Forbes | Learn How This Hockey Coach Is Pushing For Gender Equity In Sports

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digit murphy

Coaching the Boston Blades at the International Ice Hockey Foundation World Championships.  (Photo courtesy the Bleacher Report)

This Q & A is with Margaret “Digit” Murphy, the cofounder of Play it Forward Sport Foundation, an organization created to push forward gender equity in women’s sports at all levels by empowering female athletes and building leaders through sports. As the Head Coach of the Boston Blades in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, she became the first coach to bring the only U.S. club two Clarkson Cup championship titles.

Whitney Johnson: What was a pivotal momentum of reinvention for you?

Margaret “Digit” Murphy: In 2011, when I left college coaching and started my own business, out of necessity. One of the things that doesn’t exist in women’s sports, is the good old girl network, so I am creating one.

However, as luck would have it, I was contacted by a business networking connection—the women’s director of USA Hockey,Reagan Carey—to look at a different type of coaching in a women’s “pro” league, the CWHL (Canadian Women’s Hockey League) where I had the opportunity to work for Commissioner Brenda Andress. It was a great opportunity and run for our squad as we won two of the three Championships with our very accomplished Boston Blades women’s professional hockey team.

But I was again forced to reinvent myself last year (2015) and move on due to lack of resources in women’s sports. There was no livable wage to speak of to coach and a passion project doesn’t pay the bills!

My partner and I decided to start a nonprofit Play It Forward Sport that builds a sustainable model for women’s sports. We also started our own business around this model, and the UNITED WOMEN’S Sports LLC was born. Our model takes women’s pro sports and attacks it at all angles from a female perspective. Our first league we are launching is the United Women’s Lacrosse League  (UWLX) which

[began] league play end of May 2016. We will be housed in a major sports-plex in Massachusetts called theNew England Sports Village where I am a consultant for the girls and women’s programming.

Johnson: Who has been a valuable mentor or sponsor?

Murphy: Early in my career Russel J McCurdy, long time women’s coach at New Hampshire and advocate, at Brown University Arlene Gorton, Professor Emeritus and lately my partner, Aronda Kirby, with her driving passion for equity. We have had to be ROCKS for each other–this is a very “heavy lift”.

Johnson: What is your biggest goal right now?

Murphy: Secure funding for our UWS (UWLX) and Play It Forward Sport home- New England Sports Village and launch our first Professional Sustainable League—The United Women’s Lacrosse League—and secure funding for pay-equality in sports through sponsorship and philanthropic donations through our Non Profit Play IT Forward Sport.

Johnson: How did you get your first job? How did you jump to your second job?

Murphy: I got my first job through Cornell connections with my adviser, gaining an internship that turned into a full time position the next year. I got my second job when a woman I worked with introduced me to her husband and he met me and hired me after having a few adult beverages at his kitchen table! It pays to drink beer and talk sports, I guess.

Johnson: What time do you typically wake up? What do you do every morning?

Murphy: Lately my morning habit is: Get dressed, make my coffee, walk to the gym, do a modest work out listening to podcasts (Rich Roll is my favorite). Then I walk back and usually have coffee with my partner, then get my day rolling. It is head down, nonstop. I am thinking of trying a meditation practice but haven’t gotten around to that yet–it is a goal in 2016.

Johnson: How did you feel on your 30th birthday? What were you doing at the time?

Murphy: Tired! I had 1 child, a new husband, was coaching at Brown University full-time and was the assistant USA Hockey National coach.

Johnson: How do you unplug? How often do you unplug?

Murphy: I don’t do that enough but as I mentioned earlier I want to learn how to meditate – I just got the app Head Space. I’ll let you know if it can get me to slow down! Honestly, I probably unplug right before bed–but I sleep like a ROCK so something’s working.

Johnson: What’s the best networking contact you’ve made? How did you make it?

Murphy: Joseph Fitzpatrick. We are working together in the New England Sports Village.  A friend introduced us and we have a passion for community sports and old school values–he has an entrepreneurial spirit as well, and has a ton of connections in different spaces than I do; he is really great at connecting the dots and I have a lot of respect for him.

Johnson:  What challenge/achievement are you most proud of?

Murphy: My career at Brown University, for graduating our students and mentoring and instructing so many young women. Recently I am proud of our vision in the pay equality space and helping launch a league that creates over 100 opportunities in the sports’ space for females.

Johnson: What was the last business book you read? 

Murphy: Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

Johnson:  What cause do you most want to advance?

Murphy: Pay equality. We are doing something about it!

Johnson: What song can’t you get out of your head?

Murphy: TODAY? How Do You Like Me Now by Toby Keith.

Johnson: What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

Murphy: “Listen more, talk less.” I am still working on this one.

Johnson: What is your “keep me going” quote?

Murphy: “Persevere through adversity.” Our mantra at Brown was “Adversity Training” and many of our players still quote it to this day!

Johnson: What is your secret indulgence?

Murphy: Chips and dip–it is like crack to me.

Johnson: Who on the list of prior 40 over 40 honorees would you like to meet?

Murphy: Way too many I want to meet them all! But, Joanne Wilson from 2013, I like her handle “Gotham Gal”.

Whitney Johnson is the author of the critically-acclaimedDisrupt Yourself, host of a podcast by the same name, and a co-founder with Christina Vuleta, of Forty Women Over 40 to Watch.

This post originally published at Forbes

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