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Leading Ladies: Why Women Coach

By Jessi Pierce, Special to Minnesota Hockey, 07/19/21, 3:30PM CDT


The whistles work the same. The focus on development and growing young players into good people with a passion for the game doesn’t discriminate against genders.

Male or female coach – is there much of a difference?

“Especially here in Minnesota, a lot of females have played hockey, so they know what they’re talking about,” said former Minnesota State University player and current boys’ Peewee AA coach Tina Serafin. “Quite frankly, the game is the game, and whether it’s the females or males playing, it’s all the same systems, same ideas and principles so I don’t know that it matters which gender you are as a coach.”

Fortunately, here in Minnesota, more and more females are taking the step to be bench bosses for girls, youth and high school teams each year. A great example of that growth is the CCM High Performance Girl 15 Summer Development Camp which featured an all-female staff this year for the first time ever.  

We chatted with some leading ladies to learn what exactly drew them into coaching, how their insights and experience can help improve their teams and the game today.

Giving Back

Olympic gold medalist Maddie Rooney had five different female coaches throughout the course of her early hockey career, her first when she was 12. Ironically, it was her former Andover boys’ high school coach who first approached her about being a goalie coach though. From there, she found an assistant position with the Centennial girls’ varsity team.

“I knew I wanted to eventually work my way into coaching more than just goalies, and this position just happened to come at the right time from the right person,” said Rooney. “We have been given so much from the game of hockey and have a passion to continue to help grow the female game. A great way is to share our knowledge and experiences with others, and coaching is just a rewarding and great way to stay actively involved in the game.”

Rooney’s 2018 Olympic teammate, Kelly Pannek, didn’t have a female coach until she got to the University of Minnesota. After helping out with some part-time coaching jobs and summer camps, when Pannek learned there was an opening at her alma mater, Benilde-St. Margaret’s, she knew she had to go for it.

“It’s been cool to see how the program’s changed. It has and it hasn’t in ways,” said Pannek. “What I found myself doing is not going back to this is how things were versus how it is now. It’s a balance to not always compare it to what it used to be.”

Spending Time with the Kids

For Serafin, when her two boys got into hockey, as a former Division I player herself, coaching seemed like a natural fit.

“A lot of what drew me into coaching really was just spending time with the kids,” said Serafin, who admits she feels her coaching days are numbered as her son moves to the Bantam level next season. “What better way to spend time than on the ice with them a few times each week.”

A New Perspective

Every coach has their own unique approach, man or woman. It wasn’t that long ago that Rooney and Pannek were playing high school hockey, and the girls they coach now are well aware of that.

“There’s a sense of connection you get with someone that’s been in your shoes and knows what it’s like,” explained Pannek. “I am pretty aware of that, with the high schoolers especially. Anything I say to them, whether it’s a critique or adjustment, they will take that right away.”

When it comes to the youth levels, Serafin says female coaches can bring something different to the table.

“I think that females have a little different perspective just on things whether it’s sports or life, and young people need to understand that,” she said. “And I think that different perspective can really help. A lot of them are moms. They know how these kids might be feeling, maybe have a different tact with the kids and I think that goes a long way in making them feel comfortable.”

Female Future

With the rapidly growing presence of females in NHL front offices and player development teams, including Kendall Coyne-Schofield, Meghan Duggan and Cammi Granato, Rooney sees a very bright future for females at all levels of the coaching sphere.

“Iconic women of the sport broke barriers, demanded and gained respect, and proved to others that this is the new normal,” said Rooney. “Now, there is a new demand for female coaches and role models to be implemented into hockey programs. 

“I definitely think we will be seeing more female coaches at higher levels here in the future. Like I stated earlier, it is just becoming a new normal. Females bring a different perspective of the game to the table, and it is gaining the respect of being an asset.”

“The only way we’re going to get more and more of these girls to become players and eventually coaches is if you show them that this is a path,” Serafin added. “Let’s turn these benches into a mixed bench and not just have guys all the time.”

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