Haley Winn: What it Means to Lead by Example

Two-time medalist for the U18 Womens National Hockey Team and freshman at Clarkson University, shares what it means to be a leader

Being an inspiration to others or setting an example is not age dependent. There is no rule saying that you must have gone through anything in particular, accomplished a specific feat, or even spent X amount of time involved with one thing to inspire others. At age 19, Haley Winn has already begun proving this to be the case.

Haley grew up in Rochester, New York, in a close-knit family that loved hockey. Growing up, her parents did everything they could to support Haley and three older brothers, especially when it came to helping them progress in the sport of hockey. Haley’s father attended Clarkson University, where Haley now plays as a freshman on the women’s hockey team, but did not play himself. As a student, hockey was a big part of the campus life while he attended and he became even more enamored with the game. As Haley and her brothers were growing up, her father had built an outdoor rink at their house where she began skating around the age of three. Haley attributes a lot of her success to the help she has received from her family, and looks up to her brothers as role models in the game (all four siblings are currently playing hockey at the collegiate level).

Another lesson that Haley has learned throughout her career and a piece of advice that she would give those looking up to her is to stay true to yourself and your goals. 

“There are so many challenges and ups and downs in life, not only in sports, so enjoy everything that you can and embrace the challenges and obstacles. These hurdles will make you stronger and when I think about it, those are the highlights of what I’ve been through so far, because these moments have been what has propelled me further,” says Winn. 

Haley’s career, even this early on has had its fair share of challenges and obstacles to overcome. During her high school hockey career at Bishop Kearney Selects, her team made it to the national championships three out of four years, with the one exception being cancelled due to the pandemic, where they faced the same team each year and fell short each time. Even with the losses, Haley looked at these opportunities as ones she could never take for granted and as momentous learning experiences. Haley also turned to her role models and support system to help her get through the mental battles when it came to dealing with these challenges, including reaching out to Gold-Medal Olympian Kacey Bellamy for advice. 

During her freshman year at BK Selects, she unfortunately did not make the Select 70 camp, which was a goal of hers to make the U18 national team. She took this as an opportunity to meet with her coach, share her frustrations and disappointment, but also a chance to learn how she could make it the next time. For her, this was a wake up call that to accomplish her lofty goals that it would require dedicating herself and putting in the work to do so. So she went to the 15U National Hockey Camp that year, gave it her all, and was ultimately invited to festival which is the step traditionally offered to those after the Select 70 camp, where she received her invitation to the national team. Even though it wasn’t the course she expected to take, she persisted to meet her goals. 

“To be a leader, you have to follow the things you are saying to others,” says Winn. “I am a vocal person, player, and teammate, so if I say something I make sure that I am doing it myself. To be an effective leader, I feel you have to lead by example. Even if you aren’t yelling it as loud as I may do sometimes, the actions often speak louder and that is what people look to. A leader needs to also remember to stay humble. By no means does having the title of ‘captain’ or being thought of as a leader mean that you are higher than the team. A leader should make sure to also be a great teammate and friend.”

As Haley progresses through her career, she hopes to become an inspiration to the generations of women’s hockey players to follow her and to help bring more awareness and exposure to women’s hockey. “My biggest dream is to become an Olympian and make the national team,” says Winn, “but I know that the small steps and goals I have set for myself along the way are just as important for making it happen.”

Check out Haley Winn’s full interview to learn more about her goals and aspirations for her career, life, and the sport of women’s hockey.