People come from all over to visit San Diego’s famous Coronado community and in the case of the United States women’s hockey team, they’ve come from all over America.
From hometowns stretching mostly Midwest to northeast, the 2014 Winter Olympics-bound players recently found themselves training on the southwest tip of the country.
Ironic to find these women of the ice working out on sand? You bet.
“I want you to learn the lessons on a beach in San Diego, not in a rink in Russia,” barks Colleen Hacker, a professor at Pacific Lutheran University.
Hacker, the team’s mental skills coach, is putting this group of girls through some of the most unusual challenges you can imagine. They’re running relays with two players at a time, holding sticks between their stomachs. Next up: more relays, this time with tennis balls between their heads.
The bigger picture isn’t lost on 22-year-old Brianna Decker, one of the team’s bright young stars.
“You have to be able to listen to your teammates and keep things simple out there, and also communicate, and that’s one huge thing we’re learning,” said Decker.
The players, soon covered in sand through some of the physical drills, also must put their brains to the test with numbers games.
Team USA has medaled in all four appearances since the sport was first introduced to female competitors at the 1998 Winter Olympics. However, 1998 was the only time they’ve reached the top of the podium.
Head Coach Katey Stone laughs with the realization that hula hoops and blindfolds on the beach could be part of a winning strategy.
“If your kids trust each other, prepare together, know how hard each other is going to work, and can count on each other, that in itself is invaluable,” said Stone.