Before Kendall Coyne Schofield was an Olympic gold medalist, she was an aspiring hockey player. Before that, she was an athlete and long before that, she was just a kid who loved to be active with her friends.
She didn’t specialize in hockey until high school, and she would have played multiple sports even longer if there were more hours in a day.
She and several of her teammates on the U.S. Women’s National Team are prime examples of the benefits of being a well-rounded athlete – a good lesson for young hockey players of any age, but particularly 12U players who might be feeling pressure as time on the ice piles up.
An early love
Coyne Schofield’s story of how she started playing hockey is a familiar one: Her parents signed her brother Kevin up for hockey when he was 6 and she was 3.
“He fell in love with hockey, and they brought me to the rink and gave me figure skates,” Coyne Schofield recalled. “After a week I said, ‘My skates are different. I want to do what he does.’ That’s how I got into hockey.”
When she wasn’t on the ice, Coyne Schofield was likely running around on land.
“Growing up I vividly remember being in either two places: school or sports. Whether it was organized sports, recess at school or backyard games with siblings, we were constantly active and doing as many sports as we could,” she said. “When I was a kid, I played basketball, baseball, softball and hockey.”
All in balance
Competitively, Coyne Schofield locked into two main sports: softball and hockey. She says the benefits of playing more than one sport were countless.
“In hockey, I was the only girl on the team for a long time,” she said. “Softball was that balance that helped me meet other girls in sports.”
The success she had in each sport fed into the other.
“My hand-eye coordination from softball – I would find myself knocking pucks out of midair in hockey,” Coyne Schofield said. “Speed has always been a factor in all sports, and I would get faster on and off the ice.”
Down to one
Coyne Schofield made the varsity softball team as a sophomore in a suburban Illinois high school. After that, she somewhat reluctantly agreed it was best to zero in on hockey as she started representing Team USA in various events.
That involved a level of sacrifice, she says, and it was hard to watch her former softball team go on and win a state championship without her when she was a senior – even though she was thrilled for them.
“I loved all sports, and it was really sad day when I had to give up softball,” she said. “It was so important to play more than one sport. Each sport teaches you a life lesson and you meet new friends. I never felt burnt out in either sport.”
It helps, too, that she has a strong mix of driven and mindful parents.
“My parents never once made me do anything and they never had to force me to work hard,” she said. “I was the kid in the basement doing sit-ups, running in the yard to make myself better. Their work ethic as parents taught me how to work hard and achieve my dreams.”
Not just her
Coyne Schofield can rattle off a list of teammates who also excelled in multiple sports. The Lamoureux twins – Monique and Jocelyne – are chief among them. So are Lee Stecklein and Kelly Pannek.
“There are multiple players on our team that could have gone Division I in multiple other sports,” she said. “When we warmup with soccer or other sports … you see the talent ooze out of them.”
The lessons these athletes learned from all those sports formed the backbone of Team USA’s success.
“Ultimately it is the life lessons I learned from sports like teamwork, discipline, time management and most importantly having fun and being competitive,” Coyne Schofield said. “That’s part of my background.”
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