I truly believe any player who wants to play at the college hockey level can. Not everyone is going to make the Olympic team, but there are over 110+ colleges and universities in North America that have varsity women’s hockey programs, which means that the odds are there is a school out there that is the right fit academically and athletically for everyone.
Most of the players I meet say they want to play at the university level, but very few of them have any idea what it takes to get there or what they have to do to succeed on the ice and in the classroom once they arrive on campus.
Every year, I take players from here in Toronto down to the States to visit different NCAA Division 1 and Division 3 schools. We’ve been very fortunate to have the coaches of some of the top-level teams in the country give us the “inside” look at their programs. We watch practices, speak with the players, get tours from the coaches, and even got to watch a Division 1 NCAA regular season game. Players are always more focused and committed than ever to achieving their goals after returning home from this trip.
I realize that not every player who aspires to reach this next level has the chance to go on a trip like this…
… That’s why I want to share the TOP 3 TIPS we got from the college coaches:
1. What Would Happen If You Broke Your Leg?
I know this is a bit of a gruesome thought, but when it comes to choosing what school you want to attend, you have to make sure that you aren’t making your choice only because of the hockey program. The question you should ask yourself is, “Would I still be happy here even if I broke my leg on the first day?” If your answer is yes, then it’s the right school for you. If no, keep looking.
2. If You Need Help, Get Help
This came up when we were talking about getting tutors for classes, but it applies to more than just college courses. Far too many high achieving athletes are afraid to ask for help with academics because they think it looks like a sign of weakness. I remember worrying about whether I should get a tutor for one of my chemistry classes in college because I thought my teammates and friends would think less of me. In reality, no one cared. And it made my life much easier. Similarly, if you need help on a specific skill on the ice (your slapshot, your edgework, your understanding of a team system), you have to ask. I know it can be embarrassing if you don’t “get it” and everyone else on your team seems to, but you have to risk feeling uncomfortable if you ever want to play at the next level. So just ask.
3. Start NOW
This was something all the coaches and players mentioned.
:: Far too many players wait until they get to the next level to prepare themselves for the next level. ::
You can have all the skills in the world, but if you aren’t fast enough or fit enough to keep up with the pace and intensity, you and your skills will be sitting on the bench. The only reason I was able to go from being buried on the 4th line to being on the 2nd line and power-play as a 1st year player in college was because of all the training I did off the ice. I was more fit, which meant I could go harder and longer in practice and in off-ice training, and could recover faster to work even harder the next day. When some of my teammates were exhausted and couldn’t think straight, I was still focused and ready to work.
Achieving that level of conditioning didn’t just happen when I arrived on campus. It happened in the 4 years before I went to college. I put in the time and effort off the ice to put myself in a position to excel on the ice. I spent so many hours in the gym working on speed, strength and conditioning while I was still in high school that the workouts in college didn’t overwhelm me. They were very hard – but I was used to pushing myself to my limits and was ready for the challenge. I may not have had the same level of on-ice skill as all my teammates, but my level of conditioning allowed me to play catch-up pretty quickly.
Obviously these 3 tips are a mere starting point in helping you navigate the entire college hockey process. To get your hands on a step-by-step manual that will guide from getting scouted, making contact with coaches and choosing the school of your dreams, check out the Total Female Hockey Scholarship Project. I created it specifically for girls hockey players who have big dreams but have no idea where to start. ::
Keep Working Hard and Dreaming BIG.
Your friend and coach,
~ Coach Kim