W. icers players shine both on the ice and the fields

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Glancing around her office at photos of her past teams, women’s ice hockey Head Coach Digit Murphy can recall numerous multi-sport athletes she once coached. The names roll off her tongue – Murphy immediately mentions Katie King ’97, Becky Keller ’97 and Tara Mounsey ’01, all of whom were Olympians in ice hockey and also played softball or – in Mounsey’s case – field hockey during their time at Brown.

Multi-sport athletes have a history of being on the women’s hockey team; roughly a quarter of all ice hockey players Murphy has had on her team over the past 20 years have played more than one varsity sport, she estimates.

The trend started early – the first player Murphy ever recruited as Brown’s head coach, Kate Presley ’94, played goalie for the hockey team but also had a brief stint as a lacrosse player, ultimately cut short by an injury to her eye socket.

Murphy recalls another episode in which Cara Gardner ’01 played a field hockey game at noon. Then joined her ice hockey teammates for another game without even warming up.

Catherine Moos ’07 was a “superstar at both” soccer and hockey, said Frances Male ’09, herself a rugby and hockey player. Emilie Bydwell ’08 also played for the U.S. national rugby team in addition to being a member of the hockey team.

Among all athletes at Brown this year, there are only around 10, men and women included, who participate in more than one interscholastic sport. Four belong to the women’s hockey squad.

Amanda Asay ’10, Male, Maggie Suprey ’11 and Macie Winship ’11 all play another sport in addition to hockey. Asay plays on the softball team, while Male plays club rugby. Suprey and Winship both play on the lacrosse team.

Murphy, who while at Cornell achieved Hockey Ivy Hall of Fame status while also playing softball, is unsure why there are so many dual-sport athletes on her team. Upon reflection, she admits that “it must be me.”

Murphy looks for dual-sport athletes because “we look for athleticism as a package,” Murphy said. They ask “overall, what’s your skill set as an athlete, not just as a hockey player.”

Murphy noted that there are physical advantages commonly found among hockey players that translate to greater athletic success beyond the rink.

“You have to be a good athlete … to play hockey because you need really solid core strength, you need leg strength, you also need the hand-eye (coordination), and you need the spatial awareness,” Murphy said.

“And in hockey … if you’re on the ice doing all this, it kind of multiplies your athletic ability because it’s so fast and you’re doing so many things at once,” she continued.

Asay, who plays softball in addition to ice hockey and is a member of Canada’s National Women’s Baseball Team, agrees that hockey players have a leg up for playing other sports.

“Hockey requires a variety of skills: endurance, power and strength, and also good hands,” she said. “That probably translates into lacrosse quite a bit, with stick skills,” she suggested.

Male said that the timing of hockey, which is almost an exclusively winter sport, likely has a great deal to do with hockey players being able to play more than one sport.

“People are more likely to have a summer sport as well, (so they can) stay in shape,” Male said. “I know a lot of hockey players that play soccer during the summer.”

Since she is Canadian, Asay also attributes the popularity of hockey in Canada to athletes developing another sport. She said 75 percent of her baseball team also plays hockey.

There is a significant time commitment to playing two sports – Asay said she probably spends 25 hours per week on average, excluding travel, for hockey, while spending 19 hours on softball. Practices are six days a week for both sports.

For Male, “it’s sort of a challenge, but I think that practicing almost every single day gives good structure to the day: going to class and doing homework, (getting) a workout and then going to practice,” she said.

“I like being in season all the time,” Male added, even if it means trying to catch up on work or sleeping on bus rides.

Even though Murphy does support athletes pursuing more than one sport, she sees a decline in the numbers of multi-sport athletes, admitting that “it is getting harder and harder for athletes to play (more than one sport), as we demand more and more.”

“But they can do it,” she added.

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