The IX: Hockey Friday with Erica L. Ayala, October 9, 2020

Her Game with the Junior Rangers - Interview with Celeste Brown - must-click links

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Her Game – A Day with the Junior Rangers

We are seven months into our quaratine-ish period here in the United States and after covering an entire WNBA via zoom, I have extreme screen fatigue. How about you?

It’s tough to find balance in life these days, but we are making the most of it. One of my most enjoyable zoom experiences in quite some time happened last weekend.

Now, I talk a lot about what the NHL is and is not doing to involve women in sports. However, one aspect of the game that is quickly trending in the right direction is the involvement of girls in NHL-sponsored events.

For those who may not know, I worked for youth-focused non-profit organizations for my entire adult life (until last year). Youth programming is critical for so many reasons, but especially programming catered to girls.

I got to be a spectator and a participant for the Her Game Virtual Summit and both were very fulfilling. From panels with the likes of Angela James and Amanda Kessel to workouts with the Metropolitan Riveters (I was in the green room, so I watched but didn’t participate, lol), I genuinely had fun!

The adult world is a cruel place and the summit reminded me that taking time out for joy and fellowship is extremely important. I am very thankful for the time I spent talking with Alyson and Stephane Metteau, Manon Rheaume and Angie Bullaro, and Katie Million for taking the time to chat with me last Saturday.

The problems of the world won’t go away overnight and I don’t plan to ignore them. But last weekend was a reminder that we seek to change the world so we can enjoy life. It was nice to take a moment to enjoy the hockey community again.

Here are the timestamps with all the summit panels for you to enjoy. And I hope you do take a moment today to find your joy!

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This Week in Women’s Hockey

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MORE COVERAGE FOR WOMEN IN SPORTS? Good, click these links and show decision-makers that if you post it, we will read it! If you have any hot tips for great stories or voices you’d like to see in The IX, email me:

Hamilton College cancels winter sports.

Mike Murphy with insight on the Minnesota Whitecaps and their small roster.

Charles Hallman and the hockey “diversity crisis” for the Minnesota Spokesman Reporter.

When fashion meets WoHo meets philanthropy! I love a STRONG crossover.

Check out this two-part interview with Blake Bolden. Apparently, my sister has a photo credit in Part II, lol.

Emma Stauber returns to the Whitecaps.

Blake Bolden, Kendall Coyne Schofield, and Hilary Knight crack the Sports Illustrated list, The Unrelenting.

The NWHL Draft gets props for fan engagement in the new world of virtual drafts.

Courtney Turner extends her hockey career in the PWHPA.

How Team USA prepared for full-contact ahead of the 1990 IIHF Worlds.

Tweet of the Week

Enter to win by the end of TODAY!

Five at The IX: Celeste Brown returns to RIT

Celeste Brown is embarking on her first role as a head coach at her alma mater. While her first season is like no other because of the COVID pandemic, she is very excited to return to RIT in a new role. Brown and I chat about how she ended up back in Upstate New York, her approach to coaching amid two pandemics, and if her players know anything about her playing career.

What are your thoughts about returning to RIT?

I’m fortunate, that’s first & foremost. I played here, I’m an alumna from here. And, you know, it’s, I think it’s a, it for me, it was a really great opportunity. I’ve always wanted to be a head coach, and so to have it happen at your university where you played is something really, really special.

I was counting the weeks and I’m maybe nine or 10 weeks in, which is not long at all, and excited to get going even more, and then again, like give you you know, you throw COVID into the mix, it’s different than maybe any other season. So that’s been an exciting adventure. Each day, I look forward to the new day, and what’s it going to bring in where we’re going.

I wonder if, if you have ever gone through the thought of, if you see things differently, impacts you too much? Are there any concerns that your affinity could be negative?

I would say that the environment I plan to cultivate is completely different than the experience that I’ve had. I ended up having a great successful career here. But I think plain after and playing in different team environments, and then going and working at a couple of different institutions where the coaching staffs that were dynamite.

You pick things up and you take them and you whether it’s – if it’s one direction or the other – you take them and you put them into your repertoire. And that’s something that I’ve always done is try to be really mindful of the moment and, hey, why is this working? Why is this not working?

So it is something I think about, and, you know, I, I like to try to think that I am a mold of, of every human being I’ve interacted with and that’s what I hope to teach these girls is that every interaction you have with something, you should learn something. And you know, how does that shape you, and how does that impact the people around you? And that’s really the goal here for creating my own environment that isn’t quite the environment that I went through. It definitely might have a couple of pieces to that puzzle, but not all the pieces.

Do you feel there have been people that have been willing to take up the mantle and have conversations about social issues in hockey? Has there always been space for that or have things have changed in the last few months?

I mean, this is a really good question. And, you know, I’m just one perspective, I’ll say that. So I can tell you like it, social justice issues or social movements were never talked about and it wasn’t like it wasn’t allowed to be talking about, but I think … I feel like there was a time in sports, where you just kind of played sports. And I think it comes down to your philosophy as a coach, and what you want to do, and how you envision your program and how you envision coaching in general.

In my opinion, I think as a coach, you need to have these conversations and you need to create a space where it’s not just about hockey. And yes, hockey is wonderful. It’s an unbelievable experience to come to the rink and have that serene place where you can kind of just play, and that’s important too. But I think when I look back … the things I remember the most are, yes, hockey and whatever it may be, but it’s really more about what did I learn from this human? And that was coaching me. How did they help me become a better human? And I’m always working to hopefully be a better human. But that’s, that’s how I sort of approach this with our girls.

This age group, in your from 18 – 22, you may need to have these conversations, and you need to talk more than just hockey. At the end of the day, you need to realize that they’re young females, and they’re humans, and they have feelings and emotions, and they’re experiencing this world that’s going on around them. And there’s something you need to talk to them about not you can’t just coach hockey, in my opinion.

Given COVID has things up in the air, where are you at with reconciling what you had envisioned in your first head coaching role versus being flexible to what is in front of you right now?

I’m going to throw out two words: mentally agile. I had a sports psych saying this once and I grabbed on to it. If I were to lay out how I envisioned the first six months of a season going as a first-time head coach, it’s been completely flipped.

I can tell you like the first meeting that I had with our team, it was, you know, open minds, positive attitudes, and full effort. And that’s been the sort of slogan since I stepped in because there are so many factors we cannot control. I’m fortunate that my staff is rock solid, and they’re on board too. I think one of the cool things about our staff is that, you know, we were all different, but we’re also similar in some of our outlooks and we’re younger, and we can be a little bit more agile, and maybe we aren’t necessarily stuck in ways, not that that’s bad.

I’ve learned so much in the last 10 weeks that it’s just constant information that’s changing and evolving. I mean, you know, tomorrow, the world could change and the NCAA could come out with one thing and it could, you know, could go that way. So it’s just that mental agility that you have to have it day in and day out really, with sort of everything that we’re managing.

How much do your players actually know about you as a hockey player? Like from your playing days?

I think you’re gonna have to ask them, I’ve never asked them. If I were to predict, I’d say very little. I think they all know that I played here. And, you know, I think you could sort of leave it at that.

I won’t lie to you that I’ve jumped in a couple of drills because for a little bit, we were working in small numbers only. They know that I played here and it provides that level of relatability that’s almost impossible.

I understand on a much deeper level than most what it takes to be successful here. So I mean, I think they know a little you know, but not a ton of detail. And that’s okay, this is their show and it’s about them. It’s not about me, but it is cool that it provides a different level of relatability.

Fair enough. I might have to circle around and see how much they really know about you.

Oh, Gosh.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon  Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Erica L. Ayala