Being told you’re not good enough to make the team was hard to bounce back from Cayla Barnes told The Winchendon School’s Girl’s Varsity Hockey Team, but the 5’1″ player from California left the Olympic tryouts, packed up, and headed to Boston College to start her freshman year. And then a funny thing happened. Five games into her BC hockey schedule the phone call every Olympic hopeful dreams about became reality for Cayla.
While her new teammates were selected and playing together since April in preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympics, Cayla and two other women joined the team in November. “Essentially,” Cayla said, “I packed up my dorm room and arrived in Florida with an 8 am practice the next morning. I had no ride to the rink and no food in my apartment.” But she was there.
Growing up in California, hockey, and girls hockey at that wasn’t as prevalent as it is on the East Coast. Cayla spent those years playing elite hockey on boys teams before heading over to New Hampton School in New Hampshire. There, she learned about playing with girls and learning about failure. Neither was an easy adjustment for her. Moving from the top line at New Hampton to her new role on the Olympic team was another adjustment.
At The Winchendon School, students participate in two, two-week immersive learning opportunities a year (ColLABs). This year, students could choose to surround themselves in the study of The Psychology of Elite Athletes. tapping into the sports psychology field, the Olympic team employs a mental skills coach who works with both the team and players individually. “It really helps you, “Cayla says of the mental skills coaching “if you turn the puck over and the other team scores, the mental skills they teach you helps you to refind your focus, hit the reset button, and recover from your mistakes. It changes the game entirely.” Cayla went on to explain, at this level of the sport, it’s a business and everyone is watching for the next person coming up. The elite athletes need to find a way to work through pressure and build confidence. “If you don’t believe you can do it,” she added, “how will your teammates have the confidence that you can get the job done?”
What does the future hold for her? Right now Cayla is concentrating on getting back on the ice with her Boston College teammates and in a few years, she’d like to be back on the Olympic team.