Encouraging Girls On – and Off – the Ice

By Katy Macek | Photography by Hillary Schave

When Tara Groth was in eighth grade in Mosinee, Wisconsin, her dad created a girls-only hockey team so she and her classmates could have a league of their own. Groth loved the sport so much she played well into college on an elite intramural league.

Now, she’s doing the same for her own daughter, Sydney, to give young girls a chance to play hockey with other girls on Madison’s East Side. Groth cofounded the Madison Dragons in 2023, which recently finished its first season with one 10 and under (10U) team and two 12U teams. Next year, she says they will add two 14U teams.

“It’s something that really meant a lot to me, and it’s something all girls should have the opportunity to participate in, whether it’s girls-only hockey, basketball, soccer, whatever,” she says.

While there are co-ed teams in the area, Groth says the majority of kids on those teams are boys, meaning girls often get short-sticked, so to speak.

“When girls play girls hockey, they have more puck touches, more time on the ice and get to try more positions,” she says.

The Dragons are part of the Patriots Youth Hockey Association through a partnership with the Sun Prairie Youth Hockey Association. It is one of just two girls-only youth primary hockey teams in the Madison area. She’s the girls’ hockey liaison for the Patriots Youth Hockey Association, which she joined when her son, Sullivan, started playing hockey about seven years ago.

Groth worked closely with Megan Davis, the girls rep for the Sun Prairie Youth Hockey Association, to found the Dragons. Davis’s position was created last year to “make sure the girls have a voice on the board [and] someone advocating for them,” she says.

She says the associations have an informal partnership that may be unconventional. Most youth hockey organizations are competitors, not partners — but ultimately, this partnership offers more opportunities.

Whether or not the girls continue to play hockey as they get older, Groth knows the team experience will impact the girls well into adulthood. The girls are learning how to be good teammates and competitors, and they’re also getting a feel for how powerful they can be.

“It can give you confidence and make you feel good about how strong your body is and what it can do for you,” Groth says.

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