Taking Liberties With… Jessica Koizumi
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Position: Associate head coach, University of Vermont (Hockey East, NCAA D-I)
Hometown: Simi Valley
Youth Teams: California Thunder, Ventura Mariners, Team LA, Cal Selects
Playing Experience: U.S. Women’s National Team, Connecticut Whale (NWHL), Montreal Stars (CWHL), Boston Pride (CWHL)
Last Amateur Team: University of Minnesota Duluth (WCHA, NCAA D-I)
Jessica Koizumi is one of California’s trailblazers in women’s hockey. A decorated player at the NCAA, international and pro levels, she’s also one of the few players who has advanced up the coaching ranks of NCAA women’s hockey. She served as a captain multiple times at the NCAA and pro levels, and she scored the first goal in the history of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL).
California Rubber: How were you recruited to Minnesota Duluth?
Jessica Koizumi: My senior year in high school, I was set up to go to Tabor for prep school because I didn’t think I would get recruited. But my head coach at that time, Scott Plumer, whom I owe so much of my career success to, convinced me to stay. He said there’s no doubt I would get recruited. And sure enough, I had several college choices. I gained so much of my game and skill through different people from California.
CR: You honed your game in California in some unconventional ways.
JK: I really started to develop my game at these midnight skates that Ronnie White ran at Skate Zone in Huntington Beach on Friday and Saturday nights. His little brother ended up playing Division I and pro in Europe. I learned so much about skills and competing.
CR: You actually billeted within Southern California one year.
JK: My senior year, I moved to Huntington Beach to be closer to my team. I lived with the Bartz family, and I can’t thank them enough. I trained before school started and I trained after school every day. (Former Olympian) Chanda Gunn’s parents owned the rink at the time, and they were so generous giving us ice time. That’s also when I started giving lessons. I put my coaching hat on and started that journey. I was very fortunate to have them in my life and have those resources available.
CR: Who were some other big influences?
JK: When I was younger, Scott helped me with the recruiting process. Ronnie was a big influence through all of those skates. And my college coach, Shannon Miller, is a huge influence. She’s the best coach I’ve ever had. I grew so much as a player and a person through her. I learned so much about myself as a coach by just playing for her. Something that sets her apart is her ability to inspire and motivate.
CR: What sparked your interest in coaching?
JK: I was 11 or 12 years old on the ice in Minnesota, and I started directing other kids on drills. That passion was there – I wanted to be a coach. Throughout my childhood and into college, I knew what classes I wanted to take, what internships I wanted, and started my own hockey school when I was a senior in high school. I can’t tell you what motivated me to do it, but I’m so glad I did it because of the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve been able to help.
CR: What is your favorite hockey experience since you moved from California?
JK: After a pretty tough junior year in college, we had a huge change in our dynamic, almost a whole new team. That team overachieved. We ended up finishing second to a very good Wisconsin team. The team chemistry we had was incredible. Those freshmen won two national championships after I graduated but all of them will say that was their favorite season because of how well we got along and how we overachieved.
CR: You had to make a big comeback to play in the postseason in 2007.
JK: A week before Senior Night, I tore my MCL and doctors told me I was done playing. I rehabbed twice a day and was able to come back in two and a half weeks. They could have cut my leg off and I still would have found a way to play. I ended up having a good postseason. Through that, I ended up getting an invite to the U.S. Women’s National Team. I thank God for that every day. It has molded me as a person to be able to go through anything. I was set to be retired after I graduated, but I was able to continue my career so much longer than I thought I would be able to.
Photo/Nich Hall/UVM Athletics
– Compiled by Chris Bayee
(Nov. 11, 2019)