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From Student to Teacher at USA Hockey Arena

09/14/2016, 3:45pm EDT
By Michael Caples - Special to

Jacque Lupinacci-Mooney now instructs skaters at the rink she grew up on

As part of USA Hockey's 80th Anniversary, we will shine a spotlight on the countless volunteers and instructors who spend time "Behind the Glass" to help our sport grow.

Have an idea of someone we should feature? Email Us Here

Jacque Lupinacci-Mooney grew up skating at USA Hockey Arena.

Now, she takes strides on the same sheets of ice, showing aspiring hockey players and figure skaters how to fly around the rink the same way she always has.

Lupinacci-Mooney works for one of her hometown rinks as USA Hockey Arena’s skating coordinator. She oversees all learn-to-skate and learn-to-play activities at USA Hockey’s flagship ice arena in Plymouth, Michigan, programs that have been a key part of USA Hockey’s 80-year history of growing youth hockey. She also coordinates drop-in sessions and serves as lead instructor for the rink’s instructional opportunities for new skaters.

It wasn’t the job she was planning for when she pursued a degree in education at Eastern Michigan University. In fact, she laughed when she asked whether she thought she would ever be able to combine her passion for hockey and figure skating with her passion for teaching.

“I’m not going to lie … no, I never thought of it,” Lupinacci-Mooney said. “About a year ago, I started thinking – I saw something that maybe would be kind of cool if I was maybe a little more open at the ice arena about how I would present coaching, and then slowly but surely, I started even just taking on private students that were struggling and it appeared they were struggling just because they were behind in skating, but really what was happening was that maybe they weren’t understanding exactly what was being asked of them.

“I find it really rewarding to see that all kids are capable of achieving really high levels of skating when they are taught properly.”

In her new position with USA Hockey Arena, Lupinacci-Mooney gets to take what she learned in the classroom both as a student and a teacher and apply it to helping kids learn how to skate.

“I went to college to become a teacher, basically,” she said. “I spent years teaching in the classroom, and definitely think that being formally trained to work with all the varying levels of learning and bringing that to coaching has been sort of this, it has become what is most rewarding to me, actually – being able to bridge that gap between education and coaching and bringing a coaching style that is not just age appropriate but developmentally appropriate for all learning levels. I take a lot of pride in that hopefully we’re setting the bar for coaching our youth higher, because then coaches are just going to be forced to reach a higher level of coaching. The same movement that you’re seeing in the classroom should be happening in sports.”

That movement, Lupinacci-Mooney said, is the focus of adjusting education for a student’s specific learning style. Why shouldn’t the same thing be done when they are learning how to skate?

“What’s happening in a classroom is basically differentiated instruction – it’s the idea of saying that one method of teaching doesn’t reach every single learner,” she said. “The art of teaching comes in when you can differentiate how you’re trying to teach each individual student, not looking at a group of students as a whole, rather looking at them as a group of individuals. I think as we set the bar higher in education, we’re forced to set the bar significantly higher in coaching … and I think we’re seeing that there. Additionally, you know, coaching to reach a kid’s cognitive ability, not just their physical ability, that’s an entirely different art, and if you can master that, you get better results out of your athletes.”

As both a figure skater and a hockey player growing up, Lupinacci-Mooney cherishes being in a position that directly impacts the growth of both sports. On the hockey side of things, she loves seeing all the opportunities available for girls in today’s game. As a child in metro Detroit, some years her hockey experience consisted of simply being able to practice with her brothers’ teams, and not actually getting to compete in games.

Now, she gets to teach girls the foundation for substantial youth hockey (or figure skating) careers.

“It’s extremely rewarding because, for me, too, it runs so much deeper than hockey,” she said. “It’s about providing opportunities that weren’t there even just 10, 15 years ago that are on the table now – that’s probably one of the most rewarding pieces to being in the position I’m in now is knowing that really, I started working for these things a long time ago.”

And that direct interaction with kids on the ice? Well that’s certainly her favorite part of her job with USA Hockey.

“My favorite part about my job is definitely the direct instruction, definitely getting on the ice and the hands-on approach at teaching that’s taking place,” Lupinacci-Mooney said. “It doesn’t matter what level of kid I’m working with – across the board, it’s the direct instruction.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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