Lara Stalder: Beyond The Ice | Issue 2
by Lara Stalder & Ameeta Vohra|11 OCT 2023
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Valentin Studerus
Becoming a good leader takes time. It takes experience. It takes motivation. It takes confidence. It means opening yourself up to evolving throughout the journey.
Over the years, I have been fortunate to learn from captains on teams I’ve played on. I have incorporated what I learned into my leadership style on and off the ice.
Being a leader is natural. So is staying true to myself.  For me, there is a balance between enjoying what you do every day and remaining focused on the tasks.
What separates a good leader from the rest is their ability to lead by example. 
In my current role with EV Zug, leadership means something different than it does to a player.  I am leading various projects, but there are instances where I am soaking up and learning from new experiences, including understanding how the organization works.
I think back to times where I was a leader on the ice. I could relate to the other players and share similar experiences of things we have gone through. While doing that, we helped players buy into what the coaches and staff were asking of us.
That is what I call showing the way as a leader.
But as a leader, you also have to be a good listener, and this is something I’m working on. I always feel like I have to fix things. That’s intuitive because as a player, I used to carry the weight of the situation on my shoulders and tried to get us out of it.  I never realized I could lean on the team to help find the solution.
I am learning more to ask questions, stop interrupting people, and let them speak. If I don’t become a better listener, people will keep their barriers up.
With EV Zug, I have learned that different people have different strengths. It helps bring different perspectives, ideas, and ways of thinking. 
Empowering others as a leader means involving others in an arena where we embrace their ideas.

Role Models

Throughout my life, I have been fortunate to have great leadership role models who taught me so much and led to my successes. My mother is a great “people” person and can read people.
Previous coaches and my mentor, Daniela Diaz, coaches and challenges me. She is someone I look up to every day.
One athlete I try to emulate in my leadership skills is tennis star Roger Federer. I admire his ability to balance humbleness with performing at a high level on the court.
With EV Zug, I look to my boss, CEO Patrick Lengwiler,  to see how he leads and also get to know his style. He demands a lot from his employees, but he leads by example.  What I have taken away from my experiences with him is his ability to always be on top of things and look ahead to the next big challenge.
It’s inspiring and motivating - it pushes me to be more eager.
When I was in Sweden playing with Brynäs last year, head coach Filip Eriksson was a great mentor, especially helping me with my leadership style.  He took the time to set up meetings with me to work on helping me be a better leader. 
I used to get frustrated when I would try to explain things to a teammate, and they didn’t understand it.  I thought to myself,  “How can you not understand something like that because it’s pretty straightforward?” While I thought I had explained it as simply as possible, I realized it could be how I am explaining it.
Coach Eriksson taught me that it could be that while some people learn from verbal feedback, others can grasp and understand things better with visuals or acting it out. It means drawing it out on a whiteboard or watching it on video and asking questions to see if the player understands it - similar to a sender-receiver relationship.
There are a lot of team-building aspects of leadership that I have learned along the way. It involves a model of forming, storming, norming and performing. You look at the bigger picture but then review the processes we as a team are currently in.


Motivating a team can be a challenging aspect of leadership.
We’ve all been there experiencing the ups and downs of a game. In these moments, you look to the quiet leaders and ones that step up to motivate everyone.  Once the lows change into extreme highs, motivation becomes contagious and spreads throughout the team.
Leading by example is a motivational tool   especially if you want to create a high-performance culture. You as a leader show the way with high intensity every day, dial in, go to the limit, win battles against your opponent and embrace the challenge because that’s how you inspire and demand the same from your teammates.
Motivation sparks something special in players and fuels that desire to change the momentum. It helps players deal with the pressure to perform and handle tough situations.
When I was 20 years old, I was in college and also experiencing my first Olympics in a bigger leadership role.  I wanted to perform at my best.  To deal with that pressure, I worked with a mental coach. He helped me to put things into perspective.
I learned to not beat myself up over one mistake and that every 45 seconds, it’s a new game or a blank, fresh new slate on the ice. Not only is it a physical pressure to perform, it is also a mental state of mind.  I have shared this with the younger players to help them with those challenges.
Younger and older players have similar and differing leadership needs.  The younger players I’ve led tend to be disappointed each time they make a mistake.  It’s not about only giving them constructive feedback, but it’s how you deliver it.  I’ve learned that being positive while showing them the greater perspectives has helped them immensely.
For older players, they have more experience on the ice, so I can hold them more accountable, but at the same time, they also need positive reinforcement.
Bringing It All Together

Everything I’ve learned came together recently when EV Zug experienced their recent road trip to Germany for the first round of the EWHL SuperCup. It was special for me because I helped to organize the whole trip in advance, including the schedule, hotel, meals, collaborating with the tournament host.
For the games, I had to shift from being the organizer to the leader on the team. We prepared, and it all came together at the right time as we defeated the German champion Memmingen to win group C for the final tournament.
I was in awe of how far we have come and how things aligned perfectly.  Our coach demanded a lot out of us in the leading weeks to the game, and it paid off.
We set our sights now on October 14 to perform at our best at the EWHL SuperCup Final, where we will play MAC Budapest in the semifinals. If we win our semifinal, we would move on to play the winner of the Memmingen and Hokiklub Budapest in the final.
It is a big challenge for us because there is a lot of great competition between the teams.  We already have experience with the stiff competition as we needed overtime against Memmingen to defeat them.