21 October, 2012

Kati Vaughn

When I was seven years old, my mom signed me up for my first skating lessons at Reston Ice Arena in Reston, Virginia. Like many other female hockey players, my skating career actually began in white skates with toe-picks! For almost two years, I took figure skating lessons, went to summer skating camp, and endured teasing from my hockey-playing older brother. By the end of those two years, I decided to show him up – one day at free skate, I asked my dad if I could rent hockey skates. After all, how different could it be? Of course, my overconfidence got the best of me, as my first turn around the rink ended with me flat on my back with a nasty bump on my head. I was nearly positive I was never going to wear the black skates again. However, my stubbornness won– there was no way I was going to let my brother beat me at anything. The next weekend, my dad took me to get my first set of gear (including bright red gloves). I remember being so excited for my first hockey practice that I would play dress-up with my hockey stuff, just strutting around the house in full gear.

I played with the boys for most of my early career. I first skated with the Reston Raiders, a fairly new team out of Northern Virginia. A few years later, I joined the Washington Little Capitals (now the Washington Pride). When the Little Caps put together the first U-12 girls’ team in the area, I jumped at the chance to skate with other girls my age. Although the competition among female teams in the Mid-Atlantica region was not exactly strong, I was so proud just to be a part of the program. As a first year team, we were automatically invited to the U-12 Girls National tournament in Anaheim, CA. Although we took a serious beating out there, it was my first taste at national competition – and I loved it.

Soon after, my family moved to Connecticut, where I was able to challenge my own development as a player by playing on a boys’ team while also staying connected to the girls’ game through my participation with the Connecticut Polar Bears (with several other of the players on this website, as a matter of fact!). Unfortunately, girls’ teams were still not at the same level as the boys’ teams; if I wanted to play at a higher level, so that I could eventually play in college or international competition, I had to stick with the boys for as long as I physically could. But by the time I reached high school age, it was clear that I was going to need to make the switch. Fortunately, there were many high quality prep school teams in the area (with very good financial aid programs J ) and I was recruited to play and attend Choate Rosemary Hall. Today, I can confidently say that prep school – and specifically, Choate – was the best decision I could’ve made for my development not only as a hockey player but also as a student.

Thanks to four years of high quality hockey and academics at Choate, I was recruited by many of the top D1 women’s hockey programs during my senior year. I took several official visits to schools around the country, but was ultimately drawn to Harvard University. I knew that it was a top-notch hockey program, but more importantly, I knew that it would help me achieve my academic and career goals. I loved my four years at Harvard – we won several Beanpot and league championships, and made appearances at three NCAA championships and one Frozen Four tournament. I made lifelong friends, and had some pretty incredible experiences on and off the ice.

I am currently teaching pre-kindergarten in Inglewood, CA, as part of Teach For America (TFA). TFA places outstanding college graduates in low-income and underperforming schools around the country in order to work to close the enormous achievement gap that exists in our country. I am also working towards my Master’s in Early Childhood Education, in order to pursue a career in education policy and advocacy. I am very proud of the work that I do, and am grateful for the outstanding academic, team, and leadership experiences that I had at both Choate and Harvard. For me, hockey was more than just a game or extracurricular activity; it helped shape who I am and what I do today. Because of my full-time work and school commitments, I have not had the opportunity to coach or play hockey out here in Los Angeles, but I’m looking forward to getting back on the ice someday soon!

Burton Haynes says:
26 July, 2012 at 14:05 PM
very nice post,I value your determination with your sport.I am a boxer and believe me I have had a few hard knocks even knocked out a couple of times,But I always get up ,brush it off and continue my goals.Love ur dedication girl.keep it up!

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