Lauren Koczenasz is an inspiration and role model for young girls everywhere

Lauren+Koczenasz+is+an+inspiration+and+role+model+for+young+girls+everywhere

Some people are natural-born athletes, and sophomore Lauren Koczenasz is “some people.”

She is a physically-gifted machine that operates on competition and winning. She is quick on her feet and is always two plays ahead of the opposing team. Throughout the years, Lauren has tried and succeeded at many sports. However, there is one that she continues to put her time and effort into: ice hockey.

Lauren has only been playing ice hockey since she was eleven, and the two are attached at the hip. Best friends. For Lauren, ice hockey is her love at first sight. 

“I started playing hockey because I saw my brother doing it,” Lauren said, “and I wanted to do it too because I thought it was super cool.”

Lauren knew that hockey was not a sport that most girls pursued, but she wouldn’t let herself pass up on the opportunity. She had always been one to take risks, and a few opinions were not going to stop her from following her instincts. 

“It feels weird playing ice hockey as a girl,” Lauren said. “I’ll hear guys talking about it, and they have a completely different perspective on the sport. It’s cool thinking about how I am one of the few girls that do it.”

Lauren plays on a U-16 team that is based out of Grand Rapids; however, she got lucky. It is not uncommon for girls from all over the state to come and play on her team. The team is a melting pot filled with gifted girls from Jenison, Kalamazoo, and Grand Haven. 

She is the only one from FHC on her team which makes it difficult for her to see her teammates outside of practice. Even though it’s a commute to see each other, they all have a passion and talent for the same sport, making the traveling to see one another just that much easier to manage. 

“We have all pretty much played with each other since we started playing, so we are all super close and like sisters,” Lauren said. “A lot of us are so close that we just hang out all the time outside of hockey.”

Lauren has found friendships that will last a lifetime with the girls on the team; additionally, she has made close relationships with the coaches. The head coach of her team played ice hockey for Michigan State, and she considers him one of her biggest role models.

“I’ve known all of the coaches since I’ve started,” Lauren said, “so my relationship with them is about the same as the girls: pretty close, and I can tell them anything.”

Last year we were in our state tournament and we were playing the number one team in the state in the semi finals and we had never beat them before,” Lauren said. “The game started and I scored like two seconds into the game, and then we went on to win the game 1-0, so we went to the state finals, and that is just a really good memory.”

Although Lauren puts her best effort into every practice and game, she sometimes has trouble balancing hockey with her other passion: soccer. At first, Lauren felt guilty and didn’t want to let her team down, but her teammates and coaches are very supportive and lenient with Lauren’s decision to pursue both sports. 

“Sometimes I have to skip practices because I will have a soccer game or scrimmage or something,” Lauren said. “I try to go to everything, but sometimes it’s just not possible.”

Last spring, Lauren’s team ended their season on an ultimate high. Every person on the team put forth their best efforts in hopes of having their best season yet. They all trained harder than ever, and it paid off. 

“Last year, we were in our state tournament, and we were playing the number one team in the state in the semi-finals, and we had never beat them before,” Lauren said. “The game started, and I scored like two seconds into the game, and then we went on to win the game 1-0. So we went to the state finals, and that is just a really good memory.”

Lauren encourages all young girls to pursue their dreams just like she has. Ice hockey has pushed Lauren to step out of her comfort zone and live up to her highest potential.

“Hockey has almost become a part of me,” Lauren said. “It has grown with me, and I don’t know what I would do without it.”