Lara Stalder: Beyond The Ice | Issue 5
by Ameeta VOHRA|13 FEB 2024
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation
Beyond the Ice is a series which Lara Stalder shares her first-hand experience and trailblazing journey from being captain of the Swiss Women’s National Team, an illustrious international player to her leadership role as an assistant to the CEO for the brand new women’s EV Zug team.

Becoming an effective leader does not happen overnight. It requires patience. It also means the willingness to change.

During these past five months, I am proud of the growth and strides I have made in my leadership journey.

I have seen the impacts of my transformation on and off the ice. Credit is due to the goals I set for myself.

One of those goals has been to build upon one key thing I value in my everyday life - leading by example. I have always used that as a guiding force in motivating people on and off the ice.

I think about my recent experiences with EV Zug. I tell players to remain focused, be hungry, and bring that intensity onto the ice in practice or a game.

Through my many leadership moments, I’ve learned that the key is to remain calm and composed.  When you handle yourself that way in pressure-filled moments, everyone around you becomes calm. Showing anxiousness or stress as a leader can rub off on others and create an unproductive environment.

This past fall, I learned first-hand that surrounding yourself with chaos and stress does not allow growth.

I have learned that leading means having a good work/life balance. My recent experiences of not having that balance led to fatigue and poor decision-making. I strive not to make bad decisions because that can affect the team, especially when games are on the line.

Creating and building a positive environment motivates and inspires others.

As captain of the Swiss national team, I hope to inspire others to embrace the moment.  We were successful in our last tournament in Sweden.  I was happy and very grateful to be there.

In hindsight, I feel like I was able to inspire my teammates through positivity, leading by example, good body language, and intensity, My teammates soaked up the positive vibes and it was contagious. The players resonated with my energy.
That charismatic leadership enabled the team to stay in the moment and bring forth their best effort. It is remarkable, considering our tough schedule, playing four games in five days.

Stepping up in moments and the need for accountability separates great leaders.

Leadership growth and self-awareness are still a work in progress.  Being an effective communicator has been a challenge for me. I feel as though sometimes my message is not heard or understood. I have taken strides towards being better at this by asking questions and being more direct in my approach.

There has been another challenge for me.  I always hold myself to a high standard.  It leads to the constant desire to improve and talking with the younger players about how we do that in situations on the ice.

I am learning that it is okay to have a good balance between giving positive reinforcement for the good things and talking about things we need to fix.  I am proud to see the success that has resulted in a better flow on the team and the noticeable positive changes in games.

In my five months of leadership from the management side, it's been remarkable to see my transformation.

Each day, I am growing with everything new that I am learning.  I am taking on new projects, and I am taking more responsibility. I still struggle with not speaking up enough or having anything to say.

However, I keep remembering that I am there for a reason. I have grown by making more decisions and standing by them. 

To lead a successful team, you must be a positive leader, set a good example, and stay in the moment. Being more open, human, and vulnerable has allowed me as a leader to forge stronger bonds with teammates and players.