What is your story? Or in other words, what made you your awesome self you are today?
Growing up as a young student-athlete, I was lucky to have many fantastic teachers and coaches who positively influenced my life. Consequently, they inspired me to pursue undergraduate degrees in elementary and secondary education. Becoming a classroom teacher was a very rewarding journey because I was given opportunities to teach various grade levels and subjects. Most notably, after I completed my graduate degree in computer science, I enjoyed teaching basic coding skills and creating various STEM projects to elementary school students in the final years of my formal teaching profession.
As soon as school ended, I would head off to one of the local rinks to begin a few hours of coaching each night. For me, the ice quickly became an extension of the classroom, and being able to make a career out of hockey and supporting children/teens now is a dream come true. Over the years, I was presented with many new and exciting opportunities to grow the game and enhance the overall hockey experience through Glacier Ice Arena. And now Glacier is considered my second home. I stay busy by teaching all-new hockey players how to skate, running camps and clinics weekly, connecting with our community through social media, and overseeing everything related to technology at the rink.
What message(s) do you promote?
I take a great deal of pride in being viewed as a role model to the boys and girls in our hockey community. And I vehemently promote the notion that “anything is possible on and off the ice.” When I work with young hockey players, I promote the development of self-confidence and self-reliance because the complexity of the sport requires strong dedication and a positive attitude during every single skate.
To help hockey players cultivate their “adversity muscles,” I am constantly reminding them to stretch a little longer with their strides or dig a little deeper on their edges even when it feels uncomfortable. Eventually, they gain the physical and mental strength needed to be successful in the game.
I also promote the importance of getting up quickly after falling or losing an edge while skating. The most notable characteristic of any sheet of ice is that it’s slippery. So, it’s quite adorable when a hockey player will tell me, “Coach, the ice is just so slippery today!” after they take a big spill. This is a great metaphor for how we react to the things in our personal life: you fall, you get back up. In fact, the “Get Up” campaign reinforces this idea by emphasizing that “Ice is slippery, and so is life. But it is how we get up that matters.” Young athletes need to fall and fail so they can learn to pick themselves back up and forge ahead to their ultimate goal.
In what capacity do you LEAD UP in your community?
I currently serve as the leader of our “introduction to hockey” programs at Glacier Ice Arena. Children who are excited to take the first steps in their hockey journeys will typically start with me by participating in our Little Blackhawks or Little Dogs programs. These young hockey players learn how to develop their edges, stickhandling skills, and scoring abilities through these weekly initiatives. Serving the Chicago Blackhawks as a rink partner has significantly helped us grow the game far greater than we could have ever imagined.
Another part of my responsibilities includes connecting our community closer through our social media channels and daily newsletters. These means of communication help us to reach thousands of families who want to thrive on the ice as they reach various levels in their hockey journeys. I value the responsibility of being an ambassador to the sport and doing everything I can to help skaters meet their fullest potential.
In business and/or in life, share a struggle you overcame that other women can relate to.
Remember, it is okay and also necessary to “take up space.” When I was first starting out as a young coach, I was constantly nervous about finding my space on the ice, both physically and metaphorically. Being the only female hockey coach on staff made me feel a little intimidated at first because I thought I had so much to prove to the other seasoned coaches.
However, I knew my strong work ethic and passion for working with children would be reflected in my daily skates, and this is what helped me gain the respect I strived to attain from my co-coaches. I just continued to take up space year after year, and eventually, those feelings of unworthiness turned into confidence and poise. Now the guys joke with me on the ice, and they make sure to never get in my space for fear I’ll rip a slap shot at their shins!
What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
The most rewarding aspect of what I do is watching a child’s love for the game grow week after week. A coach’s primary focus should always be on fostering a fun environment while helping an athlete grow stronger. And hockey is a gratifying sport because skaters quickly see how their hard work pays off in the end. I have had the privilege of watching many families grow up and skate at Glacier Ice Arena, and it’s always rewarding when skaters give me a wave from the ice or chat with me about their current team’s successes. I always ask them, “Are you having fun?” And if they say, “YES!” I know I have done my job.
How do you SHOW UP?
I SHOW UP by acting as a strong advocate for all of my hockey players and their families. I provide opportunities for players to grow stronger on and off the ice through extra practices and clinics. I encourage them from the stands by going to their away games and noting how they have improved or how they can adjust their skills to get better. I connect hourly with everyone in our community by sharing online resources through social media and advising skaters on best practices through emails and text messages. And lastly, I tutor some of our older skaters who need a little extra help balancing their school life and hockey careers.
If you could give one piece of advice for women who are entering the workforce or launching their own business, what would that be?
“You’re busy doubting yourself while so many people are intimidated by your potential.”
You have to always believe in yourself and your capabilities. You wouldn’t be working in your current profession if you weren’t knowledgeable, capable, and valuable. Give yourself more credit because the passion you exude now will guarantee your success later down the road.
Contact Charice Paoli