Apr 2, 2014
Taft School Girls' Hockey Rebuilds, With Olympic Gold Medalist Coach
Walter Kidd/Passport magazine
Gretchen Silverman working with the girls' hockey team at The Taft School in Watertown.
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Silverman doesn’t need to drag her impressive credentials with her to get her young women to pay attention. She exudes leadership and there certainly is no need to wear the gold medal she won at the 1998 Winter Olympics at Nagano, Japan, as a member of the U.S. Women’s hockey team around her neck to prove the point. Silverman has a deep knowledge of the game and was bent on beginning to turn around the Taft girls' program in her first year as head coach of the Big Red this past winter.
“We were in a building year,” says Silverman, who is also active with the Watertown Youth Hockey Program as well, coaching its Peewee A team. “We currently have 15 girls on the varsity roster, including two goalies, so we are slim and trim. Despite our small numbers, we were in just about every game.”
Silverman graduated from Loomis Chaffee and Dartmouth College. She was a member of the U.S. gold medal-winning team with Taft alumna A.J. Mleczko. At Dartmouth, she was a standout hockey player and remains the program’s all-time leading scorer with 189 goals and 312 points.
She was named Ivy League Rookie of the year as a freshman, was a two-time Ivy League Player of the Year, and captained the Dartmouth Big Green during the 1993-94 season. She played on several U.S. Women’s National teams before earning a spot on the 1998 Olympic team.
As a member of the Olympic team, Silverman contributed a team-leading eight points with three goals and five assists and had a dream come true when she scored the first goal of the U.S. gold-medal game against Canada—the first goal ever in a women’s Olympic ice hockey gold-medal game.
After graduating from Dartmouth, she began her independent school teaching and coaching career at Pingree School in South Hamilton, Mass., where she taught history and algebra and coached girls varsity soccer, hockey, and lacrosse. In her first year of coaching soccer at Pingree, she was honored as the Eastern Independent League Coach of the Year. During her final year at Pingree and for four years following, she founded and directed Northshore Hockey School for Girls. During this time she also earned her Master’s in elementary education from Lesley College.
After marrying, she and her husband, Steve, moved to California, where she taught third grade at Madonna del Sasso in Salinas, Calif. After her move back to New England, she taught at The Summit Montessori School in Framingham, Mass., and after a move to Torrington she taught at Litchfield’s Montessori School. She also teaches algebra and conducts admission interviews at Taft.
She says, “I have high expectations for the girls and they have been working hard to implement my plan. We have focused on making quick, but smart decisions with the puck, remaining patient with our breakout and attacking the net. I emphasize a physical game within the no-check rules of girls hockey. Our girls have been taught how to gain the advantage by blocking out their opponents bodies and winning the lane to the puck.”
She continued, “We developed a great deal since the beginning of the season and I encouraged the girls to push each other in practice to make everyone better. Through working hard, we have found the fun and satisfaction in a job well-done. The girls are really enjoying the season and I am thrilled to have such hard-working athletes to coach. Something that is super important to success is the team concept and our girls exemplify what it means to be good, supportive teammates.”
It is quite clear that Silverman ascribes to the tried-and-true formula of private college preparatory education that sports should used as a teaching tool. Just as a math instructor brings out the best in his or her students, coaches are there to not only get wins for the school but to also nourish the children under their care.