Carla MacLeod’s love for hockey began at the age of two and eventually grew into a national career and two Olympic medals. However, MacLeod says she finds more fulfillment in her retirement as a coach at Edge School for Athletes in southwest Calgary.
“It’s one thing to be able to do it as an athlete, but as a coach, you’re forced to think about it from a different angle, learn how to break it down to then build it back up,” she explained.
MacLeod grew up in Spruce Grove, Alta. where she lived in a cul-de-sac surrounded by kids — the perfect setting for a future hockey player.
“I’ve got a little bit of a classic Canadian story,” said MacLeod. “All the dads of the cul-de-sac built a rink in the back and I remember racing home from school, whipping my skates on and always being out there.”
Her journey to play hockey professionally was greatly impacted by her opportunity to play in the National Collegiate Athletic Association at the University of Wisconsin, where she received the majority of her formative training.
“The partnership between school and athletics ended up being unbelievable and my time down there was probably my favourite time of my career,” she said.
As a young female athlete working toward a professional hockey career, MacLeod was training long hours with high-end players much stronger than her, which taught her perseverance.
“As a young player with aspirations of one day being those players, to train with them day in and day out and practice with them gave me a front-row seat to what it takes to get to that level,” MacLeod explained.
MacLeod trained at a high intensity, which led to her national career. This is often viewed as a high-pressure opportunity, but she describes it as being a source of great pride.
“The 2010 Olympic season is a good example of that pressure,” she explained. “Because an American player was trying to get in our heads before the gold medal game, saying we had all the pressure in the world to win on home soil.”
MacLeod admits that representing Canada can be nerve-wracking, but once she made the team, she never saw it as pressure.
“I responded, ‘No, we’ve got the best fans in the world that will help us win!’”
MacLeod is thankful to be surrounded by a strong support system, largely consisting of her parents and sister. Her sister, Erin MacLeod, describes herself as being close to her sister and is proud of how much she has accomplished.
“She, even to this day, will talk about the sacrifices and personal choices that she made at that time, so that she could get to that goal,” said Erin. “Not to say she didn’t enjoy it, obviously she did, you go to the Olympics it’s amazing, but she definitely made sacrifices.”
As a two-time Olympic gold medalist, MacLeod continues to spread her knowledge of the sport through coaching.
“The entity is the same,” said MacLeod. “I think the challenge as a coach is trying to make sure the game makes sense, which is why I think my playing days have helped shape me as a coach.”
Four seasons ago, MacLeod recruited Bree Kennedy to join her team at Edge School for Athletes. Kennedy is one of MacLeod’s most dedicated and competitive players and has been exceptionally successful in her career to date; winning the Canada Games last year has been one of her greatest achievements.
“Carla [MacLeod] is a very passionate person. She loves the game. She loves everyone that she works with and genuinely cares about her players, and I think that’s very hard to find in coaches,” Kennedy said. “So that’s awesome, and she has taught me a lot in life as well, not just hockey.”
Not only do MacLeod’s players notice her passionate behavior towards them and the sport, MacLeod’s sister Erin also notices her ongoing involvement in the hockey realm, even as a non-player.
“Coaching puts her in a happier place,” Erin explained. “She loves nothing more than building relationships with her players, on the rink but also outside the rink, she is a support system for those girls.”
Using the strategies she learned from her coaches and experiences, MacLeod attempts to cultivate a culture through her coaching; making sure that all players feel valued and play to their strengths.
“When I think about why I coach, I think about the fact that I actually enjoy coaching more than playing, and I love playing, but I love the idea that I can help someone realize their own potential,” MacLeod explained.
MacLeod plans to help young players reach that potential for years to come.
- By Jasmine Krawchuk