Molly was also a multi sport athlete during her youth and high school sports careers, which included track and field, and cross country. We asked about her early sports careers and she told us
“So I grew up here in Siren, it’s a small town, it’s kindergarten through twelfth grade in the same building, under the same roof. I started playing hockey outside up in Webster, it’s five miles north of here. And I then played every sport really, that I could, even the variety of stuff we did in gym class. We didn’t have the opportunity to play tennis. I played a lot of tennis with a friend of mine growing uo, but we didn’t have that as an organized sport, same with soccer. So when I was in middle school, sixth,seventh grade, I joined the cross country team. And I ran it in middle school, and then my freshman year in high school. Until I started to get a bigger frame and I was stronger. All the long distance stuff started to dwindle really quickly. And it’s interesting now, very, very, few hockey players, you know that love hockey, get involved in long distance running. And any (hockey) parent that thinks there’s maybe a future, it’s not really a compatible sport to get in to. It was fine, I’m not passionate about it. I don’t run over ten minutes now, I’d rather get on my mountain bike or road bike. It seems like a different life.:) "
But Molly also revealed "I did run track as well. But the same thing, I started out running the mile, and it quickly started to change as I got older. So I ran the mile, and I think it went from the 300 yard shuttles to the mile and the 800 meter relay (4x200) Then it went to the 300 meter shuttles, to the 100m shuttles. And I threw all four years, I threw discus all four years. I tried shot put but I wasn’t a shot putter. And then by my senior year, there was no running and only throwing:) ! We didn’t have javelin at the school, so I didn’t get to try that. I tried shot put, it’s just one of those things that the track coaches knew I could throw a baseball, and they knew I could throw a softball, that I was athletic. So I get on the track team and the throwing coach says: Hey, why don’t you try to throw this thing? That’s pretty much what it boiled down to, and I really enjoyed.it.It was fun, I liked the throwing coach, and I did try throwing the shot put, but I wasn’t that big either." In the preceding statements, Molly was being very modest, as is her nature. She was in fact a talented thrower. She was ninth in discus for Siren High in the Wisconsin State Track and Field Championships. Then transferring to prep school in Indiana she threw the discus and shot put for two years for Culver Academies,in Indiana’s State T&F Meet. In fact, Molly set Culver’s discus record, and held it for 13 yrs!
So Cetacean Nation asked, how does a hockey coach who was a multi sport athlete, view the trend towards specialization so early among young athletes? Molly replied
“To be honest, I think it’s a bit of a detriment to the athlete, the kid, and that’s the problem. It’s that is happens way, way too early. Definitely if you are going to be a professional athlete, if you are going to be a college athlete, you start to do things that are more sport specific. You start to concentrate on one sport, but even some athletes, some great athletes, play two sports in college too. But before then,in high school, and especially younger than that, when the kid is 8 or 10, it’s a detriment to their development as an athlete. I think playing other sports will help that one specific sport that you want to be really good at. Just in terms of hand-eye coordination, and developing different coordination and balance and strategies, you know, whatever it is. From the neurological standpoint to the physical standpoint, in getting your whole body to work together. That would be my comment on that. I think that isolating kids in specific sports too early is not good. And with kids it’s like learning a language, the earlier they do it, the more natural it’s going to come when they’re older. So if you get a kid, and they’re playing golf, they’re playing tennis when they’re younger, they’ll be able to do that for the rest of their life, when all the other stuff is over. If you take that away from a kid, and now all of a sudden they’re twenty, and they try to pick up a golf club, it’s going to be a lot harder. Or a tennis racket. So I think that seems another benefit of having kids do multiple activities.”
We also asked Molly, as we have with other players, at what point did she then, have that epiphany, when she realized she was something special on the ice. Molly reflected and told us
“I had a really kind of a slow progressional career, I would say in sports. I was at a try-out for a boy’s team when I was eleven, I think. It was an AAA boy’s team in Superior, Wisconsin. And I made that team, I was the only girl that made that team. And then from there, I think there was a parent in the stands who ended up telling us about the Minnesota Thoroughbreds at that time. So that was an AAA girl’s team in the cities. Even that early, when that happened, I started to play out of Siren. I started playing on the weekends with that team, with the Thoroughbreds AAA squad. I was meeting different people, and I got introduced to Minnesota hockey basically. From there I was able to try out for the US development teams, even the the U16 type of stuff where you just go to the camps and things. So I think pretty early on it was like, Ok, I can make the team, and I can play with these players. So like I said, it was progressional, slowly. I went away to prep school tp play hockey, then I went to college to play hockey. So I think it was when I started to make those teams, that were out of the Siren area. “
Molly was twice an Olympic medalist for Team USA, and a four time World Champion, She played with the pre-NWHL Minnesota Whitecaps, and had a splendid career and won a Clarkson Cup in the CWHL, and was an original member of the Whale, all as a player. She also also played and and had a mentoring role in Sweden in the SDHL, where she also won a championship. Molly explained her unique tole in Sweden.
"So I went to Sweden after the NWHL, and I played just the end of one season, from January to the playoffs. We won that year, which was really cool. And then I went back the next year for the full season. And that year the coaching part of it was, I was a player, but kind of a mentor/coach at the same time. Just in terms of kind of helping the staff with different things. I mean I was 35 at the time I think, and we had some players that were 16, 17 years old on the team. Honestly, I don’t know if you want to call it a pinnacle, but a true culmination of a career, I would say. To be able to play, I could have just as easily gone over there and coached and given back that way, and help the players develop. But to actually be able to play, and be standing on the blue line, with my D partner who was 18 years old ! Be able to tell them hey, you know, think about it this way or check this out or something like that. It was really neat. So that’s where that came in."
Molly has just finished her first year of coaching at Saint Cloud State. Cetacean Nation thought it must be pretty cool for her Saint Cloud players to learn from someone who has played at such an elite level for so long. Molly responded
"I think there’s truth to that. and it’s something I really enjoy about coaching. To be able to get in there, when we split out forwards and our D, ot just going through drills. And I can grab the D and show them something, it makes a difference I think. Because a lot of the stuff is about feel you know? So to be able to go in and show them how it feels doing it a different way, or something like that, I think it’s helpful. Making something instinctual, that’s repetition, so just kind of jumping in and showing them a different way. You know how it is in sports, with angles, you’ve got a puck and a stick and the littlest tweaks can make a huge difference and make life a lot easier. So to be able to be on the ice and show them, give little pointers here and there. But it’s hard for me to say what the kids think when they know their coach has played at a high level. When Mark Johnson (former NHL player & Olympic Gold Medalist) came in to coach us at Wisconsin, it was like: Holyeee, this guy knows what he’s doing! So yeah, I would think it would help. And the other part of that is just building the relationships with the kids, and that’s the other part of it that I love to do. It’s not at all about: this is what I did in my career, and that’s that. That’s a fact, but it’s not the whole piece of it, in fact it’s a much smaller piece, when it comes down to be able to teach and coach, and like I said, build that relationship with the kids".
Cetacean Nation was also curious as to what Molly’s coaching style was, and how that developed. She replied "I would say I have a certain style, yeah. It's the first couple of years of coaching at higher levels, so it’s been a long work I progress. In terms of you’ve played so long and you’ve had influences on you, some coaches that you’ve had, you kind of know what works for you. And what you’ve seen work and not work with other players. I think it comes down to personality too, whether you’re a big talker. Just kind of like being in the locker room, you know, how do you lead in the locker room when you’re on the team? Do you lead more by example, or are you more the motivator, the talker. So I would say my coaching sryle is in line with my overall personality. The way that I played and the way that I was in the locker room with the team."
"Mark Johnson had a huge influence on me, as a player and a person. And now as I am stepping into coaching, he was a big role model for me. And I think about him often, whether it was the way he ran practices, or the way he gave feedback. And I think that it also comes down to feel again, how did he make me feel so I could be as good as I was, or we were. I think a big part of it was being able to create an environment for kids to be able to succeed. And what does that look like? You’ve got to be in a good place mentally and physically while training and have that environment where you’re able to express yourself and be creative. I think that’s where the steps of success come in, when individuals are able to express themselves, and who they are as individuals, obviously within a system. But I think he was kind of a master at that, as far as I was concerned.”