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Erica Ayala is pushing the dialog in girls’s hockey

Anybody who follows girls’s hockey has been impacted by the work of Erica Ayala.

Not too long ago, her work in hockey has been impactful past the rink as properly.

A contract sports activities journalist who made the transition from working full-time in advocacy to some of the prevalent girls’s sports activities journalists of the previous 5 years, Ayala’s video series, “Social Justice in Ladies’s Hockey” has earned further consideration throughout a time the place anti-racism is within the mainstream highlight.

She’s extra geared up than virtually anybody in sports activities journalism for the second – particularly in an setting the place few Black girls have a presence.

“Social Justice in Ladies’s Hockey goals to have conversations with girls’s hockey gamers primarily about issues like racism, homophobia, all of the isms that we in society are seeing rise,” mentioned Ayala. “Typically within the hockey area they’re not mentioned or addressed head-on. The timing occurred to, for an absence of a greater time period, work out. However I’ve been having these conversations with girls’s hockey gamers, particularly Black or multi-cultural, for a number of years.”

Ayala’s sequence has had conversations with professional girls’s hockey gamers akin to Blake Bolden, Allie Thunstrom, and Liz Knox, and has picked up steam within the hockey neighborhood with social media boosts from the NWHL and Los Angeles Kings.

She’s introduced in lots of of views, giving a platform for social points that normally are averted in sports activities journalism, and proceed to be at many mainstream publications regardless of the general public curiosity.

“I challenged myself to deliver this dialog extra public,” she mentioned. “And to start out with Blake and Allie. The scenario with Allie, in a number of methods, sparked the open dialogue as a result of being a part of the hockey neighborhood, I noticed her tweet…. I personally type of did a double take, then I remembered Allie lives in Minnesota. Additionally as an individual who identifies as Black, I didn’t recognize the tweet, I additionally needed to remind myself in that second I don’t dwell in Minnesota.”

Ayala’s background is in overlaying basketball and the WNBA — which she lined at The Athletic — and as a softball and baseball participant rising up. A New York native, she attended Elon College the place she performed Division I softball.

She mentioned that’s a time she’s mirrored on extra just lately as a Black athlete in a predominantly white sport, which is mirrored considerably in hockey.

Her experiences have aided her in carving out a distinct segment in an already area of interest neighborhood of ladies’s sports activities.

“There’s area for the kind of writing I love to do,” mentioned Ayala. “I’ve my very own private opinions and I don’t conceal from them in any respect. However I feel being in advocacy, individuals don’t understand advocates must be good listeners, particularly in the event that they’re advocating for behalf of a neighborhood they don’t belong to; that’s hockey for me. I don’t wish to say I don’t belong, but it surely’s not the neighborhood I grew up in.”

Ayala most just lately served as the colour commentator for the Connecticut Whale and Boston Pleasure, whereas additionally writing for The IX newsletter. As a freelancer, constructing a platform could be tough, however she’s powered by to change into full-time as a contract sports activities journalist overlaying virtually solely girls’s sports activities.

“Social Justice in Ladies’s Hockey” picked up steam within the public eye because of the racism disaster in America, however her work in sports activities had an impactful outreach far earlier than that, from her recreation protection to the laborious conversations she’s had with athletes that many media members haven’t tried.

“Whenever you attempt to include individuals into what they need to be as an athlete, as a girl, as a Black particular person, you’re lacking all the opposite methods they will determine,” mentioned Ayala. “That’s what individuals are asking for now, and that’s all the time been the girl’s plight. Being seen as a girl in totality. I see my background in advocacy being an asset.”

When sports activities return in a safer world, there’s little doubt Ayala will proceed to be one of many voices of ladies’s sports activities on broadcasts and on social media.

In a world — particularly in sports activities — that doesn’t make area for Black individuals or girls, she’s carved out her personal area; it’s one thing to be admired, but in addition an area that heeds listening.

“I type of really feel that is one thing I’ve to do,” she mentioned. “I don’t all the time prefer it, however there’s not a second that goes by that I query something. I don’t worry asking questions. I’m not afraid, and that’s highly effective on itself. I’m hoping by opening that door, somebody opens their very own reflection of the place they’re on this dialog.”

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