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Prepped for Play

Prepped for Play

Ask any serious athlete the formula for success and two watchwords invariably surface: focus and perseverance. Speaking with girls’ ice hockey standout and Olympic hopeful Abby Newhook ’21, it’s clear that much of this discipline is self-directed. But having coaches and trainers who bring experience and perspective to bear is also critical. This is where Tabor’s Assistant Athletic Director and Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Brian Torres and Girls’ Varsity Ice Hockey Coach Eric Long P’23 shine.

“My goal in training athletes is to make sure they are strong and move well so that they’re ready to train at the next level when it comes,” says Torres. To guide his training programs, Torres listens to what students are saying, verbally and physically. “The kids tend to be pretty honest with me about how they’re feeling, but I also pay close attention to body language—are their shoulders drooping, are their feet dragging? If so, I back off. You can’t be all gas and no breaks.”

The mantra of playing through the pain has largely fallen by the wayside, Torres continues, replaced by a more sensible assessment of when to push through soreness and fatigue and when to revise training regimens in the face of a legitimate injury. “That’s where my job comes in—I tell the student ‘you can still train, but let’s figure out what’s ailing you.’”

Nor does Torres vary his routine much when training with an elite athlete like Newhook. “Abby is a phenomenal athlete— she can do anything in the gym,” he asserts. “My aim with her, as with all of my athletes, is to ensure that she’s making progress every time she works out.”

With Torres handling off-the-field preparation, it falls to Coach Eric Long to guide players’ performance on-ice. It begins with maintaining a team roster of 20 or fewer players, says Long. “This allows more ice time for the kids, more repetitions in practice and more team cohesion,” he explains. “We let the kids know what they need to do to succeed, and the older kids lead by example, so the younger players don’t know anything different.”

Maintaining a sense of balance between athletics and academics is also key, says Long. Players work out before school, practice for 90 minutes each afternoon, and rarely miss classes for games. “Everything is prioritized around the academic day,” says Long. “These are high school kids and there’s a lot of social and emotional growth taking place in these years. We strive to prepare our students for competitive play at the college level and beyond, but we also want to ensure that they have a rewarding high school experience.”

Tabor’s success in threading that needle is manifest in Newhook. “Tabor was Abby’s first introduction to girls’ hockey,” Long explains. “She had always played boys’ hockey in Canada, so we helped her transition to an all-girls’ team and continue to refine her skills so that she’ll be ready for college-level competition at Boston College.” Newhook and classmate Carson Zanella ‘21 will join current Eagles and Tabor alums Kelly Browne ’18, Jillian Fey ’18, Olivia Finocchiaro ’18, and Olivia O’Brien ’19.

Newhook is grateful. “Being at Tabor has helped me so much in the past three years,” she says. “My teachers emphasized keeping up with schoolwork while playing sports, which has helped me improve my time management skills, my teammates pushed me to become better on and off the ice, and my coaches pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me prepare for what’s next.”

And what’s next, Newhook hopes, is the Olympics. “My goal is to make the Winter Games in 2026,” she notes eagerly. She acknowledges, however, that she’s still growing as a player. “I’m only 17, so it’s a process.” The next step is the Canadian Under-18 national team, Newhook explains, then Under-22, then Under-25, and then hopefully the Olympics. Coach Long is eager to see where Newhook’s talents take her. “She’s very good and she’s still developing,” he observes. And hockey runs in the family, Long notes. Newhook’s older brother recently left Boston College for the NHL, landing a spot with the Colorado Avalanche.

“With Tabor ice hockey, we’ve created a culture in which our expectations for the kids are clear,” says Long. “They know that they will all work hard and be held accountable, and if they do these things, they will succeed.” This philosophy has been years in the making at Tabor, he continues, and it has paid off. “The level of players we have here, top to bottom, has grown exponentially in my 15 years at the school.”

“It all comes back to building a strong foundation, so when these athletes are training at the next level, they’re ready,” concludes Torres. “My goal is to develop athletes who are strong and healthy and who continue to progress in their training, regardless of their level of play.”