This team stood up against gender inequality in sports. Their fight hit home for one girl.

The future is female.

When the U.S. Women's Hockey team takes the ice at the 2018 Winter Olympics, their goal may be to win gold, but there's another prize at hand.

They will help girls all over the country, like 14-year-old Nina Herceg, fall in love with their sport.

Herceg has been enamored with hockey players' athleticism and ability ever since her dad started taking her to games when she was little. It didn't take her long to want to lace up her own pair of skates.


"After a little bit of begging, my dad finally let me play hockey," Herceg says. "And I quickly fell in love with the sport."

Herceg on the ice. Photo courtesy of Nina Herceg.

Herceg has now played for six years and is a member of the Long Island Lady Islanders. Thanks to the experience, she's made many good friends and connected with her dad on a deeper level.

She's also learned an important lesson about herself.

"I found out I'm resilient," she says. "It's given me confidence in other areas of my life to try new things — just by learning how to play hockey."

Since the 2006-2007 season, girls and women who registered to play hockey under USA Hockey jumped 32%, from around 50,000 players to 75,832 players.

The uptick of girls playing may have a correlation to the U.S. Women's Hockey Team's recent gender equality advocacy.

It's definitely deeply affected Herceg.

"They're willing [...] to fight for what they knew was right," says Herceg. "It inspired me."

The women's hockey team's activism both on and off the ice has sparked Herceg to continue pushing women's hockey forward.

Last year in Herceg's English class, students were assigned to write a letter to any business or company on a topic they were passionate about. She wrote to NBC Sports about the lack of coverage of women's sports, particularly hockey.

"It would be great if we could get more coverage for the women because it would inspire little girls all over the world to see them on TV and to have them think, 'That could be me someday,'" she says.

While NBC responded to her letter stating they do whatever they can to air women's sports, Herceg has yet to see much change in coverage.

Still, this has only motivated her to continue playing hockey. After all, she's seen the members of the U.S. team persevere despite being treated unfairly and unequally.

Herceg with the rest of the Long Island Lady Islanders. Photo courtesy of Nina Herceg.

With the women's team getting ready to fight their way to the podium, Herceg often wonders what inspires them to keep pushing forward despite the challenges they face as women athletes?

"How do they not get discouraged?" she wonders.

While she may not have the chance to ask the players this question directly, one thing is for certain: With girls being inspired by their example, we will continue to see them breaking down barriers. Because for them, it's more than a sport; it's about carrying on a legacy of women reclaiming spaces that are rightfully theirs.

"They're proving that it's possible for us to chase our dreams," Herceg says.

This story was produced as part of a campaign called "17 Days" with DICK'S Sporting Goods. These stories aim to shine a light on real occurrences of sports bringing people together.

Most Shared
True
DICK'S Sporting Goods
The Guardian / YouTube

Earlier this month, a beluga whale caught the world's attention by playing fetch with a rugby ball thrown by South African researchers off the waters of Norway.

The adorable video has been watched over 20 million times, promoting people across the globe to wonder how the whale became so comfortable around humans.

It's believed that the whale, known as Hvaldimir, was at some point, trained by the Russian military and was either released or escaped.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Facebook / Maverick Austin

Your first period is always a weird one. You know it's going to happen eventually, but you're not always expecting it. One day, everything is normal, then BAM. Puberty hits you in a way you can't ignore.

One dad is getting attention for the incredibly supportive way he handled his daughter's first period. "So today I got 'The Call,'" Maverick Austin started out a Facebook post that has now gone viral.

The only thing is, Austin didn't know he got "the call." His 13-year-old thought she pooped her pants. At that age, your body makes no sense whatsoever. It's a miracle every time you even think you know what's going on.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Instagram / Katie Sturino

Plus-size women are in the majority. In America, 68% of women wear a size 14 or higher. Yet many plus-sized are ignored by the fashion industry. Plus-sized clothing is a $21 billion industry, however only one-fifth of clothing sales are plus-sized. On top of that, plus-sized women are often body shamed, further reinforcing that bigger body types are not mainstream despite the fact that it is common.

Plus-size fashion blogger Katie Sturino recently called out her body shamers. Sturino runs the blog, The 12ish Style, showing that plus-sized fashion isn't – and shouldn't be – limited to clothes that hide the body.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
via Twitter / Soraya

There is a strange right-wing logic that suggests when minorities fight for equal rights it's somehow a threat to the rights already held by those in the majority or who hold power.

Like when the Black Lives Matter movement started, many on the right claimed that fighting for black people to be treated equally somehow meant that other people's lives were not as valuable, leading to the short-lived All Lives Matter movement.

This same "oppressed majority" logic is behind the new Straight Pride movement which made headlines in August after its march through the streets of Boston.

Keep Reading Show less
popular