Tae Otte's goal as the new director of girls' hockey at the Grand Rapids Amateur Hockey Association is to spread the sport far and wide. While GRAHA has had a girls' hockey program for years, with 107 players playing across five teams last season, there are still many age groups and skill levels to reach.
Otte has been on the ice since childhood, often playing with boys because there was no other option. These years of experience led to her being appointed captain of Lindenwood University's team after only one year. Today she works as a special education teacher while coaching hockey. We sat down with Otte to ask about her plans for the program.
What value do you find in young people playing hockey?
One huge opportunity is playing in college, with more teams created each year. But more than that, it instills so much confidence in the young ladies. Being part of a team is huge and being able to work with each other, it's such a team-oriented sport and hockey has a culture to it that's very tight-knit. When you get on a team and spend so many hours traveling, staying in hotels, practicing ... it's such a long season that you really bond. They have this team that's more like a family. But I think the huge thing for women today is that it's not always easy. Instilling that confidence and playing a sport you know you're really passionate about, there are a lot of positive things that can come from that.
Aside from increasing teams, what else would you like to do with GRAHA?
I'm hoping to start a mentorship program, for older girls helping out with younger girls. At the college level, we had a younger program that we worked with. They came to our practices every once in a while, and we did fun things with them. We also had them in games where they would be our "star of the game" and would be able to skate to the blue line of the starting lineup and be in the locker room, so I'm really hoping to do that. I think it could take off and really inspire younger girls seeing the older ones, and it's also great for the older girls to see little ones looking up to you.
What do you love about coaching hockey?
Hockey has done so much for me and it's created who I am today, so being able to share that passion with young girls is so inspiring. I've also realized how much of a gift it is to be able to play hockey and have your body function that way. I want to share with the kids what a gift it is to be able to enjoy the game and not take it for granted or get wrapped up in the little things. It's to create those life lessons, that's why I do it.
Written by Josh Veal, Contributing Writer for West Michigan Woman.
This article originally appeared in the Aug/Sept issue of West Michigan Woman.