According to Black Enterprise, 25-year-old Kelsey Koelzer has made history by becoming the first Black head hockey coach from Arcadia University, in the National Collegiate Athletic Association division’s 115-year history.
Kelsey Koelzer, Pennsylvania has been playing hockey since she was 4 years old. Initially, she played in the boys’ team, until she was a teenager. She was a student-athlete at Princeton University and played hockey and become the first-ever All-American on the team.
In 2016, she became another black first, when she became the number one draft pick for the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL). She said in an interview, “Initially, my mom did not want to let me play hockey because it was not something that girls did back in 1998/99.
As you’re growing through the sport it becomes even more apparent how rare it was for girls to play hockey.”
Being a black woman, she has to face both ra-cial and gender discrimination in this male and white-dominated sport. She said that there are only 43 players of color in NHL out of a total of 700 players. She said, “The first obstacle I ever faced in hockey was being the girl as opposed to being the Black player. That’s something I faced right off the bat, whether it was parents, players, or coaches. I did at times, feel the kind of targeting that a lot of girls feel on the ice.”
Kelsey Koelzer started playing hockey for Princeton University and got the No.1 pick in the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL). She is considered as one of the few Black women hockey players in a white male-dominated sport. She played three seasons and constantly felt underrepresented.
She said, “I’ve been sh-outing that from the rooftops from the time I entered college. Because one, hockey was not a huge sport for girls, and two, especially not minorities, so to speak. Tackling the female in a male sport, you kind of have to get that under control first in order to make it more accessible to Blacks, whites, Asians, any ethnicity, any race,”. But now she has gained an official leadership position with Arcadia University and is now taking the lead role of a head hockey coach.
She admitted, “It’s gonna be weird for me. For 20 plus years, I have been on the other side of it, so being behind the bench is just gonna be a completely new experience that I’ll get to live through like I’m playing the sport for the first time again.”
She now wants to inspire the upcoming new generation of Black women hockey players and train them, being a head coach and advisor to the commissioner on diversity, equity, and inclusion for the NWHL. She hopes that more women would understand that nothing is impossible and they can do whatever they like and she would help them to plan things out to reach their goal. She hopes more women would follow her path and run through the door opened by her.
She said, “If you have the love for the game, the skill, put in the hard work, then you belong there and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I do sit there and recognize that I am the first in some senses, but I think it’s exciting to know that I won’t be the last.”