Hard work, dedication and passion are key ingredients to making it to the highest level. Just ask Caitlin Cahow, whose hockey career has become a testament to the fact that nothing – not even a shot at Olympic gold – is impossible if you are willing to work for what you want.
Cahow grew up in the shadow of Yale University in New Haven, Conn., and started skating at age 2 when her mother, Barbara Kinder, put her on figure skates.
It wasn’t long before Cahow had different ideas. Soon after her first figure skating lesson, Cahow came face-to-face with her true calling when the Yale women’s ice hockey team took the ice.
“I couldn’t believe that girls were playing hockey,” Cahow recalled. “I had never seen it before, but I was like, ‘That’s what I need to do.’ ”
Despite her mother’s early objections, Cahow was soon decked out in hockey gear and playing in a house league. It wasn’t long before mom became a convert and began to feed her daughter’s passion for the game.
“I think one of the reasons I still play and still love it so much is because whenever I used to get upset about something, we lost or I played poorly, [my mom would say], ‘Well if you really don’t like it that much, just quit,’ ” Cahow said.
“I think that her saying that and giving me that out made me be like, ‘No I love hockey. I want to do this the rest of my life.’ So that helped me actually solidify the fact that I wanted to play hockey.”
Despite her early exposure to Yale hockey, Cahow was accepted at Harvard in 2003. While she was admittedly not among the best players on the team, Cahow worked hard to step up her game.
"I love hockey.
It all paid off when she took the ice as a defender with Angela Ruggiero. Cahow went from a nobody to a somebody in one season, earning Harvard’s Joe Bertagna Award for most improved player in 2004-05 and eventually becoming the team captain for the 2007-08 season.
Cahow spent five years at Harvard — taking one year off to compete in the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy — and kept racking up the awards. After the 2007-08 season, Cahow accepted the Dooley Award as the player who best combines the qualities of sportsmanship, enthusiasm and devotion to the team and to the game of ice hockey, and was named USA Hockey’s Bob Allen Women’s Player of the Year.
Still driven by the passion to play the game, Cahow has lofty expectations for the future, hoping to win gold in Vancouver in 2010 before applying to law school.
“It can’t be anyone else’s passion, it has to be your own,” Cahow said. “I think some of the times I’ve improved the most have been just shooting pucks in my driveway.
“You don’t need to be spending all your money and all your time on the ice year round. You can be a kid and have fun. You can get better at just about anything as long as that’s really what you want to do.”