Julie Chu is the Captain of Team USA for 2012 World Championship. Here is her answers to an email in March 2011.
EE: You are coaching at Union College in New York State?
JC: Yes, I started in June, 2010 and it's been a blast.
EE: You were assistant coach at University of Minnesota Duluth, is coaching a career you might want after hockey?
JC: Right now, that is my plan. I love hockey and I want to be a part of it in whatever capacity I can. I've only coached at the college level for 2 years, but so far, I've enjoyed coaching a great deal. There are only a few days a year that I feel I am actually working. Otherwise, I love what I do and I'm eager and excited to go to the rink each day to work with my team and the other coaches.
EE: You are also playing for a Cdn team in Montreal in the CWHL. How are you managing playing and coaching?
JC: It's always a challenge to balance both. During the college season, coaching is really a 7 day a week job. Right now, I have commitments at the rink with Union Monday-Saturday, then after our Union game on Saturday, I will drive up to where ever my Montreal team is playing. So I either drive 3 hours to Boston, 3.5 hours to Montreal, or 5.5 hours up to Toronto. Some nights if Union is playing an away weekend, then I don't get to my Montreal team's game location until 1-2am Sunday morning. Those are tough nights and early mornings, but it's what I have right now, so that I can balance both a full time job and training full time. And in the end, I get to play a game on Sunday so I can handle a little less sleep for that.
I do realize that in order to balance both, I have to rely on many great people in my life. My teammates for Montreal are awesome and so supportive. I really only come in for Sunday games, and yet, they are so encouraging and always welcoming me when I join the team. Claudia Asano and Ali Boe are the coaches I work with at Union and they are incredible. They both take on extra work in order for me to be able to travel and play with Montreal and the national team. Without their support and willingness to fill in while I am gone, I would never be able to balance both. In addition, my team at Union is amazing. They are my training partners during the week and push me to be better every day. I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by so many incredible people each day that make me a better person and player.
EE: Why did you chose to play for Montreal team in CWHL?
JC: I have many close friends on the Montreal team, so it was an easy choice. I have also spent a few summers now training up in Montreal. They have a great team with many talented players, but they also have a great team dynamic which is fun to be a part of.
EE: It sounds like it is tough to combine work and your hockey playing life. Is finding a good team and league to play, still a problem for players like you?
JC: It definitely is always a challenge to find the right place to train and play as well as be able to finanical support myself. However, with the launching of the CWHL, the league has become very competitive and it's great to see the direction we are headed. Already games are very competitive and the level of hockey has risen. We still have many strides to take to make it even better, but so far, the kick-off has been positive and we will continue to work to making it great.
EE: What has been it like playing with Cdn players when your national team and Canada are such intense competition?
JC: I love it. We may be rivals when we play for our national teams, but at the heart of it all, I truly believe that we have the same goal of growing women's hockey and making it the best that it can be. In order to do so, we have to be able to have enough understanding that we must work together in order to achieve a greater outlook for women's hockey in the future. In addition, I played with Jennifer Botterill and Sarah Vaillancourt in college at Harvard and we got along really well. So for me, I'll compete hard against whoever is my opponent that day, but when the game is over, then we are just people working towards the same goal.
EE: Are you picking up any Cdn secrets you can use later? I am joking here of course.
JC: ha ha hah yes so many... but I'll have to reveal those at the perfect time...
EE: What is your plan for Sochi 1014? Are you keen to play in the next Olympics having been in 3 already?
JC: Right now, I'm training hard and with the dream and goal of making the 2014 Olympic team. I'm grateful that I have been able to go to 3 Olympics already and cherish those experiences. But right now, I'm refocusing my energy and attention on 2014 knowing that I will need to work hard and commit myself fully if I will have a chance of making that team. So yes, I have my eyes and heart set on 2014 and will take it year by year in regards to have I am progressing towards that dream.
EE: Was the silver medal a big disappointment for you in 2010 Olympics?
JC: For all of us on my team, we are great competitors and we went into the Olympics with the goals to win all of our games and coming away a gold medal. We set our hearts and eyes on winning because we committed ourselves to being the best that we could be. When we lost in the finals, there was a disappointment for sure in that we came up short of our dream and our goal that day. That as competitors our biggest rivals out played us and we lost. This might not make much sense but that day, the disappointment wasn't in getting a silver medal but in losing that game and coming up short of our goals. As for the silver medal itself, if anyone saw us a couple hours after the championship game when we got a chance to share them with our family and friends, then there would be no doubt as to how proud we were to have earned them and what an honor it is to be an Olympian, let alone win a silver medal.
EE: Every player responds differently to these events. Have you made any changes in your training or hockey life?
JC: I think we always have to make changes to our training and life in general. At the end of each year, I hope that I am better than I was the year before. And in order to do so, I have to have a willingness to change and to adjust as I move along in my training and preparations. Yes, we will all find things that will help us prepare and get us ready to perform. But ultimately, there are always new ideas and information that we are exposed to that will make us better in the long run. So as time passes for me, it's a matter of balancing what I know works for me with the new developments in training that will help me get to the next level.
In more recent years, I have also learned to listen to my body more. There is a tendency in sports to believe that more is better and working through pain is heroic and admirable. And yes, I'm always for an amazing story of triumph through adversity. But I also believe that sometimes less is more and finding the balance between pushing myself beyond my limits and taking a day off is critical. Rest and recovery are just as important as getting in many hard workouts in a week. If my body isn't rested and ready to train properly, then there are greater chances of me getting injured or just not getting as much out of a workout than if I were rested.
EE: Any injuries that have come up or are you healthy?
JC: I'm feeling good these days. (knock on wood)
EE: It is both an exciting and challenging time for the international game. How do you think North America can help its international counterparts?
JC: Right now, I think we all know that there is a great need for us to grow the sport abroad and that we need to take an active role in that growth. One way we can help is to bring the other national teams over to train in North America at times, so that can be exposed to our training facilities and have some of the resources that we benefit from. In addition, development of players abroad is key. In some countries, the number of female hockey players is very low, so it makes sense that their national team may not be as strong because they have a smaller pool of players from which to choose. So helping countries at the grass roots level get girls involved and interested in hockey will be a big step for future generations. The grass roots levels will take time to show some returns, so in addition to those efforts, there needs to be development of the current players. Some of this development can be helped along through funding, coaching, and providing resources to perform. The bottom line is that we all need to get on the same page and find a way to work together and help the countries abroad close the gap with the North Americans. Sweden and Finland have shown that they are competitive especially when given the same resources, so finding a way to provide more resources and opportunities to train and to improve will be key in the years to come.
EE: Lastly most players think a pro league for wms hockey is a good idea…
JC: Yes I think it's a great idea. Hockey is a great sport and women's hockey is really taking off, especially after it was in the 1998 Olympics. Now, when you go to rinks, it is not uncommon to see a girls running around and playing hockey. We want to give these girls even more to dream of and work towards than just the Olympic Games. A professional women's league can be successful. I believe it would have to start out with a handful of teams at first to make sure the product is a highly competitive and talent filled league, and then with time, the league could branch out further.
EE: Is association with NHL the best route?
JC: Right now, the NHL would be a great asset for us to team up with. They already have the hockey fan base, and so, being able to draw from that base would be great and helpful in launching and developing our league. In addition, the NHL would also be able to help guide our league in regards to different challenges that they faced and we may as well in our league.
EE: Do you think it will happen in the next couple years?
JC: I sure hope so. Realistically, it's a matter of getting people on board who are visionaries and believe that women's hockey is a great product and has the ability to be successful. I think there is a great product and that when fans are exposed to women's hockey in person; they are amazed by the high level and intensity of play.