Two pucks in a pod: Assistants Bobrowski, Terres-Sobieck bringing the fun to Bemidji State
"The most important thing is how the athletes are doing in their experience," Sarah Bobrowski said. "Obviously hockey is important, but the experience and how they're doing out in life too is really important to us."
BEMIDJI – Hockey is supposed to be fun.
Most participants get into playing the sport to have a good time, at least in part. But at the Division I level, the pressure to perform and the strain of exhaustive practice and travel schedules can sap the joy of college hockey players.
For Sarah Bobrowski, the newest addition to the Bemidji State women’s hockey coaching staff, that makes balance a key component to keep the season from dragging along.
“That's one coaching philosophy that (assistant coach Emma Terres-Sobieck) and I run off of,” Bobrowski said. “We have experienced Division I women's hockey, and we have been in the girls’ shoes. The most important thing is how the athletes are doing in their experience. Obviously hockey is important, but the experience and how they're doing out in life too is really important to us.
“So kind of just being relatable. Always having an open door, trying to chat with the girls, make it light. But also making sure that everyone's having a good experience, because in the long run you're going to remember the memories, and not maybe always the wins and losses.”
Bobrowski joined Terres-Sobieck – her former teammate with Eisbären Juniors Berlin in Germany – on the BSU coaching staff this year, and the synergy between the two has drawn rave reviews.
“It's been awesome to have Sarah with us,” said sophomore defenseman Adriana Van De Leest. “How Emma and Sarah work together, their coaching philosophies are very similar. They're easy to approach, easy to talk to, and it's just nice to have some younger coaches (where) you can relate to them. They're hard on you, but at the end of the day, they're there to make you better.”
‘We met way back’
Bobrowski commenced her coaching tenure with the Beavers in June, while Terres-Sobieck is in her third year on the Bemidji State staff after playing for the program from 2014-18. But even before playing together half a world away, they had already crossed paths.
“We met way back when at a coaching camp,” Terres-Sobieck said. “So that's where I first met her, and then (we) ended up going to Berlin together. Then the opportunity opened up for her and she applied, which was great. … She's a phenomenal human. So that was very well seen throughout the interview process, and she was able to get the job, which I am very beyond thrilled about.”
Bobrowski and Terres-Sobieck haven’t needed long to sink their imprint into the Beavers program. They’ve taken active roles in meeting with players and establishing leadership councils, but they’ve also pushed head coach Jim Scanlan outside of his comfort zone and crafted a youthful counterweight to his decades of experience.
“We do a lot more individual meetings with players than we've done in the past, and those two have really been instrumental in getting those things organized,” Scanlan said. “They sit down with each individual player for quite a long time. And it's not just hockey related. It's getting to know them on a lot more personal basis. That goes a long way to building trust within the team, and players know that the staff all care about them as people.”
Bobrowski played at Lindenwood from 2014-17, setting the Lions’ single-season record with 19 assists in 2015-16. In Berlin, she and Terres-Sobieck battled for the team points lead in 2019-20 – Terres-Sobieck led the Polar Bears with 30 points, while Bobrowski tied for second with 28.
“We were lucky enough to play together in Berlin, which was an absolute blast,” Terres-Sobieck said. “We played really well together, not going to lie. We had really good chemistry on the ice. She was a lot better because she was faster and a great forechecker, backchecker. I was good at putting myself in the slot so I could try to score goals.”
When Bobrowski saw the opening at Bemidji State, she found some encouragement from her old teammate to get over the hump and apply.
“I definitely told her that I was going to put an application in, and she was super supportive,” Bobrowski said. “She actually wasn't on the hiring committee for this position, but she was always encouraging and would help me build up my confidence a little bit. Always fun to talk to someone before when you get a little bit nervous for interviews, but she was a great resource, more encouraging than anything.”
In their skates
One of the greatest strengths of Bobrowski and Terres-Sobieck is the ability to draw from their very recent experience as Division I hockey players – Bobrowski completed her D-I career in 2017, and Terres-Sobieck concluded hers in 2018. They’ve been through the gauntlet of multiple Division I seasons and all that goes along with the college hockey experience, then navigated the hockey ranks as professional players and coaches after their collegiate careers came to a close.
“Coming back to Minnesota was always an end goal of mine, and continuing to coach,” Bobrowski said. “This is my dream job, so one that I had to take a swing at and was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to coach here. The relationships with the players, being able to build those relationships, hopefully inspire women at the college level on and off the ice. Also being a role model – women in sports, women in coaching roles, that is what is really important.”
The example they’ve set for the current BSU players has created a different atmosphere inside the Sanford Center.
“Emma, she's grown so much since I first had her (as a coach),” senior forward Reece Hunt said. “She's definitely gained a lot of knowledge and confidence. We were actually just talking yesterday, I feel like she has so much to offer every year, something new every year, so we're so lucky to have her.
“And then now with Sarah, it's just brought a totally new, awesome vibe to our team. Having two young coaches and Scanny, they all work really well together. Having that with the coaches makes us girls feel more comfortable knowing they'll always have our back. They all have something different to offer, so it's nice having someone for everything.”
And while Scanlan has enjoyed the effervescence and work ethic his young assistants bring to work every day, his proteges have also heaped praise upon the seasoned veteran leading the Beavers’ bench.
“I have to give coach Scanlan a lot of credit too,” Bobrowski said. “We've been talking a lot about Emma and I, but Scanny – we are just a perfect team. We all balance each other out, and he has always kept a very open mind and always has made me feel very welcomed coming into Bemidji.”