By Nicholas Smaldone, Contributing Writer
Region – Earlier this month, the Under 10 Lady Flames hockey team, representing Grafton, Marlborough, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Westborough, and other towns across the Metrowest area, won the Tier 2 state tournament.
The team competed in the Massachusetts Hockey State Championship tournament, a two-day tournament of five games held at the New England Sports Center in Marlborough.
The title came after a seven-month long season of practices, scrimmages, early morning games, and other tournaments. Head Coach George Spencer explained the importance of such tournaments as allowing “the girls to have challenges throughout the season where they can see tangible results from their practicing,” whether it be a trophy or just their name on a banner in the rink.
For such a young team, the hockey season consists of much more than just learning the basics: everyday skills, life lessons, and teamwork are all at play during a typical practice.
For Spencer, the key to knowing how to best reach his players is “learning what makes them all unique and understand that hockey might not be the most important thing to them that day,” or, in other words, “striking a balance.”
One way Spencer balances things learned on the ice with life outside of the rink is by demonstrating the important everyday tools that hockey can teach. Setting and reaching goals is a good example of a skill that can start with working toward winning a match, but also be transferred to studying for school and doing well on a test.
In addition to teaching diverse skills, hockey is used as a tool of empowerment for the young girls. Throughout the season, the team watches professional female hockey teams, from collegiate to Olympian level.
“Girls hockey is so popular now and accessible; opening their eyes to what is possible is amazing,” Spencer said.
Teamwork and sense of community is also a valued tool used by the girls throughout the season. To Spencer, this component of working together is pivotal to both the game and life.
“Working together through passing and communication is such a big part of being successful,” he said. Hockey teaches many life lessons and teamwork is certainly one of them.”
Winning the tournament definitely inspires motivation for the next season, but for Spencer and the team, win or lose, “having fun and creating an environment where the girls love coming to the rink and are laughing” is most important.