A decade after graduating Harvard, Laura Bellamy ’13 officially returns to home ice as the Landry Family Head Coach for Harvard Women’s Ice Hockey on Friday against Union College. The Gazette spoke with Bellamy about her path from youth rink-rat in Minnesota to her College playing days and unexpected turn to coaching. This interview was edited for length and clarity.
GAZETTE: Are there lessons you learned growing up in Minnesota, on or off the rink, that informed your development as a leader?
BELLAMY: In Minnesota, there’s a lot of pond hockey, a lot of unorganized pick-up hockey games that are really at the center of hockey culture there, and people just really loving hockey. That was my experience growing up, too: playing hockey for fun because you loved it. We had organized teams, but rink-ratting, so to speak, was the most fun: just going out and meeting people of all ages, having fun in the rink. That’s probably what’s kept me so connected to hockey: a pure love of the game.
I had really good youth coaches growing up — whether it was hockey or softball, or whatever sport — and that was at the center of their coaching, making sure you were enjoying what you were doing. I think that still affects how I coach today, too. We’re going to push our players, we want to be a top team in women’s hockey, we want some of the best players in the world to be in our program. That requires a lot. But if that doesn’t also include enjoying the game, then we’re not getting the most out of our players and our program. That continues to be a big piece for me: that it’s something you love.
GAZETTE: At Harvard, who brought out the best in you during your undergraduate playing career?
BELLAMY: Josephine Pucci ’15 is the person who pushed me the most when we were in School, and she might say the same for me. Josephine was my roommate for three of the four years. We’re still close.
In hockey, we pushed each other all the time, whether it was in the weight room or on the ice. She was a phenomenal player and an Olympic silver medalist in 2014.
Off the ice, too, though our conversations — which took up hours and hours over the years — were really about everything, and a big piece of it was finding our passions. Ultimately, she went to medical school; I went into coaching. We were actually thinking the reverse when we were undergrads. We had so many conversations about what was important to us, what our values were, and really wanting to find purpose in our concentration but also in our academic endeavors — that was going to be really fulfilling for the rest of our lives.
GAZETTE: You were an extremely successful goaltender and student. Let’s say you wrote a book about that period of your life: What’s the title, and to whom are you dedicating it?
BELLAMY: I think the title of that book would be “Ask More of Yourself and You’ll Get More.” That was something we talked a lot about when we were in the program. I think that book would probably be dedicated to my class in particular — definitely my teams at Harvard, but my class was really close. What we did, and want our players to do, is push each other to get better every day in a lot of different realms, but we’re also truly supportive of each other. I think that’s the direction I would go with the book.
GAZETTE: So your foray into hockey coaching wasn’t necessarily something you expected for at least part of your time in College. How exactly did that all come about?
BELLAMY: I did all my pre-med requirements, and I was still planning on going to med school when I graduated. What I had left to do was take the MCAT, so my plan was to teach or coach here for one year, and then spend another year doing research — I would do the MCAT somewhere in there — and go to med school probably two years after graduating. I thought it was going to be for one season — and here I am 10 years later!
So that plan changed, but I loved it. I found it very fulfilling right away. I was coaching players here that I had played with, so that made for a unique dynamic, but it worked out well, and I enjoyed so many aspects of this job and trying to create a really good experience for players and athletes.
GAZETTE: You left Harvard in 2015 to continue your coaching career in your hometown of Duluth. But your return to Cambridge is also a homecoming. What are you most excited about?
BELLAMY: Harvard is such a special place for me. It was so impactful during really formative years for me, so I think what I’m most looking forward to is being involved in that for our student-athletes and offering them a really important experience in their life.
GAZETTE: You’ve worked with some really talented players throughout your career: 10 Olympians, seven All-Americans, too many All-Conference selections to count. That can’t be chalked up to luck, so what is it you’ve done to bring out the best in your players?
BELLAMY: I think having strong relationships is the most important thing to me as a coach, and it’s at the center of my coaching philosophy, which is that the hockey piece doesn’t necessarily matter if you don’t have good relationships with your players and know them as people and care about their lives outside of hockey. What I do is rooted in that. It allows the hockey piece to really come together well. I think the best coaches have strong relationships with their players, and their players feel like they care about them. That’s how I think you get the most out of people.
GAZETTE: What do you think success should look like for this program in the next couple of years in addition to winning games and enjoying the process?
BELLAMY: We ultimately want to be competing for the Ivy League championship. We have big goals as a program. For me, success also means our student-athletes going across the river and putting their best foot forward academically and beyond that, being really engaged. And that can mean a lot of different things.
Being an athlete takes up a lot of time, but there’s also a lot of room for other endeavors. As a coach, it’s important that our team is competitive on the ice, invested academically, but also making sure we’re getting out and being part of the Harvard community in other ways, which might look different for different individuals on the team. But that to me is the ultimate Harvard experience.
GAZETTE: During your time at Duluth, were there any especially valuable coaching lessons or moments you plan to employ at Harvard?
BELLAMY: I’m pretty proud of the program we built at University of Minnesota Duluth. I think we showed you can have a really competitive team on the ice that has a ton of success — we went to four NCAA tournaments and played in the national championship — that also performs at a high level in the classroom, and has a positive impact on the local community.
This past year the Hockey Humanitarian, which is a prestigious award given to either a men’s or women’s ice-hockey player in the NCAA — went to Gabbie Hughes, who had a really positive impact on our community from a mental-health perspective. That’s just one example, but I think we showed that you can compete at a really high level on the ice, meet high expectations in school and as citizens.
GAZETTE: As you make your return, are there any favorite haunts of yours that you’re looking forward to revisiting?
BELLAMY: Oh man, so many. In Boston, I’m really excited to hit up Newbury Street, get to a Red Sox game. The Bruins are on the list, too. In Harvard Square, one place that has stood the test of time is Noch’s (Pinnocchio’s), so I’ll have to get back there. I’m happy to see BerryLine is still kicking.
I’m hoping that some of our student-athletes invite some of us coaches to some of the dinners at the Houses. I’d love to revisit Dunster — that was my House, and I have a lot of pride in that. I want to see the renovations, see what it looks like, and hit up some other Houses. I love being on campus, so that’s on the list!
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