Kat Hasenauer Cornetta

Writer. Communications assistant. Coffee drinker.

Coaching, Pre-Olympic Power and More: The Many Layers of the US Women’s Hockey Team’s Protest

I don’t have a ton of time, but I needed to get some thoughts out about the dispute between USA Hockey and the US Women’s National Team. My unfinished take below is based on covering the sport here and there since 2011. I will try to finish it and edit it better eventually, but for now, I just wanted to get it out there. 

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Although it is not an Olympic year, the U.S. Women’s National team has harnessed the weight of Olympic competition in their World Championships holdout against USA Hockey.

An Olympic hopeful in any sport can tell you about the importance of the pre-Olympic year. Major competitions are often held in Olympic venues (although they aren’t in women’s hockey), teams start to gel in a certain way that will influence selection in the Olympic year and individuals try to put the final flourish on credentials that will earn them an Olympic spot.

For national organizing bodies like USA Hockey, pre-Olympic years are key for evaluation and marketing purposes. They are looking at an athlete’s recent competition performances with a magnifying glass, seeing how they meet the pressure to perform and how they fare against the world’s best. It’s also a key year to getting faces out in front of the American public, giving mainstream fans a taste of who they will be rooting for next February.

Holding out of a U.S. hosted World Championships during a pre-Olympic year, exactly what the U.S. Women’s National Team is doing, disrupts that finely tuned machine, making it the most effective form of protest. The pre-Olympic machine has ground to a halt for U.S. women’s hockey.

While the Women’s National Team has been clear in all of what they are fighting for – proper compensation for devoting themselves to the sport for a four-year span, equal recognition by USA Hockey properties, equipment equality, and a better development system for women’s hockey – USA Hockey is taking an interesting PR turn. Their statements in response to the National Team’s coordinated protest only address the compensation piece of the complaint, and do so in great detail. They’re trying to turn public opinion by making the protest all about money, repeating endlessly that they are not in the “business of paying athletes.”

But the Women’s National Team consider compensation a small part of the protest. Building a development program structure would make great strides in checking off the rest of the National Team’s wants. Marketing opportunities would grow from having a group of athletes “in-house” and representing USA Hockey from an early age. It works on the men’s side, where we have heard about Auston Matthews from way before his NHL Draft Date. His residency within the US Under 18 Team wasn’t the only reason he was so visible, but it sure helped USA Hockey promote his abilities better.

A better women’s hockey development structure would might also create coaching jobs for members of the current National Team, and coaching is an underlying issue and cause of this protest that no one seems to have touched upon. Members of the National Team approached ESPNW and other outlets a few weeks prior to their protest with claims that they currently were coachless, with previous coach Ken Klee ousted quietly after the 2016 Four Nations Cup. USA Hockey swiftly released a statement saying that Robb Stauber who led the US team for a few games against Canada at the start of 2017, would lead the team at the upcoming Worlds. Was the coaching situation the tipping point for the National Team’s protest, or was approaching the media about it a test case for a future protest? 

Also along coaching lines, why hasn’t the National Team addressed the lack of women’s coaches in the current system? They went from an Olympic Team led by Harvard’s Katey Stone in 2014 to only having female coaching on the World Juniors team (where Boston University’s Katie Lachapelle and Boston College’s Courtney Kennedy have received several opportunities over the years as assistants.) Why haven’t Kennedy and Lachapelle gotten more senior team chances? If it is due their college coaching demands, how can we make these national team coaching positions just as enticing as their assistant positions on D1 programs?

 

The Cloffice Makeover: The Before

Contrary to some people’s belief, I am not a full-time sportswriter. I have a master’s degree in educational administration and spend my days (and some nights, and the occasional weekend) working in a Dean of Students’ office.

When I moved into my office nearly 11 years ago, one of my colleagues told me that I couldn’t complain about its size until I had been in it a decade. Last June, I met that milestone.

Not that I’d ever complain about it. I’m blessed just to have four walls. I’m the daughter of a toolmaker and a lunch lady, two positions where you never have an office, so just to have a walls is an accomplishment.

But these four walls have an unusual nickname: the Cloffice. My office doubles as a storage closet for all of the AV and computer equipment my department needs on a regular basis. I have microphones, cameras, video cameras, tripods, batteries, wires…it’s like a mini Radio Shack.

It also doubles as the Yearbook office, since I advise the Yearbook and we lost our office space last summer. Add that I’m a pack-rat who has been at the university 12 years. All of that means that the Cloffice is so packed that I can’t comfortably have meetings in it. This led to a generation of students naming themselves, “Kat’s Doorway Society” a few years back. They had to stand or sit in my doorway to have meetings with me. (It’s a little better now, but still not ideal.)

I kind of feel like if the Magic School Bus’ Ms. Frizzle was actually a sports-writing university administrator, this would be her office.

I need to make a change for so many reasons, but I have zero design and organizational skills and no actual budget. So…we’re going to wing it. I mean, I’m 35 years old and I still pretty much wing everything I do in life, so why stop now? (I realize this is not a good thing, but I also realize if I’ve been this way for three and a half decades, I’m probably not going to change.)

Here’s the before. Please don’t call the Hoarders producers. I swear it’s under control. (That blue Solo cup is a an “I’m sorry” collection cup, not a prop about the horrors of underage drinking.)
My office's bookcase

 

My favorite part of the Cloffice: my giant bulletin board. I’ve made a handy guide to it for you!
My office bulletin board

A: Photos of my son.

B: A very nice note from an athlete I wrote about twice.

C: My dear oldest cat Annie and I

D. My best friend Laurel on the 2008-09 BU winter sports schedule card

E. A meme of Kristy from the Baby Sitters’ Club books that reads, “Oh we’re putting on a parade and you’re all going to like it.” (I have planned several parades and my childhood friends always compared me to the character, so it’s really the perfect meme.)

F. Every office needs a motivational photo of Marv Levy.

G. A photo of Rhett, BU’s mascot, and a fake name and University ID number so I can make “fake” IDs to use in social media posts.

H. One of my handmade campaign posters from when I ran for National Honor Society President back in 1999. (I didn’t have a computer, so I created fake endorsements from celebrities I cut out from People magazine.)

I. I, as in, I don’t know why I still have this depressing thing up. It’s a Deseret News comic from 1999 about Steve Young’s pending retirement.

J. An image of the first time I ever had a story teased on the back cover of the Boston Herald. It was about Aly Raisman’s comeback.

K. A University brand guidelines cheat sheet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My plan is to try to get at least two projects done a week, and I’ll share what I can here. Tips? Ideas? Comment below or tweet me (@KatCornetta.)

What Marketers and Communicators Can Learn From YouTube Beauty Vloggers (Plus My Favorites)

What maintained my sanity during this crazy year of trying to be a mom, an assistant and a sportswriter?

YouTube makeup videos.

(You were expecting a planner, I know. Or some organizational app. Don’t worry, I’ve invested in such things for 2017.)

My Yearbook editor Alexis (who blogs herself) introduced me to the genre of YouTube makeup vloggers sometime in early March. Over the past few years, hundreds of channels have popped up devoted to makeup reviews and tutorials.

Recognizing the massive total views these videos were getting (some of the most popular can be viewed 3,000 times or more within the first 30 minutes of their publishing), makeup companies began sponsoring videos on channels or having vloggers guest curate their social media. Companies also began sending product advances to popular channels in the hopes that their product would earn some screen time.

Alexis introduced me to one of her favorites, RachhLoves, a Canadian YouTuber who has a trademark North-of-the-Border sense of humor combined with strong branding and graphics. (It’s no surprise that she has studied and worked in marketing.) I started watching her video archive on my daily commute, and she was my gateway to other popular YouTubers in the genre. After watching many, I settled on a core group that I watched non-stop while I was housebound during my maternity leave. (I’ve listed the group at the end of this post.)

Some women sit on the couch and binge watch a Netflix series while home with a newborn. I sat on my couch with my tiny son and watched hundreds of YouTube makeup videos. (The only break? There were two days where I watched the entirety of the 1992 Olympic figure skating competition on YouTube.)

At one point, I wondered why I had fallen down this rabbit hole. Thanks to dance, I’ve used makeup for over half my life. But when I wasn’t dancing, I would wear the most neutral and unnoticeable makeup possible. 

But RachhLoves and her fellow YouTube makeup vloggers were appealing not because of the makeup, but because the talking head style of their videos makes you feel like you are hanging out with a friend. The only other time in your life you sit there and watch others put on makeup? In your residence hall room in college, getting ready to head out for the evening. It can take a year and a day to get ready because you and your friends are having fun just chatting and experimenting with makeup, hair and outfits. Some of the time you don’t even end up going out because you’re having too much fun.

With their conversational and honest nature, YouTube makeup vloggers harken back to those times spent with friends, and I think that’s why their growth has exploded. I was stuck inside my apartment while my son was a newborn, and watching these videos made me feel like I was having some modicum of social interaction.

The genre reinforces so many best practices that social media managers and marketers have heard over the years:

Be conversational. – I have no desire to wear a smokey eye makeup look. But I’ve watched about 38 YouTube tutorials on it because the video’s creator was gabbing away during it.

Be honest.Jessica Braun, another one of my YouTube go-tos, is transparently blunt, and that’s what endeared me to her channel. She is open about when she has received something for free, but doesn’t mince words if it doesn’t work for her. Honesty isn’t limited to product reviews, either. Another much-watch blogger, CoffeeBreakwithDani, led off a recent video by noting that she was conflicted with posting in her trademark peppy style because she was getting divorced. She didn’t go into detail, maintaining her privacy, but she admitted the video might feel different because she was dealing with something so substantial.

Build relationships. – There are multiple layers of relationship building at play: both with viewers and with other video creators. Braun makes videos where she reads fan mail and features items that viewers have sent her. RachhLoves pairs up often with other YouTubers for collaboration videos. Both engage in the comment sections of their videos on a regular basis and are active on social media. They don’t “post-and-run,” and viewers feel a bond with them because of it.

Be consistent. – One of the most famous beauty vloggers, Tati Westbrook/GlamLifeGuru, posts a video every single weekday at 10am EST. You can just about set your clock to it. She’s done so for years, giving her what has to be one of the largest video libraries on YouTube. Tati is so committed that she posted daily videos even when she was on her recent honeymoon. If you want to succeed at social media or blogging, you have to do it consistently, which builds a level of anticipation.

If you’re a content creator or social media manager of any kind, I highly suggest starting 2017 by taking a dive into the genre and seeing what has caught the attention of so many people – women and men, old and young. They’ve influenced how I approach social media curation at work, as well as what I think about my own blogging.

 

Appendix: My can’t-miss YouTube beauty vloggers

RachhLoves

Tati Westbrook/GlamLifeGuru

Jessica Braun

ShaneeJudee

Dominique Sachse

Fly With Stella (she’s more of a flight attendant vlogger than beauty blogger, but she’s still great.)

CoffeeBreakWithDani

Hi Kim Pegula. Let’s talk. You can fix this.

Dear Kim –

Sometimes you need a girlfriend to pull you aside and say, “Psst, you have something in your teeth,” or, “Your shirt is inside out.” (Trust me, I’ve been there.)

Well, as a fellow Rochester-bred gal, I need to pull you aside and let you know there’s something wrong with that football team you bought.

You let go of your head coach, Rex Ryan, before the final week of the season, over an alleged disagreement over the status of quarterback Tyrod Taylor for the last week of the season. You, your husband, Terry, nor your general manager, Doug Whaley, wouldn’t talk after the act, sending the media-naive interim coach, Anthony Lynn, out to hold a press conference instead.  Sending the newbie out to address decisions he had no hand in making feels like sending the interim out on the coffee run on his very first morning: you’re just hoping not too many venti lattes get spilled on the poor kid’s brand new dress shirt. What were your thoughts afterward? Oh, good, the newbie survived the only press availability anyone of power in this organization is going to have the week we fired our head coach. Whew. Close one.

Then, after your team loses to the New York Jets (a rivalry loss should bug any upstate-raised gal immensely – they aren’t even in New York!) you and Terry, allowed the reason you might be in this hot mess to begin with, general manager Doug Whaley, hold as embarrassing of a press conference that there ever has been in the NFL. He isn’t involved in firing the head coach? He hasn’t even thought about it? He may have spoken to Lynn about the odd QB situation against the Jets? He may not have? To quote one meme I saw, “What is it that you say you do here, Doug Whaley?”

You spoke to WGR 550 Monday, and your husband spoke to the Associated Press, and that was it. You won’t talk further, and Whaley says that it will be his job in the off-season to represent the Bills to the media. But if he doesn’t make key decisions, and doesn’t seem to know the moving parts behind them, then why throw him to the media? You might be better off having a PR person step to the podium. They are at least trained to spin things positively.

The whole thing seems rather…um…how can I say this nicely…dysfunctional.

This is where you come in. Kim, you have come so far, and I don’t know if you understand how much of a role model you are to some women. Left as a child on a street corner in South Korea and adopted by a family in Rochester, you worked hard, had grand ideas, raised a family and helped your husband build an empire. You now are one of the only female owners in professional sports.

This is where you need to thrive. Despite great strides over the past few decades, women in business often have to work harder to prove themselves. That’s exactly what the organization you bought needs right now. Though Ralph Wilson was a legend, the last few years of his ownership of the Bills were largely absentee. Your ownership needs to make up for that lost time. You need to work harder than any other owner in the NFL right now to make Buffalo right again. Part of that will be fixing football operations, and that may mean cutting Whaley loose. Another part of it is using your background in communications and explaining what exactly is going on to the media, and in turn, the fans.

And that should be your motivation: the fans. You grew up amongst them, and you know that they are the most loyal fanbase for the least reasons in the NFL. They pack your stadium in the worst of weather, they line up to get a spot to tailgate in your parking lots 36 hours before kickoff, they wear their gear despite the team’s record and they stood by four straight years of horrible heartbreak. They do this all even though their region’s economy is crackling under their feet and their state government has abandoned them. The Bills are their outlet, their chance to escape all that has gone sour in every other place in their lives.

Kim, take the wheel. Take the wheel and speed the Bills out of that laughing stock spot. You have come so far personally, and now it’s time to take that tenaciousness and claw the Bills out of the bottom. You’re a survivor, a mother and a successful businesswomen. If anyone has the guts and grit to do this, it’s you.

You can do this.

Your friend in pop and lake effect,

Kat

 

Train Thoughts: Three Skating Programs You Must Watch

It’s been a while since I wrote anything about figure skating. (Since April, to be exact.) That’s a shame, because this has been a really wonderful season of figure skating so far.  So here are some trademark Train Thoughts (things I have written on my phone during my daily commuter rail commute) on my three favorite skating programs of the season so far.

Maia and Alex Shibutani – “That’s Life” short dance

One of the last nights my little sister was staying with me before she moved back to California, we were hanging out in the living room.

“Hey, I know you don’t like skating, but just watch this.” I said, pulling up the Shibutanis short dance from Skate America.

This program is set to a mashup of Frank Sinatra’s and Jay Z’s “That’s Life.” This year’s requirements have ice dancers performing blues, swing and hip-hop in their version of a short program, and I thought the Shibutanis had the best attempt at hitting the hip hop part of that equation.

My sister was drinking a beer when I started the video. Not a sip was taken, nor did she move, or say a word for the entire program. She’s really giving this a chance, I thought. My, things have changed since we were kids, when she just tolerated my endless skating watching.

Once the program ended, she turned to me. “That was the most f—- amazing skating anything I’ve ever seen.”

I almost wish there had been some way to save this program for an Olympic season (short dance requirements change by the season, so there is not.) No matter what skating fans think about it, this is something that would pull in the non-fan. Has it fully realized its potential yet? No, but no program or skater wants to be peaking in November. This program is on target for its best performance at Nationals, and is one of the reasons I keep trying to figure out exactly I could make it to Kansas City in January.

Mariah Bell – “East of Eden” long program

The other program that has me visiting every airlines’ website desperately trying to find ways to get to Kansas City for Nationals is Bell’s long program.

I had goosebumps watching a video of it from the early season U.S. International Classic. Despite costume issues and bobbles, it was a well composed long program that she had the talent to deliver beautifully.

Just a few weeks later, Bell performed it to near its full potential at Skate America in Hoffman Estates, Illinois (better known to college hockey fans as home of the Shillelagh Tournament, which is a tournament name I love to say over and over.) She won the long program and the overall silver medal for the effort.

She may double a toe loop on the end of a double Axel combo and the Salchow on a triple flip-half-loop-triple Salchow. Otherwise, it is some good, old-fashioned, captivating figure skating. In an era of no spirals, there are two solid, although brief, ones (one into the double Axel combo and one at the end) and no movements are thrown away. When a teacher, coach or choreographer implores a student to feel movement to their fingertips, this is what they mean. Is it the most artistic program ever? No. But none of this is filler movement, none of this represents a hummingbird fluttering around, and it never gets dull. Bell genuinely enjoys being on the ice, and this program showcases that.

On that note, I must digress. Longtime skating journalist Phil Hersh wrote this week about the “sad” state of U.S. skating, quipping, “Please don’t tell me that Rafael Arutunian will do a silk purse makeover on Mariah Bell.” I don’t believe anyone is saying that Bell’s coaching change (from the Kori Ade camp in Colorado Springs to the Arutunian camp in Southern California) is automatically going to elevate her past every other ladies skater in the U.S. But Hersh’s statement ignores the potential Bell has demonstrated in the past. She has always gone into Nationals with the goods that could have placed her in that bronze medal spot on the podium. All a coaching change needed to do for Bell is get her jumps more consistent and her confidence up. Bell is a contender, has been a contender, and will continue to be a contender, and shame on anyone who is just now realizing this and/or discounts the effort. 

 

Yuzuru Hanyu – “Let’s Go Crazy” short program

Prince’s untimely April death gave way to a few tribute programs this season, and this short program by the defending Olympic champion is my favorite. Technically, it has the difficulty to set it above the rest (opens with a quad loop, which Hanyu is the first to land, and the triple Axel comes out of an odd, but awesome, edge.) Artistically, it feels like going to a school dance and finding out that kid who seems like he would have no rhythm can actually break it down better than anyone. It starts off a little geeky, but by the ending slide across center ice that hits the song’s famous guitar riff, every girl is lining up to dance with him. (Gosh, I hope this comparison makes sense.) It’s as much fun as one can have in a short program these days, and I hope he finally hits it all at this weekend’s Grand Prix Final.

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