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Kendall Coyne Schofield on her new role with the Chicago Blackhawks

Kendall Coyne playing/ JWS
Kendall Coyne Schofield scored two goals on Thursday. (Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Kendall Coyne Schofield is a two-time Olympic medalist and the current captain of the US women’s national ice hockey team. Coyne Schofield also plays for the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, and she was recently hired by the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL to serve as a player development coach. She spoke with JWS about her new job and what comes next for both Team USA and the PWHPA.  

You were recently hired by the Blackhawks as player development coach. You’re the first woman in Blackhawks history to be named to the role. Can you talk a little bit about the job and what your responsibilities will be? 

For sure. So my role as a player development coach will be focusing on the developmental aspects of each role, which is extremely exciting. I love to build and grow the game, and as the player development coach standpoint, I’ll be working alongside our prospects. I will be watching the games that they’re currently playing in, breaking down the film with them and for them. I will be trying to teach them things that eventually we hope to see them doing as a future Blackhawk. A lot of the principles and characteristics that we see in our Blackhawks every single day, we are trying to teach our prospects those and help develop those characteristics so that when they get here, they are NHL ready and they can make that jump.

In addition to that, I’ll be on the ice in Rockford when the players return and the league returns as much as I can be. So working with those players as well, I’m really excited to get on the ice. That’s where I strive the most.

I’m really excited to develop the relationship with the players and the trust with the players that what I’m coaching them to do is going to help them accomplish their dream of making it to the NHL. Because ultimately, I know what that feels like. I know what it feels like to fail. I know what it feels like to succeed. And I know what it feels like to win at the pinnacle of the sport. And so I hope I can take the experiences that I’ve had throughout the team and implement it with them through our relationship as a player development coach.

How will you balance this with your role as the captain of the US team?

That’s a great question. And I’ve answered this question a bit, but speaking with you, I think you’ll understand this when I say that if there’s one group of people that know how to manage and multitask, it’s women’s hockey players. From the time we graduate college, we are multitasking. We are doing many things because we can’t make a living from this game.

So our mindset from the time we go through the recruiting process to the time we walk across that stage is, what’s next? I need to be doing something other than playing because I can’t make a living playing. And so my mindset has always been on things other than playing. I’ve done broadcasting, I’ve done many other things. This relationship with the Blackhawks has evolved over the last six, seven years. I interned with them between my sophomore and my junior year of college. And it was because I had that mindset, unfortunately, that I can’t make a living playing the game. And so while I’m extremely excited and honored that I can wear many hats and that the Blackhawks are accepting of me continuing and pursuing my career as a player, while being a player development coach and a youth hockey pro specialist, I hope this game gets to a point where a young girl growing up knows she doesn’t have to wear many hats in order to make a living being in this game.

But again, I’ve been very fortunate that I’m able to do multiple things at once and have the blessing of the organization to do that because it is a lot. One of my focuses is with the women’s national team. That’s my focus. And my focus can’t only be on the Blackhawks and the prospects. And they are 100% on board with that. So to have their support means a lot to me.

I love how honest that answer is. Not everyone realizes just how much professional female athletes have to struggle with balancing their athletic careers with another job to make ends meet. And the only way to change that is if athletes talk about the struggles and fight for change.

And I hope this position also opens the eyes to so many young boys and girls to see what’s possible. To see that there’s so many other areas within the game of hockey that you can be involved in, that you can make a career out of. And I think hopefully I’ve proven that along the way that you can do many things within this game as I’ve done a lot besides playing. So I think that’s also an equally exciting part about this role.

You are paving the way. And the Blackhawks now have three women working in their hockey operations department. Can you put into perspective what that means for the sport at this point in history?

It’s extremely important. We need to continue to have women in the positions of making decisions when it comes to players, when it comes to helping a team win a championship, when it comes to the business aspect of the organization. We need to make sure the table is as diverse as possible. And there are different viewpoints coming from across all aspects of the game. And then to be a part of an organization that has three women in that position just speaks volumes to the inclusivity of the Blackhawks and the vision that they have for the organization.

And I think we want to have more, we want to be able to make sure there’s not only three. And I think I’m sure you saw Meghan Hunter was promoted as an amateur scout, which was another huge win for women in hockey. But I think it’s just as important for boys and girls to grow up and see women in the position of power alongside men, to know that both men and women are making important decisions as it pertains to sports. And so I think that’s what is also exciting about this role. I think we have a ways to go. The Blackhawks are leading the way as you can see, but there are 31 clubs. And so there’s a lot more room for growth. I’m the first here, the first player development coach, and I think what’s so exciting about it is knowing that someone’s going to be next. There’ll be someone who will come after me. And I hope through the efforts that I put forth, it’ll make the decision of hiring them that much easier.

Like you mentioned, you’re still playing hockey with the US team and the PWHPA.  Do you think being an active player will help you in your new role with the Blackhawks?

Yes, I really do. I think that’s the one unique aspect that I bring to the table is that I am still playing. And I’m sure this might be the first time that a lot of these players have a woman as a coach. I’m sure it’s the first time a lot of them have a coach that’s still actively playing at the highest level. Those are two distinct things that separate me from the other player development coaches they may have.

But I think what I’m excited for, and I know there’s going to be some smack talking I’m sure, is when I’m coaching a player up on something, and he’s watching me play with the women’s national team, and I’m doing the same thing I’m telling him not to do. It’s going to happen. And I’ve already thought about it, and I know I’m going to laugh about it. And I’m looking forward to that because that just shows the trust in the relationship that is being built between the players and myself. All of the best coaches that I’ve had throughout my career are the ones that care about me as a person. And so I want to make sure I have that relationship with the players that I will be working with. And because I’m still playing,I think I have a certain level of empathy for the players and what they’re going through because I’m still going through it myself.

For sure. In my experience playing sports in college, I always loved when our coaches would jump in and run drills with us.

Totally. And it means I have no excuse for a bad pass at practice.

You have mentioned before that being an NHL general manager would be a dream for you. How do you think this job fits into that trajectory?

I think it fits in very well. I think I’m able to see the organization from the business side of things. And I haven’t seen it from that side. I think I have the ability to learn and grow from some of the best in the business within the Chicago Blackhawks organization. And I plan on being a sponge. I plan on learning a ton along the way. I know I’m going to make mistakes, and that’s part of the process. But in order to get to the top, there’s a process to get there. And this is only the beginning for me.

You are originally from Illinois. How special is it to be part of your home team’s organization? 

This is the team I grew up wanting to be on ever since I was three years old. And I’ve made it. I’m on it. I’m here. I grew up 22 miles southwest of the United Center. My family and I would go to Blackhawks games when I was a kid. I played in the junior Blackhawks games when I was playing house league here in Illinois. And it was the highlight of my youth career being able to play at United Center. This was the first hockey team I ever wanted to be on. And I’m on it. And to be able to make decisions to work every single day to help an organization that was the one that I wanted to be on, that I idolized as a kid, is really special. And I think in order to be elite or the best in anything you do, you have to be passionate about it. And there’s no doubt that I’m extremely passionate about this organization.

What’s your schedule look like over the next year in terms of Team USA, PWHPA, and Blackhawks commitments?

With some of those things, your guess is as good as mine due to the pandemic. But we were able to get together with the women’s national team in October, which was awesome. We went in with 53 players healthy. We came out with 53 players healthy. That was the first sign of it being a successful camp. And then second was that everyone was in shape. It was incredible. I think it just shows how committed this team is.

We’re supposed to have a rivalry series in February. If that takes place, I’m not sure, it’s usually against Canada. It just depends on the border being open, the numbers, everything. And then I think the big thing to keep an eye out for is the women’s world championship in April in Halifax. They were supposed to be in Russia, but Halifax got canceled last year, so they just bumped it to Halifax for this year. So that would be in terms of the women’s national team.

PWHPA, we’re hoping to get off the ground and running in January 2021. Again, a lot of it’s TBD. We hope to have events, one, in the United States and events in Canada.

And then from a Blackhawks standpoint, I am currently off the ground and running right as we speak. It’s been an overwhelming couple weeks just getting my feet wet and learning the software and everyone who I’m reporting to and meeting the prospects. And so it feels overwhelming at first, but it’s exciting because I have so much to learn, and learning is the best part of it all.

Star slugger Jocelyn Alo joins Athletes Unlimited AUX league

softball star jocelyn alo rounds the bases at an oklahoma sooners game
Former Oklahoma star Jocelyn Alo has signed with Athletes Unlimited. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Former Oklahoma slugger Jocelyn Alo has signed on with Athletes Unlimited and will compete in the AU Pro Softball AUX this June.

The NCAA record holder in career home runs (122), total bases (761), and slugging percentage (.987), Alo was originally drafted by the league in 2022 but opted instead to join the newly debuted Women’s Professional Fastpitch

Alo currently plays for independent pro softball team Oklahoma City Spark, with team owner Tina Floyd reportedly on board with her recent AUX signing. AUX games are scheduled for June 10-25, while the Spark's season will kick off June 19th. Alo will play for both. 

Among those joining Alo on the AUX roster are former James Madison ace pitcher Odicci Alexander and former Wichita State standout middle infielder Sydney McKinney.

According to Alo, the decision to play in the Athletes Unlimited league was fueled by her desire to propel women's sports forward as well as provide more exposure to a sport that's given her "so many opportunities."

"Not only to challenge myself more, but just for the growth of the game," Alo said, explaining her reasoning to The Oklahoman. "I genuinely believe that professional softball can be a career for girls."

Joining AUX is also one more step in her plan toward representing Team USA at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

"I’m constantly thinking about how can I do these little things right in these four years to prepare me for the biggest stage of softball," she told The Oklahoman. "I definitely want to play in the Olympics, for sure."

Alo further expressed enthusiasm in the hope that the rise of other women’s sports, like women’s basketball and the NWSL, will push softball’s professional viability even higher.

"We’re seeing the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) get their stuff going, I see the WNBA starting to get hot," she continued. "I feel like the softball community is like, 'All right, it’s our turn and it’s our turn to just demand more.'"

Reporter’s awkward exchange mars Caitlin Clark’s Fever intro

caitlin clark at indiana fever press conference on april 17
An uneasy interaction between Fever recruit Caitlin Clark and a local reporter has gone viral. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

An Indianapolis Star columnist is apologizing for an uneasy exchange with freshly minted Indiana Fever player Caitlin Clark on Wednesday.

At Clark's introductory press conference with the Fever, reporter Gregg Doyel introduced himself then abruptly formed a heart with his hands. Throughout her career with Iowa, Clark has often flashed heart hands at her family in the stands after finishing a game. The gesture has since become linked to the standout player.

But what ensued between Clark and Doyel was an incredibly awkward interaction, to say the least.

"Real quick, let me do this," Doyel said before making the heart sign at Clark. A composed Clark responded, "You like that?" After Doyel quipped, "I like that you're here," Clark dropped her eyes to the desk and said, "Yeah, I do that at my family after every game."

“OK, well start doing that to me and we’ll get along just fine,” Doyel said in response, to which Clark raised her eyebrows at the reporter, looking visibly uncomfortable. It wasn't the only unsettling comment Doyel made that day, as he later referred to Clark as "that" and "it" when directing a question to Fever coach Christie Sides. Sides appeared similarly thrown off by his choice of words.

As the clip made its way around social media, Doyel faced backlash from both sports fans and fellow members of the media. Much of the criticism centered around whether or not Doyel or another press representative would address an NBA player in the same manner. 

Doyel later apologized via a column entitled "Doyel: Caitlin Clark, I'm so sorry. On Wednesday I was part of the problem." published on the Indianapolis Star's website late Wednesday evening. Referring to his behavior at the earlier press conference, he called his comments "clumsy and awkward."

"Please know my heart (literally and figuratively) was well-intentioned. I will do better," he wrote, noting that he was "devastated to realize I’m part of the problem."

Rose Lavelle hoping to return to play ‘in the next couple of weeks’

uswnt midfielder rose lavalle trains on a soccer field in florida
When healthy, Rose Lavelle is a trusted asset in the USWNT's midfield. (Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

Rose Lavelle is hoping to return to the field soon. 

The 28-year-old midfielder has been sidelined with a lower leg injury since the Gold Cup in early march. Since then, she has yet to play for new club Gotham FC in the NWSL. She also missed a potential USWNT appearance at the SheBelieves Cup in April, where senior team newcomer Jaedyn Shaw saw success assuming Lavelle's role in the attacking midfield. 

At the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee media showcase on Monday, Lavelle told reporters that she’s doing well and hopes to be back soon.

"I’m doing good — I’m hoping I’ll be back in the next couple weeks," Lavelle said. "It’s frustrating to start the year off with an injury, just because I feel like you come off preseason and you’re revving to go, so it’s so annoying."

Lavelle is still looking to compete for one of just 18 Olympic roster spots. When healthy, she ranks as one of the national team’s most trusted assets, but considering this most recent injury, her health is an obvious concern. Faced with an onslaught of experienced competitors and young talent, incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes will have some big decisions to make when selecting the Paris-bound squad — a reality Lavelle seems to be taking in stride as she works to regain full fitness.

"We have so many special players, we have so much depth, and so many different weapons to utilize on and off the bench," Lavelle said. "Unfortunately that means really good players are going to get left off, too. And I think for all of us, it’s just about being ready for whatever role is given to us, embracing that, and looking to put it into a collective picture so that we can go into the Olympics ready to go."

Kate Paye tapped to take VanDerveer’s place at Stanford

new stanford head coach kate paye spins a basketball on the court
Stanford associate head coach Kate Paye has officially been promoted to head women's basketball coach. (Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports)

Stanford has found its replacement for legendary head women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer in associate head coach Kate Paye.

The Cardinal confirmed the hiring on Tuesday via a press release. Paye was largely expected to replace the longtime head coach, as the college mentioned they were still negotiating Paye's contract when they announced VanDerveer's retirement.

In Tuesday's statement, Paye reported that she was "humbled" to have been tapped to lead the women’s program.

"Stanford University has been a central part of my life for as long as I can remember and I am humbled to have the opportunity to lead its women’s basketball program," Paye said. "I’d first like to thank Tara, who has played such a pivotal role in my career for her friendship and guidance. It’s not what she’s done, but how she’s done it, that has had such a profound impact upon me."

A Woodside, California native, Paye played under VanDerveer from 1992 to 1995, taking home a national title her freshman year. After graduation, Paye briefly joined San Diego State as an assistant coach before making her professional debut with the ABL's Seattle Reign in 1996. After finishing her playing career with the WNBA's Seattle Storm, she joined the team’s coaching staff in 2007 and has been with the organization ever since, picking up another national title win — this time as associate head coach — in 2021. Paye's brother John played quarterback for Stanford from 1983 to 1986, while also serving as a point guard on the basketball team.

In her own response, VanDerveer said that she was "grateful" that Stanford picked Paye to follow in her stead. Last week, the decorated coach stated that this year would be her last after 38 seasons at the helm and three national titles under her belt.

"She has long been ready for this opportunity and is the perfect leader for Stanford at this time of immense change in college athletics," VanDerveer noted. "Kate was the choice for this job and I am confident she will achieve great success as head coach."

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