By Emma Smith ’22
This season the Girls Varsity Hockey Team is in a “transition year,” because they lost 9 players and gained 12 new ones. While this has been difficult, the team has been working hard to mesh as a team and succeed. Last year, nine seniors graduated, and this year, there are 12 new players in addition to nine returning players. “No team is ever the same year to year because personnel changes but we are at the beginning of a program rebuild. 9 of the 21 players on the team are freshmen or sophomores who are playing roles on the team and getting better,” said Ms. Goldsmith, Head Girls Varsity Hockey Coach.
Ms. Goldsmith has also experienced some of her own struggles. Last year was her first year coaching at The Gunnery, and she had to transition from coaching a club team to coaching a prep school team. “This season is different [from last season] because I better know what to expect of the schedule. I came from coaching a 75+ game season with my club team. In prep we play roughly 30 games.”
As a coach, Ms. Goldsmith sees the benefits of a prep school schedule as opposed to a club team schedule. “With our schedule, every game means something and it is much more like the college game in that way. I think it is a ton of fun and there is something really special about the girls playing for pride in their school.”
Because of the many new players, Ms. Goldsmith has been especially focused on working on team bonding this year. Ms. Leclerc and Ms. Ruscz has led the team in a series of bonding activities that Ms. Goldsmith thinks “really helped us get on the same page about our identity.”
“After that, there was a noticeable difference in how the team prepared for games. Those sorts of activities also help a team build trust which is so important,” said Ms. Goldsmith. This team bonding helps players become “more comfortable in their own skin,” she added.
Leah Coley ‘22 said, “Being a freshman and the youngest player on the team is a big challenge because when you are the youngest sometimes people don’t want to listen to you, which is okay because in a couple of years I will be a senior with younger freshman on the team. For now I just really have to step up and know my place on the team.”
Coley thinks the team building has definitely helped the team. She says, “We are certainly a much more mature team. We had a lot of new faces who are now a little more comfortable in their own skin. Some of the returning players have gained more confidence playing bigger roles this season compared to last season. Even within the season, we have had girls play different positions and fulfill different roles, because of those experiences we are a better team.”
Despite being a new freshman herself, Coley recognizes the reality of transition years and the work necessary to create a team that understands each other and can work together. “Although we have not had the results we sought out for, we have learned a ton and I am confident it will benefit us over the next couple of seasons. Athletes have to go through certain experiences to grow. I am excited to see how our group continues to progress. They make it a ton of fun to go to work every day.”
Ms. Goldsmith, who currently plays for the Connecticut Whale, a professional women’s ice hockey team based in Stamford, Conn. that is one of the four charter franchises of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL), has noticed how currently being a player on a team herself has helped her be a better coach. “Being a part of the Whale has definitely helped me in my coaching. It gives me another venue to learn from other people such as my coaches and my teammates, many of whom also coach.”
She said it’s common for coaches to forget what it’s like to be a player and be in the player’s mindset, but because of the Whale, “I also am able to put myself back in my players’ shoes, which is a pretty unique experience…A lot of coaching is continually looking for different ways to motivate players so being back in a player’s shoes allows me to be closer to that experience.”
On Ms. Goldsmith, Coley said “She knows what to talk about in between periods and she’s been through it all herself, so she knows how to handle all different situations that we come across.”
In the past, Ms, Goldsmith has coached other teams, including Plymouth State and the Northern Cyclones, and coaching at The Gunnery has definitely been a new experience for her. “At The Gunnery there is a better balance between work and life. Additionally, I love getting to interact with my players to different capacities. I love going to watch them do cool things like play in a band or play another sport. I love that our community supports each other. And as a coach, I have so many resources between all of the other coaches and educators on campus,” said Ms. Goldsmith.
The Girls Varsity Hockey Team has two regular season games left, and on February 16, the team celebrated senior day with a home game against Canterbury that resulted in a 2-1 win in overtime, with the game-winning goal scored by Savannah Popick ‘20.