Those who have the chance to take part in team sport are often able to apply the lessons and values they’ve learned as athletes, to their everyday lives.
In the case of U.S. Women’s National Team alumna Kathleen Kauth, she has faced adversity both on and off the ice, coming out of it stronger than ever, no matter what the obstacles in her way.
That strength as a player – and as a person – became aptly evident as she fought for a spot on the American contingent that would compete at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah.
As she trained for a spot on the national team, Kauth’s life was disrupted by tragic news.
Her father, Don Kauth, passed away in the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. He was employed as a bank analyst on the 85th floor of the South Tower, the second tower struck by a plane on that tragic day.
At the time, Kauth was just 22 years old, and her seemingly bright future was darkened by despair.
Hailing from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., she played for Brown University under legendary coach Digit Murphy. During her senior season, she logged 39 points on the strength of 16 goals and 23 assists. She graduated from the Ivy League school with pre-medical school credentials.
As a gesture of goodwill and respect, Canada’s National Women’s Team sent a condolence letter signed by all players to Kauth. While dealing with the grief, Kauth was unable to participate in the Olympic Winter Games hosted on her country’s home soil.
But In the autumn of 2002, the determined player mounted her comeback. Kauth became one of the first American-born players to compete in the National Women’s Hockey League, joining the Brampton Thunder, and twice competing at the Esso Women’s Nationals.
She also made an inspiring return to the U.S. Women’s National Team, representing her country at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy. While she would claim an Olympic bronze medal, it was an act of compassion and kindness that defined her time there.
At a February 7, 2006 welcoming ceremony, the flags of Armenia, Iran and the United States were raised, and the national anthems of those countries played. Kauth joined a contingent of American athletes that shook hands with Armenian and Iranian athletes.
“Competing in an Olympic Games is a personal victory for all Olympians,” Kauth said. “Unfortunately, our team didn’t get the result we wanted.
“I have to say, though, I am now quite proud of my bronze medal,” she added. “It represents all of the things we went through as a team, and also all of the personal obstacles overcome in order to be a part of that team.”
Torino teammate Julie Chu said “Kath was a great teammate, who consistently brought her best to anything she did.”
“She had a great work ethic that rubbed off on those around her,” Chu said. “In addition to her commitment to train and compete at the highest level, she was a committed teammate who often left teammates rolling in laughter.”
Following the Olympic Winter Games in Italy, Kauth continued to help lay stepping stones on the road to growing the women’s game. She became one of the key figures in forming the CWHL (Canadian Women’s Hockey League), joining the likes of Jennifer Botterill,
Lisa-Marie Breton, Allyson Fox, Kim McCullough and Sami-Jo Small in the important initiative. Kauth has even sat on the league’s Board of Directors.
The involvement of American-born Kauth symbolized a new chapter in women’s hockey; one in which American and Canadian players could collaborate in a way that was built on mutual respect.
“Kathleen is passionate about hockey, and brought an intelligent business background to the process,” Canada’s National Women’s Team veteran Jayna Hefford said. “Kathleen and the other players who were a part of the process deserve much thanks and recognition for the job they did to ensure we all had an elite and competitive league to play in. Her passion, intelligence and integrity make her a great representative of the talented players in our league.”
“Kathleen brought the same passion and intensity to helping start the CWHL as she did to the ice,” McCullough agreed. “I played against Kathleen in college, the NWHL and in the CWHL. Her competitiveness and willingness to do whatever it took in order for the team was one of her greatest attributes as a player. That tenacity served us all well when getting the league up off the ground in those early days.”
While the CWHL has grown since its early inception in 2007, Kauth’s groundwork has helped create an essential foundation for the future of women’s hockey.
It’s qualities such as those described by her fellow women’s hockey players that make Kauth one of the silent heroes of the women’s game, and a pillar of strength, both on and off the ice.