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Sunday, February 9, 2014

It's Been a Long Time Coming--PROVIDENCE COLLEGE DOES IT RIGHT FOR WOMENS HOCKEY!

Digit Murphy and Long Time PC  Asst Bob Bellmore
It's been a long time coming....When I first spoke these words at Brown University as the Head Women's Hockey Coach  after our victory in the first ever Mayor's Cup in 1995 or was it 1996? whenever...it was a long time ago... and it HAD BEEN a "long time coming"! The first ever Mayor's Cup in Women's Hockey when yes that's right it had been a tradition in men's hockey forever--or so it seemed to a young trailblazer...But that didn't stop our administration at Brown at the time to blast me for providing a negative comment in the then only form of printed media in Providence---THE PROJO (our affectionate name for the Providence Journal).  At the time I was in my early years at Brown and most people would tell you that those were the years of my "political incorrectness" but whatever...in my mind I was simply telling the truth!

Now in my tenure as head coach of the Boston Blades the only US women's Professional Hockey Team, I had the opportunity of playing in a first rate venue for women's hockey!  I have seen other venues on college campuses, so WHAT separated this venue...WHAT was the thing that impressed me the most about this amazing facility?  Was it the grandiose lobby, the have everything at your fingertips coaches offices,  the professional team (better than the Boston Bruins) locker room, the complete with leather seats classroom for the athletes, the shooting facility, the weight room (complete with astroturf for warm ups), the training room with dualing hot tubs, the doctors offices to privately work on athletes, the impeccable visitors locker rooms, the high tech sound system, the jumbo-tron, the luxury boxes...NO what impressed me the most was the TREATMENT of the Women and its supporters...the administration and staff in their actions said that the women TRULY mattered. The facilities people and athletic administrators were polite, attentive, positive, helpful and this is a testament to the administration at Providence.  The Athletic Director, Bob Driscoll and his staff have really made an effort to make women's hockey a showcase sport at PC.  My hats off to them.  I will give credit as well to Nate Lehman and his staff for welcoming the women's game and having a cooperative hockey spirit! It takes everyone in hockey to be supportive of each other if we are all to move forward with our sport and succeed in the future! I am incredibly grateful for that--so as I finished in my email to Coach Bobby D--I never thought I'd say this as the long time Brown coach and Cornell alum....but as a true women's advocate I say give credit where credit id due--GO FRIARS!!

Here is an email that I'd like to share to Bob Deraney--I thank him for believing in our sport and being a true advocate--thanks again!



Hey Bobby,

We had a great time playing our game in your rink yesterday. We are so grateful to you and your staff for letting us be a part of your tremendous celebration.  Your staff, your administration, your team, and your alums, were fabulous ambassadors for the game. Providence College is truly committed to providing a "Cadillac" experience for your athletes. You have no idea how this warms my heart as someone who has been in the game for so long and who has fought for equity in women's sports.  It really has been a long time coming and we have arrived at PC.  

Venues like Providence's and excellent  treatment of the women's hockey program and its guests by your professional staff are examples that women are important in our game.  I believe that this is the tip of the iceberg!  The Blades game was good hockey and you letting us showcase it in your arena says so much about you and your program's commitment to our sport.  Your alums were proud and beaming!  They are really lucky to have so much support from the Trustees on down to of course you, Meredith, Mel, and Brooksie! So thanks again and good luck in the rest of the season--I never thought I hear my self say this as the long time Brown coach...but GO FRIARS!

Take Care,


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Practice or Meet and Greet with Olympic Leaders...yeah Practice



MEGHAN DUGGAN EVENT



After the night with Meghan Duggan event I was inspired to write...it has been a while since I have had the time to write and it requires a ton of discipline to write continually--I have a lot of respect for people who consistently write!  So if anyone out there has any tricks to staying focused for an ADHD maniac...please feel free to comment on this blog...but alas I digress--

So Meghan Duggan event--I sat at the podium proud of the 140 folks in the crowd who fought traffic to come out to hear Meg speak--she is the captain of the Olympic Team and was being introduced by former Olympian and Sochi Olympic delegate Caitlin Cahow-- I would've thought there would be more of a demand...

First off--the speakers or topic "Women in Sports: A Night  with Olympian Meghan Duggan" for not having more folks out to the event.  It might have been the marketing of the event by yours truly (I am not the greatest at the FB, Twitter, Instagram, Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, Snap Chat...you get my drift too many things to update...however, of the people that did get my emails, calls and texts, I was pretty dumbfounded for the reasons that folks couldn't come out--and trust me I get it most parents have a ton to do on the weeknight! Most MOMS are out after work taking one of their two or three kids to practice or worrying about their kids homework or studying for a test or driving kids to SAT prep or washing their dog or cat or training for the marathon or baking the cookies for the bake sale or writing a brief for the project due on Friday....so yeah we are busy people.  Another reason for not coming was that the cost of the ticket (for a dinner/speech/and meet and greet sign autographs and take pics with one of the top players in the world in the sport they love) $40--was just a little too pricey! The one that really got me was this one--WE HAVE A HOCKEY PRACTICE!

This one had to kill me the most and is the reason for my post. The fact that we over schedule athletes for practices and workouts actually burns them out! I did it myself as a college coach--guilty a charged! This is a challenge at all levels of all sports...coaches and program administrators and/or parents depending on the level actually think that one practice or missing a practice makes a difference in the overall performance of their child or athlete.  In youth sports it is crazy I can almost justify it in college because of the resources thrown at the game--but I still don't condone it.  Honestly at the youth level...when you really think about it it's pretty funny!  How many times have parents had their kids go to practice or a game instead of doing homework or better yet skip school?  How many times have tournaments been scheduled during a school day?  Sports-and trust me I make my living on coaching-is vastly out of control! The business element has taken over sports and put the emphasis and priorities on the game and not the core values that traditionally have defined sports--leadership, sportsmanship, competition, teamwork...

Digression and rant once again...sorry back to the story...so I kid you not that more than one program told me that they could not come listen to the Captain of the Olympic Women's Hockey Team because they had practice. So herein lies the challenge...we have given the youth sport coaches this pedestal, this pulpit, this position of power where the sport is the vehicle to have their egos, competitive juices, and basically testosterone created rules become the priority. Where is the logic?  Where have we gone wrong ladies where we have allowed this to take place? We are the keepers of the kingdom--we have the thing inside us that protects the children, the good, the planet??? The proper thing to do for our daughters (and sons) is to be rational...to be logical..to be sane...and take back the field, the ice, the pool, to a place of sanity.  My passion lies in the fact that we are doing our kids a disservice by thinking that it is all about the game.  Please if you haven't seen it watch this clip the magic sports kits...



The Meghan Duggan night was a fabulous opportunity to see leadership, role modeling, and wholesomeness in sport up close and personal.  It would have been a great BREAK from the craziness of a practice--coaches should have the wherewithall to call it an off ice practice of leadership, education, sportsmanship, role modeling...what sports behaviors should emulate. The young girls at this event were treated to a great night that emulated these core values!  For those programs that had to have that practice I hope that you guys win this weekend...but the opportunity to reach out and shake the hand of the Olympic Team Captain who is off to Sochi might never come again. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

THE DISNEY TRAM AND ROD SERLING'S THE TWILIGHT ZONE...???


So have you ever experienced one of those hee bee/gee bee feelings?  You know the one where the twilight zone plays in the background because something really coincidentally weird happened?  Something that you just can't explain?

Well I decided to take a diversion from sports in this blog and tell you about a crazy thing that happened to me on a recent trip to FLA for a business meeting.  It happened in the Orlando airport on my way back to Providence.  It is a small but randomly pointed coincidence between myself and a stranger that inspired me to write....

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Junior Seau's Tragedy--How Ice Hockey Can Learn From This

Junior Seau's tragedy put an exclamation point on what I was already thinking as I reflected upon the presentation at the recent American Hockey Coaches Convention. I am speaking about the buzz word in sport right now--CONCUSSIONS.

The Concussion Presentation by Chris Nowinski of the Sports Legacy Institute was informative, interesting, and from a personal perspective it really hit home for me.  My daughter was diagnosed this year with post concussion syndrome.  She is a junior on the Nobles Girls Hockey team; after being diagnosed she could not return to school and had to take a year off to rest her brain and recover from her injury.

So I got to thinking about kids and parents, playing sports, and how can we display the attributes of hockey in a positive light to our future participants. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Cooperative Play and Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice

I have been thinking about writing this ever since I saw the first few episodes of The Apprentice--of course Donald Trump and his comb-over aside, The Apprentice highlighted several tendencies that I have noticed about my gender that makes me sometimes embarrassed to be female--let me explain...

For anyone who has not seen the show, at the start of each season, the teams are split up by gender--men vs. women.  Each episode starts with a task assigned to the team by The Don.  The team picks a Project Manager who is in charge of executing the task.  As I watched the first few episodes, I noticed that when the men came to play, they picked the project manager and found a way to follow him--even if they weren't quite sure of the outcome. They would try to believe in the leadership and ultimately defer to the Project Manager on the task. Sometimes, they would have their doubts about his methods or be a little annoyed with a weak player on their team, but they appeared to try to see the good of the team and overcome obstacles to achieve the goal.   On occasion, the men's team confronted a negative team member or the occasional lazy individual in the task, which created  outward conflict but all in all they pitched in and helped for the good of the task they were to accomplish.  The men won 5 of 7 tasks put forth to them.

The women on the other hand picked their leader after sometimes colorful discussion or not and began the task.  As they brainstormed on the task with the Project Manager and tried to share ideas, at any hint of controversy the claws came out!  No cooperative behavior, they talked behind each other's back, formed cliques, and undermined each other.  This made for great reality TV!   These behaviors seemed like the sport not the task to be completed. The women were caddy, and jealous of each other, and they were hard pressed to acknowledge good ideas of others in the group.  I wonder why this is...Does it have something to do with each individual woman's inner self?  Are they insecure or have self esteem issues...or is it nature are women wired this way?  I am not sure.  The show was hard for me to watch at times as the women's actions were childish, insincere, and mean...

After the task is completed, the next part of the show involves the two teams coming into DT's Board Room and finding out the results of the task. Much of the board room involves Donald Trump firing the teams up by pitting the players against each other. If a team wins, they are awarded an amount of money to donate to the charity of the winner's choice. The penalty for the losing team is to have one member of the team FIRED after Donald Trump instigates the drama for the teams in the boardroom.

In the board room, the men's team defended their leader at all costs, they would say how great he was and even lie and say he did a great job (even if they all knew he didn't).  They would only throw the leader under the bus if they were really pressured. And even then, it was really hard for the men to be disloyal...it seemed to physically pain them! The team cohesion and positive attitude appeared to have an impact on the eventual victorious outcome for the men.

The women were very different.  They were individuals in the board room and appeared to have no solidarity. And it isn't made easy for them by The Don!  Donald Trump is an excellent observer of the body language of the players.  When someone doesn't agree with what is said, and they wince or roll their eyes,  he picks up on the body language and he calls them on it.  When pressed, the women immediately folded and threw each other under the bus viciously, I might add...there is no mercy.  They call each other names and look like children on a playground fighting over who gets to win a prize.  It is interesting that when they are going to say something negative about each other they explain why first...as if they are justifying their behavior--fascinating.  I wonder if their task was life of death how they'd play?  Would they cooperate more and give credit where credit is due?

Now I know it is only a game and is made for TV drama but you have to at least acknowledge the differences in genders...I was talking with a friend about this phenomena and he asked me if I thought that the women's behaviors were actually being exaggerated to make the men look like they were better for more controversial TV viewing instigated by Trump the male chauvenist?  Wow, if that were the case I'd be shocked...I think that even if this were true, the women most likely give the show way more material than the men did--the drama, the crying, the two faced and hurtful behavior...these are the issues that the women have on the show.  I am not saying that all women act this way or that this isn't all made for TV reality, it makes you think though if these exaggerated traits are a tiny bit true and what they say about us as females.

So what does this mean for sports, and how do we tie this in?  I say that this is definitely a phenomena that is coming to fruition in the women's athletic world.  As I speak to coaches, both men and women the behavior of women can at times be non team like and disloyal.  Coaches have told me stories of putting themselves out there for their female athletes.  Supporting and mentoring the athletes, helping them get better, coming to their rescue to an academic crisis...and at the drop of a hat when the chips are down and a player is struggling on the team and may be relegated from starting position to a non starter because of poor performance, the player throws the coach under the bus.   Many women on teams make excuses for losing and then players lack the ability to take responsibility.  It is the coach's fault or a team mate who did not pass to them.  Or the players lifted weights or trained too hard two days before and their legs were tired...the women athletes sometimes lack accountability.

Athletic directors have shared their thoughts with me about surveys that are instituted by the NCAA.  They are mandatory and each athletic department uses the information differently.  Why is it that women feel the need in the surveys to treat their female coaches differently?  The women are harder on the women coaches, they throw them under the bus even in winning seasons?  Why is it that we cannot compliment good performance when it is woman to woman?  I'm not sure, but if I were to guess it is just how we are wired...The women on the Apprentice exhibit these behaviors too!

My final thought is that if we are to change as a gender, sport is a natural teaching tool that can change behaviors.  Coaches need to be willing to have conversations about why women have different attitudes and perspectives than men. Acknowledge that women are different than men and discuss it in the realm of how the behavior impacts women's sports and teams. Until we have coaches who are willing to discuss the behavior, and take it on as a challenge it will not change.  If you are a coach reading this article are you willing to have the conversation and be part of the solution?

This is a series of commentary and solutions for women coaches...the next article will provide a suggested remedy to help guide similar behaviors exhibited by female athletes

Friday, February 17, 2012

Title IX anniversary 2012

On the anniversary of Title IX I would like to sincerely thank Edith Green the mastermind behind Title IX, and Senator Patsy Mink for co-authoring the statue that forever has changed my life.  Growing up in the 60's and 70's as a young female athlete was challenging.  But initially not as challenging as one might think.  My introduction to sports was on the playground and in the street.  I was a kid--just a kid not a boy not a girl.  The world of children and the playground was forgiving and unrelenting all at the same time.  It was a time when you just played.  If kids were mean to each other, the group level set.  If kids were accepting the group on that particular day handled it.  No adult involvement was needed.  

Ignorance was bliss back then and you really never thought of equity. Boys played sports and girls wore pretty pink dresses--especially for school.  I remember going to school for the first time and my mom told me that I was required to wear a dress?! I was horrified!  My mother, grandmother, and aunts would wrangle me into a dress for church, and on holidays.  But everyday??? I had to wear a dress to school? I was miserable an incredibly fearful.  My stomach cramped up at the thought--I physically reacted to this--crazy eh? I am actually surprised that I didn't hate school!  But I didn't, and I sucked it up--like we all did back then. This left it's mark on me--I had to think of being different and be forced to conform to something I did not believe in because of my gender.  I always wondered--WHY?

In school, boys and girls played on the segregated playgrounds actually separated by a fence--boys on one side girls on the other.  Girls played hop scotch and jacks and maybe the occasional tag while the boys played basketball, touch football, and baseball.  I remember peering through the chain link fence staring forlornly into the boys side wishing I could play with them.

After school we would all boys and girls (mostly the boys and I) run down to the ball field after school to  choose sides and play pick up.  There I was in my glory.  Just a player...not a girl or a boy...just a player.  I quickly rose to the ranks in the sand lot as I was promoted from the outfield to the infield then to the coveted position of on the field leader--the short stop.  At bat, from middle of the line up to first to clean up hitter...a leader on the field at age 10.

I quickly found out however what it meant to be a girl.  In early 70's in the world of adults and sport structure there were rules.  My resume of being captain of the sand lot, picking the teams, and motivating my squad in our make believe world meant nothing to the adults.  When I arrived to try out I was told that I didn't fit the criteria...I was not male.  I wondered WHY?

My world was rocked.  I could not wear the uniform that I dreamed about wearing.  Why??  I did not understand...I was not as brash as I am today so there was no "well I am going to do it anyway...I'll storm the administration...we can demand equity"...the adults ruled in my world and I was told no...end of story. I was angry and hurt.  I would never be a part of the fabulous world of little league that the boys enjoyed...the parents cheered for them, the scoreboard tended to, snackbar available...all in their honor--what a glorious happy time for them.  I was on the sidelines cheering on my friends or taking stats.  Even the boy who was picked last, who couldn't run the bases, he had a spot on the bench--my sandlot leadership meant nothing--I was a girl.  I could hit it out of the park, play shortstop, and bark out orders to the boys, yet in the adult world of the rules of baseball I did not matter.  My gender mattered more than my performance.  This shocking, painful, reality made me who I am today...

Today, I am the USA Hockey Lead Mentor Coach and am also a scout for Team USA National Women's Hockey Program.  I recently retired from Brown University as their head ice hockey coach after 23 years and I now own a consulting company advising student athletes on their college choices.