By Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor
Photos by Geoff Schneider
It’s never easy having to hold people the same age as you accountable. But, that’s what captains, and leaders, do.
The captain is the one that has to make sure they are able to get the message across to the team from the coach. They need to go after teammates if they did something wrong, or praise them is they did something right.
It’s a balancing act that many young players have a tough time dealing with. Young captains want to make sure they are there for the team, and at the same time not changing the type of person they are.
Buffalo State College women’s hockey Emma Ruggiero becoming the next captain of the Bengals came with challenges that she didn’t think that she would have.
“I never thought it’d be easy, but I also didn’t think it would be as hard as it has been at times. It’s been a lot of pressure sometimes. Having to hold your teammates/friends accountable it can get tough at times, but it’s something that we have to do as captains,” stated Ruggiero. “I think my dad has helped a lot with who I am as a leader. He has been my coach for most of my life, so whether I was a leader on the team or not he pushed me to be. Always put the team first, stay calm in stressful situations, positive body language is extremely important, and to be a good teammate.”
It’s still difficult, however, trying to lead a team that is the same age as you. Being a senior, Ruggiero is only a couple of years older than the incoming freshmen or sophomores on the team.
Ruggiero has to make sure that she has a fine line between being friends and being a leader. On the ice, the girls need to be able to listen to what she says. However, off the ice, they need to know that Ruggiero will still hang out with them and do things.
When becoming a captain, Ruggiero wanted to make sure she didn’t change who she was. She wanted to still be the same person she was before having the “C” put on her sweater.
“Well, that’s really important. I think the biggest thing that’s helped me is that I know I make a lot of mistakes, and my teammates help point them out and figure out how to fix them,” stated Ruggiero. “I do the same with them. My team comes first always and that’s how it’s always been, and should always be as a captain.”
It’s a bitter sweet year for Ruggiero as this will be her last as a Buffalo State Bengals. Four years have come and went in a blink of an eye. It seems like it was just yesterday that Ruggiero was on the ice for the first time as a little girl.
Now, she is getting ready to hit the ice for the final time as a college hockey player.
With her time coming to an end, it has led Ruggiero to be able to reflect on all the good times, and found memories she had made on and off the ice.
“I’ve done a lot of reflecting on my hockey career overall. I’ve made a lot of lifelong friends and some that’s like family now. It feels like my whole life has been hockey so it was a no brainer for me that I was going to try and play in college. It’s seems like forever ago when I started skating here at Buff State,” stated Ruggiero. “I was timid and hesitant to do much and then I had hip surgery my sophomore year and that really affected my game at times. I don’t think it was until my junior year where I really felt like myself again. I wish it didn’t take me as long as it did but life happens. I felt the best this year and I’m glad my senior year is going as it is. It’s scary that it’s all going to end, well competitively. I’m excited for the next chapter, whatever it may be.”
For right now Ruggiero doesn’t know exactly what she will be doing with herself when her hockey career comes to and. Used to getting up every morning and working out, Ruggiero will now be able to sleep in, a little.
A life without hockey will be difficult at times, however, and she knows it. Ruggiero knows she will go through moments, especially in the fall, that she won’t know what to do with herself. Thank goodness she has a little sister who will be playing Division I college hockey at Cornell in the fall.
This will allow Ruggiero to get her fix.
“It’ll be tough for a little bit. For the past four years my days have started with hockey, so my brain is just accustomed to that. I think the hardest part will come in the fall, when I won’t be starting preseason with everyone. I think I’ll be really bored and I will have to find another hobby. My little sister is committed to Cornell, so I’m sure a lot of my weekends will be spent there because I don’t think I’ll be able to stay away from the ice for long. So I’ll just occupy myself in other ways to stay busy,” stated Ruggiero. “This year has been one hell of a ride so far and I’m eager to see where it leads us. I’m glad that this was the team I’m ending my career with.”