Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Since I was young, “hockey and reading” has always been the go-to answer whenever people asked me about my passions. At times I’ve worried that I wasn’t growing enough as a person if I still had the same passions I did when I was a kid, but I’m always reminded of why there is so much to love about the two.
As a young player, I always struggled with the mental side of the game. I had a hard time controlling my emotions and recovering from mistakes in time for my next shift. So, my dad bought me a book called Hockey Tough by Saul Miller and that was the first time my passions really collided. I read it, marked up the pages, completed the exercises, and recently had the opportunity to lend out that same copy to one of my young players who is struggling with the same stuff. 15 years later and the book still has plenty of relevance!
I managed to turn my passions into opportunity later on. I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to play Division 1 hockey at the University of Maine. However, scheduling classes around practices proved to be difficult as my particular academic pathway was one that had not yet been taken by a student-athlete at my school. There had been plenty of athletes in the Education program, but my love of reading had me pursuing an English concentration resulting in a unique challenge for my Academic Advisor. Thankfully, she managed to make it work and I got to take great classes like ENG 249: American Sports, Literature, and Film and still squeeze in video, lift, and practice. I managed to turn my passion for hockey and reading into a free degree!
After College, I played in the National Women’s Hockey League (now the PHF) and wrapped up my playing career. I thought I could walk away from the game at peace, but it called me back and I’m so glad that it did.
How has sport provided you with new or different opportunities you would not have expected?
The transition from student-athlete to teacher-coach was a very natural one. I now work at a private school for athletes called Everest Academy where I am the Director of Women’s Hockey, a skills development coach, and the grade 9 & 10 English teacher. My 9 to 5 has the best of both worlds – I’m on the ice in the mornings and in the classroom all afternoon. I love being able to share from personal experience to help our student-athletes develop on and off the ice.
Outside of my day job, I am the head coach of the U15 AA Etobicoke Dolphins team and the Director of Player Development for the organization. I am also heavily involved in the OWHA High Performance programs, having coached with Team Ontario at both the U16 & U18 levels. Coaching young women to become better players and people has been one of the greatest privileges of my life. It is also incredibly inspiring to meet other passionate coaches who want the best for the kids as well.
What elements of leadership parallel your sport and life leadership?
I had never really considered myself to be a leader; at least, that was never the first thing that
came to mind when life called for leadership. This might’ve been because I had a skewed idea of what a leader looked and sounded like. I’m not the loudest one in any given room, but I think that’s because I’m so occupied trying to take in what everyone else is saying and doing. I became good at listening and learning. My eagerness for feedback and desire to improve set a good example for my players and students because it removes any shame in making mistakes and asking for help. It promotes vulnerability, which really opens the door for learning and growing.
I also try to lead with compassion. My favourite quotation is: “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” When kids feel cared for and seen as people first, they’ll put their best foot forward because that care will be reciprocated. This is the foundation in creating a safe and trusting environment, which is absolutely necessary if you hope to see young people get outside of their comfort zone.
My greatest strength as a leader, however, would be the people that I surround myself with. I am fortunate to have found many coaches along my journey that share the same passion and excitement for helping develop young athletes. To share in this experience with some great hockey minds and genuine people has been so much fun and I am so grateful.
What advice do you have for parents, coaches, or sport administrators to improve inclusion in sport?
When it comes to promoting inclusion in sport, I think it is so important to start with the language we use. Language is such a powerful tool and so it is imperative that we are responsible with it. Using inclusive language is easier than people might think, but there are plenty of habits that need to change and that cannot happen without intention. This requires acknowledgment of what language needs to change, why it’s important, daily commitment to make that change, and patience with yourself because mistakes will happen. Just with anything else that we promote as coaches and teachers, practice makes perfect.
5 words that best describe me are: