Lara Stalder: Beyond The Ice | Issue 1
by Lara Stalder & Ameeta Vohra|20 SEP 2023
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Valentin Studerus

What a difference a year makes.

One year ago, I never envisioned being in this position to be part of building something special and inspirational.
When the club EV Zug decided to invest in women’s hockey and as a first step hired Daniela Diaz in January, we were able to form a new team at home in Switzerland, a lot of emotions were running through my mind.
As I was part of the process from the beginning, I felt excited but was uncertain of how things would unfold.  My focus was still on playing in Sweden, but at the same time, you want to be part of building something bigger.
Once I arrived back home in May of this year, that’s when things started to take off. It was chartering new waters. It became a whole new journey, both as a player and part of the team’s organization.
The contracts kicked in for the 19 players, coaching, and support staff for the new EV Zug Women’s Team. We rolled up our sleeves and began our first practices the second week of May.
Starting from scratch was overwhelming but at the same time very exciting. We tapped into things early on that helped me to start feeling comfortable in a new surrounding such as team building and creating an identity.
With this new journey also came a lot of new expectations.
For me, it was balancing where I wanted to go, but knew it was a long process to get there.  The challenge was not looking too far ahead and giving it your all, and also realizing that place of where you are right now. I want to create new standards in Swiss women’s hockey and be part of the development of future generations.
Being patient, knowing it would take time was hard because, at the same time, I wanted to set high standards for EV Zug. And we had great support from the club because of their commitment to invest in the women’s game.
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Valentin Studerus

This was a dream come true for me.

The first couple of months flew by as I got to learn a lot, especially the different roles as on one side being a player and on the other side being the assistant to the CEO and leading different projects. New team, new colleagues, new arena, new everything. The summer passed by in a flash and I was on a high…
And then, like it happens to everyone, I disappointed my boss for the first time.
When I set the bar too high too soon, I strive for perfection. As humans, we are not perfect but it was hard for me to disappoint people that depended on me. 
I made a mistake that could have been prevented with better communication. While it wasn’t major, I had to deal with the consequences and do some extra work. I worried about what my boss would think and wondered if I was capable of doing this role.
My coach reminded me of something that helped me deal with this challenge.  Take it like you take it in hockey. From my experiences as a player, I know I’ve made mistakes over and over again, but I did not beat up myself about it.
Remembering also the advice I gave to the younger girls about it. There are 300 actions in a hockey game, and you learn to not get down over one mistake. You learn to drop it and move on and do better next time.
I gave myself a break, dropped it, and kept going. I knew I was capable of good work.  My competitive spirit and eagerness to perform help to motivate me in building my confidence.
Having a bad day at the office is similar to playing a bad game.  You can't just accept a bad game because there are so many actions, and every shift starts over. There will be bad moments where you think maybe you're not so creative or not doing well with the puck, Then, you look to the simple things - you're going to skate and work hard, helping your teammates, and staying positive.
Being a leader also means asking more and better questions. My new role in a new organization and structure is a lot about learning and being like a sponge. My approach to coming into a new role is being open-minded to new ways of learning things.
All this is helping to build my confidence, which will be key in the coming weeks and months with different projects including the 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship, where I’m able to be part of the organizing committee.
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Valentin Studerus

Playing a leadership role in this program is special because it’s a full-circle moment. 

Having played this tournament before, I find myself looking back on those first moments you get to wear your national team jersey with honour and pride. I remember thinking in that little box and now, being able to be on the other side and seeing what's all about, I’m even more inspired to build and grow the game in my home nation.
As a leader, I’m approaching this new role looking at what is good for the team, our neighbours, left and right, what is good for the atmosphere, and what needs to be organized so everyone feels comfortable and able to perform at their top level.
Before getting to that leader role, my eyes are set on another prize.  With the EV Zug women’s team we are heading to Germany in the coming days for the first round of the EWHL Supercup.  We have to perform well under pressure because there is a lot at stake. 
On the line is the possibility of hosting the next games at home.
The goal is clear: we need to win the group or come in best second place.
They will be tough games, but I believe we already grew as a team and I'm very excited to see what's coming.