COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio State University hockey player Emily Curlett has been in Columbus for less than a year.

But in that time, she has almost completed a graduate certificate in public management and become a national champion

“Our team was such an incredible team,” she said with a smile. “I never thought I’d be here.”

Curlett also didn’t think she would stay in Columbus after her graduate year at Ohio State. Now, not only is she staying, but she is cementing herself into the hockey culture and history of the city become part of the Columbus Blue Jackets brand new AAA girls program as a coach and ambassador.

“It gives girls something like they feel they can be a part of, that’s a place for them that’s not ‘you’re just a girl on a boys team,’” Curlett said.

“We know that we have to do some extra work to have girls see themselves in hockey and have them believe that this is accessible to them and something they should try,” added Dr. Lisa Hinkelman, who herself is a former hockey player. Hinkelman has master’s and doctorate degrees in Counselor Education from Ohio State, and has combined her education and athletic background to start the girl-serving non-profit “Ruling Our eXperiences” also known as ROX.

She has done research on the critical issues impacting girls, especially in the preteen and middle school age groups, and has authored the book “Girls Without Limits: Helping Girls Succeed in Relationships, Academics, Careers and Life.”

“While we do know that all girls tend to lose confidence during their middle school years, the girls who played sports seem to not lose as much,” Hinkelman explained.

Through her research, Hinkelman has found there is a correlation between a higher GPA and sports participation, and those girls in athletics had stronger desires to be leaders.

What is even more interesting is those girls who play sports tend to have stronger relationships with other girls. They may be in a competitive setting, but it’s a healthy competition.

“One of the things we know is starting in fifth grade, which is where our research begins, about 75 percent of girls report being in competition with one another,” Hinkelman said. “They talk about looks, and grades, and attention. When we can dismantle some of that unhealthy competition and replace it with collaboration and support, we have a chance to transform the way that girls’ relationships exist with one another.”

These are some of the things that Hinkelman wants to share at the Columbus Blue Jackets’
“Hockey for Her” event on Friday, April 22. Hinkelman, along with Curlett and former Women’s National Para Ice Hockey Team member Kelli Anne Stallkamp, will be sharing their experiences as women involved in sports and how they hope to grow more opportunities, especially in the hockey sphere, for the young girls of central Ohio.

“Whatever I did with hockey, I wanted to use that platform for good, for other young women,” Curlett said. “I just want girls to know they can pursue what they want to pursue.”

“Once a girl is in her gear, you cannot be judging her appearance,” Hinkelman said. “All you can be judging is her performance, which is kind of freeing. When we think about giving girls chances to try new things, to learn that their body is strong and that physicality isn’t going to break them, it helps them think about their opportunities and how they move through the world a little differently.”

For information on how to register for the final session of this year’s “Hockey For Her” program, click here.