Charice Paoli of ‘Glacier Ice Arena’: “Always believe in yourself”

“You’re busy doubting yourself while so many people are intimidated by your potential.” Always believe in yourself. You wouldn’t still working in your current profession if you weren’t knowledgeable, capable, and valuable. Give yourself more credit. As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure […]

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“You’re busy doubting yourself while so many people are intimidated by your potential.”

Always believe in yourself. You wouldn’t still working in your current profession if you weren’t knowledgeable, capable, and valuable. Give yourself more credit.

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Charice Paoli.

Charice Paoli is the lead supervisor and head coach of the Little Blackhawks program and all introduction to hockey initiatives at Glacier Ice Arena. With degrees in education and computer science, she has served as a classroom teacher for nine years while simultaneously balancing her coaching duties at various ice arenas across Illinois. Charice is now committed to Glacier, a rink partner of the Chicago Blackhawks, where she passionately develops the athletic pursuits of all skaters.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Growing up, I was fortunate to have some wonderful teachers and coaches who had positive influences on my life. Consequently, they inspired me to pursue undergraduate degrees in elementary and secondary education. Becoming a classroom teacher was a very rewarding and adventurous journey because I was given opportunities to teach a variety of grade levels and subjects. Most notably, after I completed my graduate degree in computer science, I enjoyed teaching basic coding skills and creating various STEM projects to elementary school students in the final years of my formal teaching profession.

As soon as school ended, I would enthusiastically head to one of the local rinks to begin a few hours of coaching each night. Coaching felt like a classroom on the ice. And being able to make a career out of hockey and supporting children/teens is a dream come true. Over the years, I was presented with many new and exciting opportunities to grow the game and enhance the overall hockey experience through Glacier Ice Arena. And now Glacier is considered my second home; I stay busy by teaching all-new hockey players how to skate, running camps and clinics on a weekly basis, connecting with our community through social media, and overseeing everything related to technology at the rink.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Ice hockey has notoriously been known as a very physical and difficult sport. Males have dominated the game, and I was often the only girl playing on all-boys’ teams. Being the only girl on these teams taught me the importance of self-reliance, hustling on and off the ice, and how to make the best of any situation regardless of the cards you hold in your hand.

Now that I am an adult, I have been serving as the only female ice hockey coach on staff at our facility for the past 10 years. I take great pride in being viewed as a role model to the girls and boys in the house and travel leagues that play at Glacier. It’s very special when parents tell me, “The girls certainly look up to you here. But it’s equally important that my son sees you on that ice as a strong and knowledgeable coach when he has typically had male coaches his entire life.” That kind of positive encouragement makes it all worth it!

Furthermore, I have been presented with some phenomenal opportunities to skate with and run clinics with professional players and coaches. Our facility is very well-known and attracts elite names. For example, NHL legend Jeremy Roenick considers us his home base for his yearly hockey school summer camp. To share the ice with Patrick Kane, Connor Murphy, Brandon Bollig, JT Compher, Ben Eager, Libor Ustrnul, Besa Tsintsadze, Daniel Carcillo, Chris Chelios, Pavel Barber, and Vinnie Hinostroza is mind-blowing and incredibly extraordinary. I have even spent time with Patrick Sharp on our state-of-the-art synthetic treadmill, which is a very popular training tool we use our facility. The fact that these elite coaches and athletes have always been welcoming and respectful to me is undoubtedly gratifying and “disruptive.”

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I was first starting out as a coach, I was training athletes in weekly camps, team practices, and one-on-one lessons for three to four hours per day. And this was after I just worked an eight-hour school day. The joy and thrill of being on the ice that long meant that I would often neglect how to properly take care of my body. Primarily, I was doing a poor job at stretching and resting when necessary; and as a result, you would often find me taking a big spill or slamming into the boards after losing an edge because my body was so tight or worn down. When you’re skating with 50+ children on the ice and their parents are also watching you in the stands, falling in front of them is quite embarrassing to say the least.

Often times, a hockey player (big or small) will tell me, “Coach, the ice is so slippery today!” So, we have a running joke around the rink that when a coach or player falls, we comment on how slippery the ice feels on that particular day. This is also a great metaphor for how we react to the things in our personal life: you fall, you get back up. In fact, the “Get Up” campaign reinforces this idea by emphasizing that, “Ice is slippery, and so is life. But it is how we get up that matters.” Young athletes need to fall/fail so they can learn to pick themselves back up and forge ahead to their ultimate goal.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I am truly blessed with work amazing staff members and coaches. One of the first coaches that took me under his wing was Libor Ustrnul. He was an NHL draft pick for the Thrashers and also played for the Chicago Wolves. I learned so much about how to create engaging and differentiated drills through Libor. Also, GM Eric Schneider has been very positive and supportive in everything I do. He taught me the importance of “staying on an edge.” Skating is done on inside and outside edges; the deeper the edge then the better you perform. He encourages us to create programs that are on the edge and highly specialized in order to meet the needs of all skaters.

In addition, Jeremy Roenick has also made a significant impact on my life. By working with the “Jeremy Roenick Hockey School,” I discovered the true power of teamwork when overseeing a camp of 150 skaters. JR humbly pours his entire soul into helping ever single skater get better. Through his grace and hard work, JR has shown me that hockey is a very close-knit family where everyone takes care of each other and encourages each other to put their best skate forward.

Lastly, I am very grateful to my mother and father for the ways in which they always encouraged and supported me throughout my personal and professional journeys. I would not be where I currently am at right now if they didn’t drive me to 5:00 a.m. practices and late-night games on a daily basis.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

As I mentioned earlier, ice hockey is known a male-dominated sport. I thoroughly enjoyed playing on all boys’ teams from the time I was in first grade through eighth grade. The boys were like brothers to me, and I never felt out of place or different for being the only girl. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized other females haven’t always been welcomed warmly when sharing the ice with men. Every person’s experience is different, and I consider myself lucky that I was treated with respect and fairness.

I wouldn’t ever consider “disrupting an industry” as being a negative thing because creating awareness and fighting for change is necessary when it comes to defending equal rights for all people. I certainly admire and applaud women who have disrupted systems and structures in order to gain awareness and demand change for equality. I have been following the U.S. women’s national soccer and ice hockey teams very closely on their quests to receive equal pay. Gender should make zero difference when it comes to determining one’s salary. These female athletes are fighting so hard to win gold for their country; why should they have to fight to receive the same salaries as their male counterparts?

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

1. “Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy.”

This quote singlehandedly gave me the confidence to resign from my position as a formal classroom teacher and thrive as an ice hockey director.

2. “You’re busy doubting yourself while so many people are intimidated by your potential.”

Always believe in yourself. You wouldn’t still working in your current profession if you weren’t knowledgeable, capable, and valuable. Give yourself more credit.

3. Coach Jeremy from “How To Hockey” said, “I don’t coach with dreams of one player making the NHL. I coach with dreams of every player falling in love with the game, learning about self-improvement, confidence, respect, teamwork, adversity, dedication, and having a blast doing it.”

I could not have said it any better! When you coach, your primary focus should be about developing one’s love for the game and to always, ALWAYS, have fun while doing it.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

By working closely with True Hockey, I am most excited about growing the women’s game at the collegiate and professional level. True is currently the most innovative hockey enterprise in the world that seeks to foster the growth of players at every single level. Hockey is known as an expensive sport, and True does the best job at providing equipment to a myriad of communities and coaches who are passionate about growing the sport.

Part of my current responsibilities includes connecting our community closely and helping families thrive as they reach various levels in their hockey journeys. I value the responsibility of being an ambassador to the sport and doing everything I can to help skaters meet their fullest potential. I recently partnered with Women’s College Hockey Recruiting where I still apply my teaching degrees by providing SAT and ACT prep to women who seek to play at higher levels.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

It’s usually seeing women strive and work very hard for years to reach a certain level of achievement that male counterparts reach in a significantly less amount of time. We see it all of the time — but so what? Are we meant to constantly compare our lives to other people? No, because making a difference in the life of someone else is much more important than money and accolades. When you keep grinding and remember to put people first, the rewards will find you seamlessly down the road.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

USA Hockey Magazine columnist and television news anchor Christie Casciano Burns has always provided some profound insights and essential advice for parents and players of the game. Something that resonates deeply with me is how she often highlights the importance of “giving back to the community.” Young athletes should try to donate their time and efforts to greater causes because it puts life into perspective. As Casciano Burns states, “Simple acts of kindness are important character-building experiences.”

Pre-Covid, our Ice Dogs Hockey Association would volunteer countless hours at Feed My Starving Children in Libertyville, IL every year. The time and care that was spent into packaging food is a hallmark of how dedicated hockey players can be on and off the ice. The IDHA was even recognized by CCM for their “above and beyond assists” to the community by rewarding all players with brand new hockey sticks for the upcoming season. One of the boys on the team didn’t even want to use his stick on the ice! He had it framed in his room because it represented the hard work he put into taking care of other people.

Casciano Burns said it best: “The on-ice skills developed during our children’s playing days will only take them so far. But the life lessons they learn and the character instilled will last a lifetime.”

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would really love to inspire ESPN or NBC to broadcast professional women’s games. I want the women’s leagues to gain the same recognition as the NHL. It’s possible if we could get these ladies more screen time. In fact, I would argue that the women’s game is more fun to watch because it’s all about finesse and speed. And it’s even more fun to watch how physical women can get despite not being able to actually check each other into the boards. The NHL Network replays old games quite often. I think it’s about time we play some new women’s pro games!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your bliss.” It’s simple — find what you love and make a career out of it. Whatever sets your soul on fire will take you places far greater than you ever could have imagined. I knew I always loved hockey when I was young. But once I reached high school it was a full-blown obsession. Eat, sleep, and breathe hockey. Lake Forest Academy, my alma mater, has an ice rink on campus. And I would get into a habit of counting the hours of when I would be on the ice next as I sat in the middle of English or Chemistry. I would even catch myself doing that in the middle of my teaching lessons!

So eventually, it just became a perfect fit to dedicate all of my time and energy into Glacier and growing the game. I followed my bliss, and I could not be happier.

How can our readers follow you online?

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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