Thursday, March 9, 2017

Family, Intensity, and Loyalty: How Navy Women’s Hockey is Breaking Molds and Heading to Nationals

By MIDN 2/C Jack Thoene

The Navy Women’s Hockey team is a program less than a decade old and boasts a roster where less than 50% of the team ever stood on the ice before their freshman year. This year, for the first time ever, the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s National tournament has the Navy women on their radar. The team advanced to nationals in February and will compete next week in Columbus, Ohio.


Upon their arrival, more than a few heads are going to turn - not because of their hockey style, but because of their lifestyle. Simply put, the soon-to-be junior officers in the United States Navy and Marine Corps don’t put the game of hockey at the top of their priority list. That spot is reserved for each other.

They are a family, through and through, headed by their team captain MIDN 1/C Claire Clark.

“The defining element of this program is the team culture. Our success on the ice this season is a direct product of a team environment where selflessness and loyalty are valued above all else," said Clark. "The game itself is infinitely more fun when we just get out there to play for each other and nothing else."


MIDN 2/C Liz Cameron turned down a walk-on varsity soccer team position.

“I grew up playing soccer and the thought of playing hockey never crossed my mind," said Cameron." When the captain of the hockey team my plebe year, a 1/C in my company, offered to throw me in skates, I was hesitant. The instant I walked into the locker room I knew something about this team was different. It wasn’t about the hockey. Sure, the hockey brings the group of girls together, but we are a team of sisters because we care about the person under the gear.”
 
When observing the team from the sidelines and bleachers, the program is clearly a strong regional competitor despite the fact that the majority of the players have skated less than three years. The team only recently made “club” status, and only two years ago they dressed out in an industrial concrete back room with no place to store their cold, wet gear.

They soon graduated to a conference room, eventually finding a home in the locker room they have now. At first glance, this team’s rapid development and competitive successes are hard to believe; they shouldn’t be the nationals-bound team they are. Yet here they are, establishing their legitimacy as a high-caliber team by putting up fights and even defeating women who are quite literally twice their size.


What makes them different, of course, is what happens on the benches and in the locker rooms, and even back inside Bancroft Hall. The team fosters a nurturing atmosphere, one of mentorship and benevolence, bestowing hard-won wisdom upon the underclass midshipmen as they mature. When each woman gets on the ice, she doesn’t have to worry about what’s going on in her personal life. No matter what, her teammates have her back. It’s not about hockey; it’s about learning life and basic leadership through hockey.

The unique thing about them is that their competitive drive already governs their behavior on and off the ice, thanks to the selection process of the Academy. The team culture need only mold, not forge, the women to create intense loyalty to one another and their team, fostering a teamwork mentality coaches can only hope for. These women may be loud, vivacious, compassionate, and unassuming - and if you step on the ice on any given day, they’ll show you the Navy Women’s Hockey way.

Back to the basics: selflessness, loyalty, intensity. NWH is a family through and through.

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