Silver salute: Coyne delivers inspiration
BY MONICA ALBERS email@example.com June 3, 2014 7:58PM
Palos Heights resident Kendall Coyne, of the 2014 USA Womens Olympic Hockey team, speaks to the students at Jerling Junior High School, Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 in Orland Park. | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 5, 2014 6:41AM
Students at Jerling Junior High School in Orland Park took a break from their studies Tuesday to receive a lesson from a young Olympian who has been working hard and dreaming big since she was in their shoes.
Kendall Coyne, of Palos Heights, a hockey player for the U.S. women’s 2014 Olympic team, visited the school’s sixth- and seventh-graders to share her experiences in the town where her unique story began.
After a presentation of photos from her experiences abroad and on the ice, Coyne shared her story, explaining her early involvement with hockey, the challenges it brought throughout her academic career, and the incredible opportunities the sport has provided her. She also opened up the floor to questions.
Coyne first was inspired at age 3, she said, by her older brother Kevin, who would become a Division III hockey player.
“Growing up, he was always better than me. He was bigger, stronger and faster,” Coyne said. “He definitely pushed me because I always wanted to be as good as he was.”
Coyne’s dreams would surpass reaching the skills she admired in her brother, however, as she became a dedicated teammate, playing for the Chicago Mission youth league in Woodridge before being invited to the U.S. National Women’s Team at age 15 while she was a student at Sandburg High School.
Coyne’s dedication helped the United States in six world championships.
Although she experienced the challenges of self-doubt after not making the 2010 Olympic team, Coyne stuck with the game, finally making it to Sochi earlier this year. Coyne left Sochi with a silver medal and the kind of motivation to return to the worldwide competition that comes with finishing in second place.
“We trained four years for that game, and losing the way we lost was really challenging,” Coyne said of a 3-2 overtime loss to Canada in the gold-medal game. “So it was a tough pill to swallow in a way, but as I’ve come home, and I’ve been with my family and my friends and especially all of you guys, everyone’s so excited and they don’t care what color it is.
“There are so many athletes that don’t come back with a medal, so you start to realize how fortunate you are to receive a medal and to just be in that position that we were in. But it definitely motivates you for the next four years to try and get that gold back.”
Her emphasis was on the importance of dedication when working to achieve goals — however big they may be — the value of teamwork, and the need for having passion for what they do.
“I want kids to know that they can achieve their dreams just like I did,” Coyne told the SouthtownStar. “I think the biggest thing is I hope that they just continue to do what they love.”
Even when others told her she would never make is this far, Coyne, who stands about as tall as many of the junior high students present, told students she didn’t let it get to her.
“You’ve got to think, ’I’ll prove you wrong,’ and move on,” she said.
Part of Coyne’s success stems from sharing her passion for hockey with the team.
“You’re on a team with 21 players, and you walk into the locker room (and) they’re all your friends; you walk out of the locker room and they’re all your friends,” she said when asked what her favorite part of hockey was. “So every day you wake up and you have friends and everyone loves to do what you love to do, so it just makes it so enjoyable. And they’re always there for you.”
As the assembly came to a close, students and faculty participated in a shootout to the cheers and chants of the sixth- and seventh-graders looking on. Students also posed for photos with the Olympian and tested for themselves the weight of the Sochi silver medal.
Sixth-grader Stephanie Toscher, of Orland Park, said she learned “to never give up on your dreams and what you want to do.”
Fellow sixth-grader and Orland Park resident Maria Bailey took away a similar message from Coyne’s story.
“I liked how she came and told people her experience. The people who play sports can really look up to her,” Toscher said. “For me, I don’t play sports, but I’m a musician. And when I go to a competition I know that I should never give up, either.”
Post-Sochi, Coyne is an intern for the Chicago Blackhawks, continues to play for the U.S. National Team and studies at Northeastern University, where she also plays college hockey. She hopes to return to the Olympic stage in 2018.