Brittany Smith: From player to coach

Marblehead girls hockey head coach Brittany Smith (right) with assistant coach Britani Dunbar. Photo by Brittany Smith

From having a hockey rink in her backyard to playing collegiately at Sacred Heart University, hockey has always been part of Marblehead’s girls hockey head coach Brittany Smith’s life. Smith started skating when she was three years old and hasn’t stopped since. The love for the sport is nothing new to her family. Her father played hockey in addition to Smith’s older brother.

A Manchester-Essex alum, Smith would become an accomplished hockey player for the Marblehead co-op team from 2011 to 2014. While only playing three seasons of varsity hockey, Smith would finish her high school career having scored 70 goals and finishing with 107 points. She was also named a two-time captain during high school.

After high school, Smith committed to playing hockey at Sacred Heart University. On the ice, Smith ended up being a two-time captain for the Pioneers and tallied 59 total points (30 goals and 29 assists) in her four-year collegiate career. Off the ice, Smith earned a degree in Health Science. 

Throughout Smith’s playing career, she always thought about the idea of being a coach. One hurdle Smith said she had to initially face was the fact that she was not going to be the one directly impacting the game.

“I am very competitive and I never knew how I would handle not being able to [directly] influence the game myself,” Smith said.  

Now entering her third season as head coach, Smith has been enjoying her new way to impact the game from the sidelines. When asked what she likes about her new role, Smith said, “I like it a lot, it is a different way of looking at the game which is always fun.”

Smith emphasizes that her team knows and understands the fundamentals of the game. The belief is that if the players have strong fundamentals, they will have more flexibility within the system. Smith is constantly working on the teams’ skills, edge work, tuck work, and passing.  

“I like to emphasize [to the team] everything comes from good fundamentals and good skills … at the end of the day if you can’t do that [fundamentals] you cannot get up the ice and finish games,” Smith said.

Smith describes herself as a vocal coach whether on the bench or in the locker room. However, Smith understands that each player may need a different approach when being coached.

“I try to tailor my coaching style for the girls as well because not all girls respond the same way,” Smith said.

Looking back to last season, Smith said one of the goals was to qualify for the Division 1 playoffs. The team did qualify for the tournament for the first time since 2018. But other than qualifying for the tournament, Smith said there were a lot of special moments from last season’s team. One moment, in particular, was when Hannah Tsouvalas stepped up and went into goal since they only had one on the roster and they were forced to miss a game.

“There were special moments throughout the season that showed that they were a team. They did not just go out for themselves they all played together,” Smith said.

Looking ahead to the new season, the team lost three girls to graduation among a few others to prep school. Smith acknowledges that they have a smaller team compared to last year. There are 10 returners, 15 girls who are new to the team, and, of the 15, six are brand new to the sport.

“We have to go back to the basics of the system because a lot of the girls do not know the system,” Smith said.

Even though the team has fifteen newcomers this season, Smith has a few players she can lean on to help to bridge the gap. The first player is captain Hannah Tsouvalas.

Asked about the goals for the upcoming season, Smith said as a team they decided they want to get into the tournament again but this time with a stronger record so they do not have to face the No. 2 seed like they did last season.

“If we can get our record a little higher so that we can play a more even team, [it will] give ourselves a better opportunity for tournaments,” Smith said. 

No matter the obstacle, Smith will make an impact by leading the team from the bench. 

Marblehead’s next game is Saturday, Dec. 14 vs Beverly at the Salem State O’Keefe Center at 6:30 p.m.

  • Mark Aboyoun is a New Jersey born sports writer at The Daily Item. Aboyoun is a graduate of Saint Joseph's University '18 and went on to earn his Juris Doctor at Western New England School of Law in 2021.