Q: What was your sport and how many years did you play?
A: I played hockey almost simultaneously with walking. My dad flooded a back yard rink and I was skating by 3. I began playing organized hockey when I was about 5 years old. So in total I played every year for about 17 years. I also played soccer and fast pitch growing up, but hockey was my main sport.
Q: Did you find it beneficial to play other sports as well?
A: Absolutely. I am a strong advocate for athletes to play multiple sports, especially when you are young. There are a couple reasons for this. First off, a kid might end up falling in love with a sport they would have never initially played in if not given the opportunity. Strange to think what would have happened if Gretzky never put on the skates the first time or if Michael Jordan never picked up a basketball. Secondly, you are developing as an athlete not just as a “hockey player” or “baseball player” or what have you. The best athletes often become that because they are well rounded! A hockey player will benefit a lot from the footwork of soccer just as football players will benefit from the hand eye coordination of baseball. Limiting yourself to one sport and putting all your time and energy into just that can actually end up hurting you in the long run, in my opinion.
Q: When you graduated from high school and began to play at the collegiate level was there a certain amount of adjustment?
A: Yes, very much so. The game is faster, everyone is stronger and smarter too. Any athlete that is growing up and having aspirations to play beyond high school needs to know that you are putting in a commitment. Playing in college is very challenging both physically and mentally as well. Just as important as it is to develop skills and physical abilities in your sport, you need to work on your mental game as well. I learned that everything from confidence to focus to self-talk can be what make or break your performance at any level.
Q: Last year was your final year as a competitive athlete in the sport you love. Talk about that transition.
A: There has been ups and downs on both ends of the spectrum. Being an athlete can be really tough! For years you start to connect who you are and your identity with a sport because it is so near and dear to your heart. But the most important thing is to remember that while your sport was a big part of helping you become who you are now, it does not define you. Sports are kind of like a stage for you to stand up and show who you are, and your character. And after you are finished with that, you just need to find the next stage to work off of to continue to grow. I am not saying it is easy, because I have had times where knowing my competitive career is over has been a really hard reality to wrestle with. It just really comes down to how you handle it! I have been able to coach at Breck this season and have found so much reward in giving back to the sport that has given back to me. I have also had a great support group of friends, family and past/present teammates from school. So many former athletes struggle with this adjustment and making sure to take care of your well-being should always be the first priority! If that means coaching, great! If it means starting a new job or grad school that’s great too! And for some people that means reaching out and talking to a therapist about this life transition. I think the way everyone handles adjustments in life is different, and the more we encourage people to seek the most positive outlets for them individually, the more fluent the transition will be!
Q: And what does “life after hockey” look like for you?
A: Like I said, I started coaching this year and fell in love with it. If I could continue to do that through the years that would be amazing. I also do a lot of coaching through Winny Brodt and give back to the game that way. Outside of hockey I am headed back to grad school in the fall to start a masters in counseling psychology, and hopefully (fingers crossed) go on to get my Ph.D. as well. In a perfect world I would start a private practice, but for now I am focusing on getting one thing at a time done.
Q: Do you have any advice for young athletes in regard to the psychology of sport or anything else?
A: I would just emphasize the importance of having fun and enjoying every minute, because the minutes seem to just keep going by quicker and quicker as you get older! And to always treat yourself well. Whether it is how you talk to yourself, the people you surround yourself with, or the expectations you put on yourself, be fair. You are always your own strongest critic and becoming the best player/person you can be is going to be from striking a balance between constructive feedback/critiquing and positive self-image and confidence. It can be a very tough balance to find, but if you want to become the most optimal player and person you can be, it is an absolutely critical skill to develop.