Contributed by Casey Ferrigno
At first glance it seems like a normal high school hockey game: different colored jerseys distinguish the two teams who fight to get the puck across their opponent goal line. But, looking closer, the jerseys are not only the proud red and blue of the high school, but also the bright orange of Newton South High School.
According to head coach Meg Lloyd, Brookline and Newton South decided to work together four years ago to create a high school girls hockey program in order to increase participation.
“We weren’t very competitive in our league and a lot of the time we were putting athletes on the ice that weren’t ready at the varsity level in order to have a viable program on both sides,” Lloyd said.
Varsity captain and senior Isabel Howell said that two schools joining to form one team presents some challenges, but overall, the pros outweigh the cons.
“There’s a certain dynamic that makes the team able to communicate better. Other than being a new kid from a certain school and having to deal with twice as many new kids from two different schools, I don’t think we have a big challenge,” Howell said.
In the beginning, the athletes categorize themselves by what school and grade they are in, but as the season progresses, everyone is just focused on the game, Howell said.
“We all love the game. We’re all passionate about hockey. We all are striving to work hard and improve our skills. I think that’s what really bonds us together,” Howell said.
Junior Madison Brandl said that playing with athletes from another school also offers a unique opportunity.
“You get to meet more people, and it’s kind of cool to have friends who go to other schools and see what their school’s like,” Brandl said.
Because of the two schools working together, there are a lot of players from different backgrounds and abilities, Howell said.
“Our goalie right now is from Newton South, and she’s amazing,” Howell said. “But without that connection of Newton South and Brookline, we wouldn’t have such a good goalie as part of our team.”
According to Lloyd, building a team bond early in the season is important when it comes to coaching hockey.
“For being an educator and a coach, building the community first is important,” Lloyd said. “So what are the ground rules of being a good teammate? What does it look like, feel like, sound like to be a valuable member of the team? How do you present yourself that way to your team?”
Brandl said that one of the challenges of having two schools playing for one team is transportation from one school to another for away games.
“The buses for away games, sometimes they’ll be at South and sometimes they’ll be here. And there’s more Brookline people so it’s inconvenient for all of us to go to South,” Brandl said.
According to Howell, everyone on the team is very accepting of each other.
“We treat each other like sisters, and that makes the team much more close-knit,” Howell said. “That translates on the ice when we’re playing with each other and makes it much better as a team because if we have really good relationships off ice, it’s going to translate into our playing.”
Lloyd said that she feels that every season is another chapter of the coaching book since there are new athletes and that she feels proud of them individually.
“The way they compete and the way they show up every day and they’re totally committed to their sport, I’m really proud of that. Yeah, they’re a really good crew of kids,” Lloyd said.
The team is looking good this season with its many new players, said Howell.
“We have a lot of young players, and they’ve been responsive and receptive to coaches and improving very quickly,” Howell said. “Last year it was a bit harder to get through that, but I think that they’re very optimistic, they’re very hard working and I think it’s going to be a good season.”