NU Women's hockey shows improvement under 2nd-year coach Mark Bolding '95

Coach Bolding and women hockey playersWhen Mark Bolding '95 took over Norwich University's women's ice hockey program, he expected a challenge. What he didn't expect, however, was how much fun it would be.

"They're fun," Bolding said. "I think that's what I enjoy the most about it. I didn't realize how much they do enjoy the game and appreciate the skills that are involved. They're always enthusiastic about trying new things and learning."

Norwich Athletic Director Tony Mariano is thrilled to have Bolding at the helm. A native of Alberta, Canada, Bolding started on defense for Norwich from 1991-1995, and then assisted Mike McShane with the men's team while serving as rink manager for the newly built Kreitzberg Arena. He has just finished his second year as the women's head coach.

Team Captain Jennifer Matthewson"We are very lucky to have someone of his caliber as a coach," said Mariano. "Mark has done a terrific job with the program. The improvement that I've seen over the last two years has been tremendous in terms of what the players are doing out on the ice. I also think we're starting to attract more experienced athletes."

"He's really helped us to step up to the next level," said team captain Jennifer Matthewson '04. "He knows the drills to do; he knows our weaknesses; and he knows how to make us work on those. The amount I've learned since he took over has been amazing. I feel so much stronger as a player."

Norwich women's hockey is a club sport, with its membership open to all. As such, there tends to be a fairly wide range of skill levels extant on the team. Quite often, the more experienced players, such as senior Holly Manning of Northfield, Vt., help out the relative newcomers to the sport.

"We usually have about 15 minutes at the beginning and at the end of each practice to kind of do whatever we want," said Manning, "and that's when a lot of the inexperienced players, the first and second year players, are always asking the more experienced players Holly Manning in action'How do I do this? How do I take a slap shot?' That's where they can learn some of the finer points of the game."

Bolding concurred. "The more experienced players we have on our team have been very accommodating and patient. They've kind of taken the weaker players under their wings, and they've all progressed. They've taken pride in seeing some of the less skilled players improve."

The team posted a 5-5-1 record last season, including a heartbreaking 6-5 loss to BU after leading 5-3 going into the third period.

"The thing that we talk about is just approach it one period at a time," said Bolding. "If there's a huge disparity in skill levels between the teams, then that's a challenge, and they just have to do the best they can with what they're given and keep it simple. Regardless of what happens, I insist that they stay positive and stay disciplined. It's not what happens that day, it's how you react the next day - are you going to just lay down and take your lumps, again, or are you going to make some adjustments in the area that you can improve in?"

hockey practiceThe players have been very receptive to Bolding's coaching style.

"He's not one of those coaches who just goes and screams and yells," said Matthewson. "I can count on one hand the number of times he's raised his voice. It's been really great having him as a coach and then having Keith Maurice '02 to back him up. The two of them come up with drills that everybody can do but that everybody can learn from."

"I definitely enjoy their enthusiasm and positive attitudes," said Bolding. "In one sense they're almost like younger kids, in that they're always smiling. They're there to have fun; they're there to play; and they're there to learn."

dweggler@norwich.edu, March 2004

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