GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For nearly 50 years, the Grand Rapids Amateur Hockey Association has been igniting the love of hockey in kids across West Michigan.
Now, for the first time, it has named a director of girls hockey.
“Just being able to think about this position when I was a little girl, it was like a couple of us who were playing with all boys,” said Taelynn Otte, who goes by Tae, the newly named girls hockey program director at GRAHA.
For Otte, hockey is more than just a game.
“I love the confidence and the competitive drive it gives these girls,” said Otte.
Otte grew up playing hockey for the organization but had to play with the boys through high school.
Times are changing.
Just a couple of weeks ago, two GRAHA all-girls 19 and under teams brought home state titles.
“We actually went into overtime in our big game,” player Meg Simon said.
“It only took Jaida about 2 minutes before she popped one in. She got the game winner, and it was just like a blur after that. It was so awesome,” Sylvia Kuitula said about her teammate Jaida Coller.
It’s that kind of passion that the GRAHA wants to nurture by appointing a director of girls hockey.
“We all decided it was the right time because many of our teams are expanding and we’re offering more and more girls, we’re getting more numbers,” said Jean Laxton, general manager of GRAHA.
Otte, who was already a coach with GRAHA, will now also focus on expanding girls hockey, attracting more players and coaching development.
“With people like Tae who’s putting herself out there and trying to have more girls come to our team and more girls come to our organization and I think you just see so many more girls wanting that opportunity and wanting to skate with the bigger girls,” said Simon.
“You have people from everywhere and then the confidence they bring. And they get to go to school and are like, ‘Yeah, I play hockey.’ You know, that’s pretty cool,” said Otte.
There are currently more than 100 girls in the GRAHA program, with a lot of promise for more to follow.
“It’s a game but it’s so much bigger than a game,” said Otte.