Coming into this season, girls head hockey coach Brittany Smith was aware that she would have some new additions to her team, knowing that players come and go, and that roster spots have to be filled. What she did not realize, however, is how new these additions truly were going to be.
Six of the girls on the roster have never played hockey before. Some have never skated, and most had never held a hockey stick before becoming a part of the team. Smith said she expects something different from year to year, but having six players who are brand new to the sport is a first.
“Every season is completely new for our team. We never know what we’re going to get,” she said. “I knew I had nine, maybe 10 returners, after that that was all I knew. Then I saw these girls signing up and I was like, ‘Great, this is awesome, we need numbers.’”
Right away, Smith and the returners on the roster greeted the newcomers with open arms and immediately got to work with them, which is something that Greta Foss appreciated as someone who is brand new to the game.
“The first practice I was here, the coaches and the whole team just welcomed us immediately. It was like we weren’t super new and they help us on the ice and it’s just a really great support system,” Foss said.
While coaches and players embraced their new players and began working on the fundamentals, realistic expectations had to be set at the beginning of the season. Being the head coach of a varsity level team means that tough decisions have to be made in the team’s best interest. Therefore, Smith had to let the players know that the reality of the situation was that they likely would not see a lot of ice time.
It was something that each of them came to terms with quickly, because for them, it’s about the feeling of being a part of a team, not how much playing time they get. Emma Dixon has one kidney, and was always kept out of sports by her mother due to concerns for her health, but all Dixon wanted was to be a part of a team, whether she plays or not.
“Coming into high school, my mom was like ‘you’re not going to do sports, you’re not getting hurt’, so I think my goal is to be on a team and have that team connection that I never had,” Dixon said.
Others had different reasons for wanting to lace up the skates. For Aeva Salem, hockey runs in her family’s blood. Her dad coaches her brother’s hockey team and she has been skating with them for years, but has finally decided that now was the time to pick up a hockey stick.
“I’ve been on the ponds with them skating every winter. I’m not the best at it, but I found it really fun. I’ve always wanted to play but this year I finally went for it.”
It’s not uncommon for teams to have an athlete or two on rosters that have never played in their respective sports before, however six on one team is certainly an outlier. With so many newcomers, the learning process becomes much easier knowing that there are five other girls starting in the same position. When asked if having others on the roster who are brand new to the game made things easier, each of them nodded confidently, and Emily Tauro commented on why it makes the process so much easier.
“It’s easier to fall, it’s easier to mess up knowing that other people are also learning for the first time, it just felt more welcoming,” she said.
Ava Laham added to Tauro’s comments, saying, “It’s really nice having a little community within the team because I feel like we’re all in it together and we’re all learning something new together and that’s very bonding. We see each other fall, we help each other up and it’s just been really great overall.”
Though they might take a few minutes longer to learn a drill during practice, or fall a couple times as they try to perfect the art of skating, Smith says she is having a blast coaching them and that they have already improved immensely since the first skate.
“They have definitely improved quite a bit from the first practice. The first practice I was hesitant on how to move forward because they are all so brand new to the team,” said Smith. “But I’m glad we stuck with it and I’m glad they are having fun.”