By Ryan Zuke -
For most first-year college students, the burden of school work and getting acclimated to college makes life hectic enough.
But during Megan Brennan’s freshman year at Central Michigan University in 2008, she had to dedicate any available time to something she was very passionate about—starting a women’s club hockey team at the school.
“As a senior in high school, I wanted to come to CMU for the teaching program and a lot of people asked what I was going to do as far as hockey,” she said. “I told people I was going to try and start a team, but I didn’t know if it would work or how hard it would be.”
Brennan met with Jennifer Nottingham, director of programs and administration at CMU, and the team president of the men’s club team at the time.
They told her all of the tasks she would be responsible for, such as managing the team’s bank account, making transportation and hotel arrangements, and scheduling with the Mount Pleasant rink and other teams.
“The initial meeting with Jennifer was very scary,” Brennan said. “After all the things they told me I had to do, I didn’t think it was even possible.”
But through her perseverance, the team was started and is now in its fourth season.
The program did not have enough time to schedule opponents during its first year, so the team held tryouts for the first time during the second year after being approved as a club sport.
Twenty-two CMU students came to the inaugural tryout, which according to Brennan, was fantastic because she didn’t know if the team was going to get enough girls to play.
“The very first year, I printed off a bunch of fliers and left them at the rink and on campus,” Brennan said. “And I made a Facebook page to see if anyone would find it and some people did, which is why we had that many girls come out the first year.”
“We also promoted ourselves at Mainstage (an event put on by CMU student activities that allows students to connect with organizations) a lot and every year we would have girls come up to us saying they had no idea there was a team, and they were thrilled they could have an opportunity to continue playing.”
However, the program is still trying to reach high school players and show them that playing club hockey is still a viable option.
“As far as getting out to high schoolers, we haven’t been able to do a whole lot,” Brennan said. “And I know a lot of people base where they go to college on if they could play their sport there or not, so it’s pretty important.”
Nevertheless, the team has won several awards since its inaugural season.
“The first year, we won the Rising Star Award through club sports for the new upcoming team that has overcome the most challenges and made the most advancements as a team,” Brennan said.
“Our second year, we won that as well, which is pretty unusual because they typically give it to a new team each year, but we made so many positive strides from our first year to our second, that they gave it to us again.”
Last year, the program also won the club sports team of the year.
Brennan said the head coach of Michigan State’s women’s club team, Jeff Wilson, has been instrumental in helping her develop the CMU program.
“The most help I’ve gotten is from the head coach at MSU,” Brennan said. “If I had any questions, he had no problem with me emailing him. For example, I sent him an email last year after we played them because they destroy us every year and are the defending national champions, so it’s expected.
“But I sent him an email thanking him because they didn’t treat it like a game where they should have killed us; they played like they should have an executed everything well. He didn’t tell me this, but some of the girls on the team contacted me and let me know that he actually read the email during their banquet and said how much he liked our program and thought it was going in the right direction.”
Although Brennan did not play this season because she is graduating this fall, she is still involved with the team.
“It’s nice to see that every year, it continually gets bigger and we have more opportunities to play other teams,” she said.
This season, Brennan passed down the presidency to senior Hannah Deacon, who has been on the team all four years.
Deacon said learning from Brennan has been beneficial in taking over the position.
“I think it was a great opportunity for me to see what goes into everything, and I’ve been able to develop professional relationships with the other coaches and the commissioner,” Deacon said. “So it has given me great insight on the things I want to do in the future.”
For Brennan, she plans to start her career in elementary teaching and hopes to continue coaching in the future. This year, she is an assistant coach of a boys’ peewee team and works with the goalies.
As she looks back on the situation now, Brennan realized the whole startup process proved to be a valuable life lesson
“When I was a senior in high school, I thought it was crazy to even have this idea to make a hockey team, and now that I’ve done it, I’ve realized I can do a lot more than I thought I could, and can make a lot bigger of a difference than I thought I could.”