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Women in Sports: Anya Battaglino Carries the Confidence of a Hockey Player Day In and Out

Professional women’s hockey is the best, newer thing in sports. The National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) officially kicked off in 2015 and is in the midst of their third season of play, with the four founding teams battling it out on the ice. These teams are all located in the North East, which makes traveling and away games easier for the women who all have full time “normal” jobs to pay the bills.

Greater New York City has the Metropolitan Riveters, the city of Stamford houses the Connecticut Whale, just north in Massachusetts is the Boston Pride, and almost in Canada are the Buffalo Beauts.

I want to introduce you to Anya Battaglino. She currently plays for the CT Whale, but that is not all. By day she is a sales woman in the cyber security industry where she works closely with her company’s marketing department to figure out prospect outreach. She is also the NWHL Player’s Association Director and has time to squeeze in some coaching. WOW.

“On a regular week I could be in SF, stop in Utah on the way home, take a flight from Utah to Logan, go for a couple meetings in Boston, then make my way back down to CT. Or if it’s a week that has practice, I’m on the red-eye over to California or Las Vegas or somewhere like that, then on the early flight back so that I’m home for practice. I also head up our Player’s Association, so I have eight support staff… and I’m also a player. Those are my three main jobs. I also coach a Tier 1 hockey team. So, if I didn’t have enough downtime, it was definitely eliminated by the fact that I coach for a bunch of kiddos as well.”

Like she always says, “If I have too much sleep and I’m too well rested something didn’t get done.”

But why hockey?

“The sport is amazing, and the cold chill of the wind on your face when you’re skating, all of that is amazing. But hockey teams, for some reason, maybe it’s because our season is longer or because we dress up and we dress down before and after practice in one room together, or the bus rides are so long, I don’t know what it is. But your team is like your family. Being around my teammates just feels good. It would have to be, to be with the people I fight with and fight for every single day.”

Being a woman in the male dominated industry of sports is no walk in the park, it takes constant effort. Surprisingly, though, this hasn’t been Anya’s biggest challenge in her hockey career.

“One of the biggest challenges for me is figuring out who I am when hockey is not around. I have always been a competitor, I have always been an athlete, I have always been a teammate and a friend and all these different things. Life goes on, and you live all these different pathways and it’s how do you still be that athlete? How do you still hold the confidence of a hockey player, but have the poise of a business woman? It’s always been, not a struggle, but it’s been situations where you have to be able to wear multiple hats. How do I make it equitable and fight for what I believe is right? Who am I without hockey and how am I going to leave a legacy on the sport that makes it better than it was before I got into it.”

Ok. Deep stuff right here. That’s what it takes. More effort. More fighting for what’s right, for more women in sports, and for more women in hockey.

Anya Battaglino, left (NWHL)

Battaglino has seen this sport grow first hand. The Waltham, Mass. native played for the Boston University Terriers for two seasons before making her professional debut in 2012 with the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL). She then, in 2015, she signed a contract with the CT Whale in the history-making, inaugural season of the NWHL and has been there ever since. Now that she has been through some industry changes and achieved some life-long goals, what would she tell her younger self knowing what she knows now?

“Honestly, it would start with just saying. It’s okay. Things aren’t going to go your way. People are going to say no. Doors are going to slam. In. Your. Face. But at the end of it, it will make you smarter, and it will make you stronger, and it will make you humble. Every single kid that I know that had the path paved for them is having a much different experience with their life than I am. It was a grind to come from a local area and not necessarily have all the resources and make it onto Boston University… there were doors that were just slammed in my face. And it happens even today. I don’t get to play in every single game. My coach picks the roster and there are days that I’m not on it. It’s hard. I would say wipe the tears out of your eyes and keep going to work. Grab your lunch pail, punch the clock, and do your job. You will end up on top and you will be the person that you should be.”

I, as a woman in sports, know why (in my opinion) it is so important to have females represented. I have seen a huge increase in the number of women in sports just in my time here (I am acting like it is a destination, and, in a way, it is). It was so refreshing, and eye-opening, to hear why another woman thinks it is so crucial for us gals to be in it for the long haul.

“If I could sum it up with one main point, I would say perspective. Women have a different perspective, on everything. I mean, we need men, right? But we need women! We need the other side of the argument. We need the other side of the thinking. We need the emotional side. We need the person that’s going to get to a different place and innovate. If we have everything in one direction, and sports are a men’s game, right, then you lose the perspective of a woman. Perspective gives it depth.”

Guys, you can follow Anya on Twitter @battaglinoa. She is insightful, so funny, and actually really loves Dunkin’ Donuts as much as she posts about them. Currently, as her favorite food, she is really into soup. She loves Sam Smith, Adele, and Migos. She has quite the eclectic music mix on her Spotify! She is a National Dance Champion and sometimes her teammates make her dance before a game. I mean, she can dance, so why not. Mind you this is in full gear, that takes skills! She loves college football (BAMA, Michigan Wolverines, Badgers from Wisconsin), the NWSL, and any sport really when a team is grinding it out before they reach success.

At 26 years old, her and her girlfriend just bought their first house. That is a whole new adventure that she is embarking on. To say her plate is full is an understatement. It’s like she’s at the buffet and has gone back up to get another refill. Maybe two or three refills rather. She is happy and full, but not full where she wants to nap. Full where she is energized day in and day out, and crushing life.

To leave you with once last closing remark.

“It’s been a huge thing for me trying to stay really, really true to who I am. And when I don’t know who that is, asking for help and talking about it and reaching out to people that love me and care about me, creating a support system. One of the things that I am most passionate about is helping people see that is okay to be different, or it’s okay to be sad or it’s okay to be happy. It’s okay to feel however you’re feeling,” said Anya Battaglino.

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Jackie Daly

Jackie Daly has been with In The Zone since 2012. Her contributions have been mostly in NHL and special events coverage. Jackie has been a writer, video host, and podcast host with ITZ. She currently co-hosts Tea Time with Mel and Jay. Outside ITZ, Jackie works with MLS's New York City Football Club and the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
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