Danecdotes: Sheley takes over as Lightning's head coach
After nearly five years of working at Breezy Point Ice Arena, Breanna Sheley will serve as head coach of the Northern Lakes Lightning girls hockey team when its season begins this winter.
Sheley will take over for outgoing coach John Stockler, who resigned from the position at the end of the school year.
The Plymouth native started playing hockey as a third-grader, saying she fell in love with the sport and has never looked back.
"I love being able to skate really fast," Sheley said. "I think that is what stood out the most ... I love how it can be aggressive, but there is a lot of skill involved - stickhandling, shooting and all of that. When you put it all together, it is just a pretty neat sport."
She spent her playing career as a forward for Wayzata - winning two state titles with her youth team - before playing at St. Olaf College in Northfield.
After graduating, she returned to Plymouth and coached Wayzata youth teams with some of her former coaches, including her father, for two years before moving to the lakes area.
"I thought I would be done coaching after I moved from Wayzata, but when the hockey community found out that there is a young, knowledgeable hockey person in the area, they reached out right away," Sheley said.
Sheley lives in Backus with her husband, Tucker, who is an assistant coach for the Pine River-Backus girls basketball team.
She started her career with Northern Lakes as an assistant coach with the U10 team. One year later, she got her first experience as head coach with the U12 team.
Last winter, she joined the high school team's coaching staff as an assistant coach, but she is excited to take the reins after the team's best season in history.
"I feel like I am going to put a lot of pressure on myself," Sheley said. "There are a lot of things I will expect of myself, just because I have had so many good coaches in the past. I feel like I have a lot to live up to and a lot I want to make sure I do for my players."
Sheley plans to use a teaching-oriented coaching style, and hopes she can encourage her athletes to step out of their comfort zone on the ice.
"I really want the girls to know that they are allowed to take risks," Sheley said. "I have never been one to discipline or be harsh toward someone out there trying something new, as long as they are doing it with the right intentions and with 100 percent effort.
"I am very encouraging and enthusiastic. I like to yell - I'm like my dad in that way - but not scary, just more motivating."
Many varsity level Lightning athletes have had Sheley as a youth coach - as well as an assistant high school coach last season - so she feels immediately familiar with the athletes she will be coaching.
"The girls' attitude is really great," Sheley said. "They come to practice ready to work and ready to improve. I am absolutely confident that we will have a good season. We will get better, but it is always tough ... We have to show up every practice and commit to getting better every time we step on the ice in order to have a season like we had last year."
On the heels of the team's best season to date, Sheley hopes to see a continued improvement in her young team as the season progresses, especially once the postseason rolls around.
"Obviously we want to make the state tournament," she said. "We have never made it as a program so that is something to keep our sights on this year. I think what I want to see most from these girls is a development of confidence ... to take risks and learn from their mistakes."
Ultimately, though, she hopes - with her guidance - hockey will instill life lessons in her athletes that they can use on and off the ice.
"I want to see hockey serve these girls as they go on in life," Sheley said. "Not all will play hockey in college - and that is totally fine - but I do want to see them use what they learn through the sport to try new things in the future. This is maybe their first exposure to those life lessons they will definitely encounter later in life.
"I'm just looking forward to a good season. I think it will be a lot of fun."