Lake Forest Academy – A Unique Program Attracting New Girls and Instilling a Love of the Game
By Pam Flores – The Metro Girls League is made up of both pure teams and combination teams that pull from several schools to form a team. They are all unique, but Lake Forest Academy (LFA) had an approach to forming its team that is genuinely like no other. And it is one that introduces brand new players to a sport they may have otherwise never experienced.
Lake Forest Academy is unique in that it has a lot of international students. Because the school requires students to participate in two sports throughout the year, Athletic and Hockey Director, Darrin Madeley leverages these factors to ensure the team is strong in numbers and encourages all students to give hockey a shot.
Generally, more than half the team is first-time players with most of the newer skaters being girls from outside the United States.
“We probably have the widest range of talent of any team in the Metro league,” noted Madeley. “We have some highly skilled Tier 1 and Tier 2 players, but by far we have the largest number of brand-new players that have never been in hockey skates or shot a puck. Additionally, our program has become extremely popular among our international students looking for something new and that really makes for a unique group of girls competing on the team.”
Junior Angie Cotton is one student that never expected to find herself as member of a women’s hockey team. She is from Monterrey, Mexico, where the closest rink is more than hour away. In fact, when she decided to give hockey a try at LFA she had only skated once before in her life.
“I was a competitive cheerleader in Mexico so that was my first sport, but the program is not as rigorous as I like at LFA so I started looking for options that would challenge me for my second sport,” she said. “I decided to try hockey because it was so new to me and because it is definitely a rigorous sport.”
During her sophomore year she picked up field hockey, a good crossover sport for ice hockey to help her continue to develop her skills.
Angie took the initiative on her own to get started. “Having a rink that is pretty wide open to students made a huge difference,” she added. “I went on the ice pretty much every day leading up to the start of practices and worked hard to teach myself how to skate.”
Her hard work has really paid off, and during her sophomore year she became a starter – something she is immensely proud of.
“I am enormously proud of the progress I have made, and I use that to help build up newer players on the team. I tell them that in, my first year I could barely skate; now I am a starter. Keep at it and you be there too.”
She also loves the supportive nature of the team. She said, “We have our ups and downs, but the way this team comes together to support one another is truly special. The team is very inclusive, and the more experienced players really work hard to help the newer players succeed – I love that.”
Her experience on the team has fueled a new passion for her. She plans to make hockey a part of her life once she graduates. She hopes to play club hockey in college and then continue in a women’s league in the future.
Senior, Jessie Yang is another player that found hockey upon arrival at LFA. She is from Tianjin, China, and was a figure skater at home for five years.
“Part of the reason we selected Lake Forest Academy was because the school had an ice rink and that would give me the option to keep skating,” Jessie explained. “My parents and I never expected that I would continue skating by playing hockey.”
When she arrived at LFA, she learned about the team and the coaches explained that with her skating background she would do well. Her other sports are cheerleading and badminton, so the team aspect of hockey was also very exciting for her.
“When I first started playing they had me on offense, but during warm-ups the coaches noticed that I could skate backwards, so they quickly moved me to defense,” she noted. “Some of the top players on defense really helped me learn the position and it has been my role ever since.”
Jessie is extremely excited about the progress the team as made the last couple of years and credits the hard work of the coaches and the team dynamic to these improvements. “Coach Tyler is very motivating and honest with all of us and really helps push us,” she said. “And the team has gotten more supportive of one another and that has helped us to improve in a big way.”
Jessie’s family made it to one game and really enjoyed seeing her compete in an entirely new way. She plans to attend college in the U.S. and would like to continue playing on a club hockey team as a next step.
“This is a great group of girls. They work hard and are committed to putting forth the best team possible,” commented Tyler Madeley, LFA Head Coach. “They really work to improve, and with all of the diverse backgrounds and skill levels, they take pride in how far they have come.”
College Commit: Taylor Owrutsky
The Warren girls’ team is proud to announce that 2020 grad Taylor Owrutsky committed to Lake Superior State University to play hockey at the ACHA D2 level. Congrats, Taylor!