nwdt nwu18t moms

Mom’s the word at Summer Showcase

A trio of assistant coaches mentor the next wave of female hockey players while inspiring – and being inspired by – their own sons and daughters

Wendy Graves
August 19, 2016

Eighteen days is a long time for work to take someone away from home.

But make no mistake: Amanda Benoit-Wark, Cara Morey and Nadine Muzerall will all tell you they have their perfect job, coaching a sport they love, mentoring the next generation of female hockey players.

Still, it doesn’t make it any easier when being away from home means missing out on giving goodnight kisses and making Mickey Mouse pancakes in the morning,

Morey is an assistant coach with Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team, Benoit-Wark and Muzerall with Canada’s National Women’s Development Team. All are moms.

“The biggest challenge is internally dealing with the pressure I put on myself to find equal time for my family as I do with my players and my program,” says Morey, a mom to three daughters, Devan, 12, Kate, 10, and Piper, 7.

Morey’s full-time gig is as associate head coach for the women’s team at Princeton University. Between planning for the next day’s practice, going over game plans and calling recruits, it’s a job that inevitably comes home with her.

Compartmentalizing is key, she says, a skill she admits took a few years to learn. Until the girls are tucked in for the night, Morey’s phone goes into sleep mode.

“I can’t say 100 per cent I’ve got balance figured out,” says Muzerall, mom to Isabella, 2, and Brady, 6 months, as well as an assistant coach at the University of Minnesota. What helps is knowing husband Ryan and their extended family have things under control at home.

“They’re so supportive of what I’m doing and they don’t want me to feel bad or guilty. They’re like, ‘You dial in and you’re 100 per cent while you’re there.’”

It isn’t just spousal support that makes it possible. It’s the encouragement the women wholeheartedly receive from their kids.

“Bradyn can’t wait to tell his buddies that his mom is with Team Canada,” says Benoit-Wark. “He can’t wait to say, ‘My mom’s gone to Calgary because she’s going to help the girls win a gold medal.’ He’s so proud of that, and even though he’s only 12 he understands, in some mature way, that it’s OK to let me go.”

Benoit-Wark is the head coach of the girls’ hockey team at Ridley College as well as a phys-ed teacher there. Bradyn attends the school and often joins the team on road trips – “He thinks he’s the GM of every one of the teams I coach” – knowing the players by name and stats.

Bradyn understands how his mom helps, both at national team camp and in her role at Ridley. “He loves hockey and loves to watch the girls. He’s just a fan, and I think because mom’s so involved he realizes that girls can do anything that boys can do.”

The National Teams’ Summer Showcase marks the longest time Benoit-Wark has been away from her son and the first time Muzerall has been away from hers.

The support network back home – grandparents picking kids up from school, neighbours taking them to their own hockey practices – allows the coaches to focus on their teams.

“When I’m away they’re the first ones to step up and say we’ll handle it,” says Benoit-Wark about her parents and siblings. “We’ll do whatever we have to do. That’s huge. Without a supportive family, I don’t know if you can get this done.”

Earlier during camp Morey went four days without hearing from her family. When she did connect, via FaceTime, her daughters had friends over. The girls put the phone on the floor and left Morey looking at a ceiling light to the soundtrack of her daughters happily engaged in their own activities.

“I was laughing,” she says, still laughing, “because they were obviously doing fine.”

By pursuing their own dreams they’re showing that actions speak louder than words. Morey’s daughters see their mom in a leadership role. She brings them to practice sometimes. “I have some of the greatest role models in the world right there being elite hockey players, amazing students and great citizens.”

Hockey is cyclical, with the off-season allowing the coaches to do school pick-ups and drop-offs themselves. In-season, though, can be a grind. Morey has flat out asked her kids if they want her to quit. The answer: an emphatic no.

“They just think it’s the coolest thing that I have a key to the hockey rink. They’re proud of it. They love to be a part of it. Whenever I start to get down on myself that I’m away from them or I can’t be there, I have to remind myself of all the benefits I’m giving them by doing this job.”

All three aspire to inspire. Sport is merely their platform.

Morey’s been asked if she’d considered coaching the boys’ game. It’s a tempting proposition.

“I think about it just for the fact of breaking ceilings so that you can open doors for other women,” says Morey. “But the reason I coach is to motivate younger women. That’s my sole goal and hockey just happens to be the vehicle that I do it through.”

Muzerall, too, wanted into only one game, a choice that means more to her now.

“Girls’ hockey has grown so much because there’s so many opportunities, and now that I have a daughter, that’s huge for me. We’re that fight for the next generation; we’re that fight to make sure they have more than what we had.”

This summer Muzerall, and her husband, started their own U10 and U12 clinics. “It’s a great way to continue to get female role models involved in their lives and happen to make them better hockey players at the same time.”

At this camp they’ve found in one another a sorority of sorts. The first week Muzerall roomed with Cassie Turner, a camp coach for the development team and herself the mom of a 13-month old son, Blake. When together the talk invariably turns to kids more than anything else, says Benoit-Wark. “I grew up with a lot of these girls,” she says. “I played hockey with them, so the fact that we can talk about our kids together and have that support system is really neat.”

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

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