest of the world, MGHA is a place where you sincerely don’t have to fit in to any box to fit in.  And other than the form you fill out when you sign up for MGHA (which they use to improve the recruiting process) no one ever asks you what box(es) you fit in to. I’ve done a lot of growing along the way, I no longer feel shame for who I am. As cheesy as it sounds, I found myself and a lot of really awesome friends through the MGHA!