Commentary

Training for gold

Updated: January 22, 2010, 12:32 PM ET
By Lindsay Berra | GIRL Magazine

Olympic DreamDustin Snipes\ESPN RISE MagazineKendall Coyne is a rising star and will be even better after training with Olympian Angela Ruggiero.

This story appeared in the Winter edition of GIRL Magazine.

It's a rivalry day at Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge, Ill., where the Chicago Mission's U19 girls' hockey team is facing its counterpart from Team Illinois. Midway through the second period, the puck tips off the stick of a TI forward and flips high into the air. On the right-wing boards, nearly at the goal line, Mission forward Kendall Coyne is waiting.

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Her eyes dart between the falling puck and the middle of the ice, where her linemates jockey for position in front of the goal. In a split second, Kendall closes her hand around the puck, drops it at her feet, takes two quick crossover steps to her right and makes a perfect tape-to-tape pass to a teammate streaking to the far post. The shot goes wide, but it doesn't matter. Kendall Coyne just proved why she's the best player on the ice.

Kendall's speed makes her stand out in any group she plays with, be it boys or girls. She has a scorer's touch and proved it with eight goals in five games, including the overtime game-winner in the final, at the U18 World Championships in Germany last January. But it's the 17-year-old's hockey sense -- her ability to analyze the game and her options with the puck before it even reaches her -- that sets her apart from other players her age.

"It's just something I've always had," she says. "I don't have to think. I just do it."

Kendall's skill has made her the top women's hockey recruit in the country, and she'll be attending Harvard, Cornell, Providence or Mercyhurst next fall. It also earned her an invite to the U.S. Olympic Team tryout in Blaine, Minn., in August. Kendall was the youngest of the 41 attendees, but despite her talent, she didn't make the cut. Soon-to-be four-time Olympian Angela Ruggiero did.

With Kendall ironically sporting the T-shirt she was given for working Angela's hockey camp in Chicago last summer, the two sat down to discuss how Kendall can train her body and mind and make herself a lock for the national team -- and the 2014 Games.

Be strong

Kendall is 5-foot-1 and 125 pounds to Angela's 5-9, 192. But with a little more core and upper-body strength -- which is key for any athlete -- it won't be so easy for Angela to push Kendall off the puck. Angela shared some of her favorite moves:

[+] EnlargeKendall Coyne and Angela Ruggiero
Dustin Snipes for ESPN RISE MagazineCoyne has a college choice to make while Ruggiero has taking home another Olympic medal on her mind.

Push-up to plank
"Do a push-up. At the top, turn to one side and raise your top arm for a side plank, staying strong through your stomach and back. Then do another push-up and repeat on the other side. Do five on each side, holding each plank for a three-count. If the full exercise is too tough, start with holding the plank or side plank for 30 seconds."

Bench press on a ball
"Rest your upper back on a physio ball, with your butt up and core activated, and do a chest press. Use dumbbells, which are more unstable than a bar, to force you to use your core and give more individual attention to each arm."

Walking lunges
"These are a good warm-up without weight, but for more of a challenge, add dumbbells. Step forward, keeping the front knee over the ankle, and dip so your back knee almost touches the ground. Then push through only the front leg to get up. Keep the core activated to prevent yourself from leaning forward."

Be a good teammate

"The national team is made up of the 23 best players in the country, and even on college teams, everyone is used to being a star," says Angela. "But being successful is about coming together. Make sure you're aware of the feelings of others as much as you're aware of your own. Recognize what your role is on the team and know that regardless of what it is, it's really important to the whole. Be supportive of one another while at the same time holding everyone accountable. You don't want to let bad things go, but you also don't want to be too critical and not pat people on the back when they deserve it. On a day-to-day basis, if you can get the most out of your teammates and they can get the most out of you, your potential will be much higher."

Be confident

"Make it a goal to be an impact player freshman year," says Angela. "Sometimes, if you're a standout in high school, you can get to college and get caught up in the fun and being away from your family. Being a freshman doesn't mean you have to play like one, it just means you're younger. A lot of young players are strong enough and fast enough to hang with the elite players, but when they have the puck they don't trust themselves. Or sometimes they're used to being perfect, so when something goes wrong they dwell on it as opposed to focusing on what they did right. Try to remember the times you do well as much as the times you don't do well. Sure, you can identify things you can work on, and it's okay to recognize when you messed up, but learn from it."

Be ambitious

"You can't let someone else give you a goal. Even if it's a team goal, you have to consciously accept it. On the national team, we decide together on a mission statement for the team. If you don't understand what you're working toward, you can't work together to get there. It's the same with individual goals. I've always written them down. Once a year, I jot down various things I want to accomplish and how I'm going to accomplish them. If you set a major goal, like making the national team, you have to set smaller goals to go along with it. What will I do this season, this month, this day, to accomplish my main goal? It can be as simple as 'Do two extra sprints every day.' Small goals are much more tangible as opposed to a lofty goal that's just out there in the ether. Make your goals real: Create them. Write them down, then break them down."

Be smart

"College isn't like high school. You can skip your homework for a month and no one will say anything. When you have two midterms and a final for a total of three scores that make up your final grade, you can't just cram like you did in high school when you had a whole bunch of quizzes and tests and homework assignments to prove yourself. You have to stay on top of the work for each class so you're not buried when it's time for the test. It's just like playing your sport. You wouldn't skip practice for a month and then go play a game, so why would you skip homework for a month and then go take a test?"

Lindsay Berra is an avid CrossFitter and a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on twitter @lindsayberra.