Natasha Strbiak of the Washington Wild 19UAA team commits to the NCAA D3 Women's Hockey Team at Trine University, where she plans to major in Business Management while she plays for the Trine Thunder.
Natasha, formerly a local figure skater, transitioned to the sport of ice hockey with the Washington Wild a few years ago. With hard training on and off the ice with the Wild and on her own time, she has attained her dream of playing hockey in college.
We spoke to Natasha about her background (as a figure skater), her transition to hockey, and what she had to do to grow her game in order to play college hockey. The following is the Q&A session with the Washington Wild student-athlete.
What do you plan to study at Trine University?
I have been accepted into the business school and will be working toward my Bachelor’s degree in Business Management. I will then pursue a Master’s in Business Administration.
What are you most excited about or looking forward to at Trine University?
I am looking forward to furthering my education and experiencing life living on campus as a student-athlete. The school and community are very invested in the hockey programs and there is a lot of excitement surrounding the hockey teams.
What are you most excited about or looking forward to about the Trine Women’s Hockey team?
I am very excited to play at the NCAA level and being a representative of the university. This is currently the first year for hockey at Trine and I am looking forward to the possibility of being part of building a highly successful program.
What does making an NCAA D3 hockey team mean to you?
I haven’t been playing hockey all that long. Making an NCAA D3 team shows to not only myself, but to others, that by being completely dedicated, you are able to reach your goals even if there are large obstacles.
Why did you decide to take a GAP Year?
(GAP year is when a student takes a year off to 1) improve their grades, 2) excel further in their degree or prepare for their future degree with more high level classes, 3) volunteer in the community, 4) participate in their in their sport of choice… or a combination)
During my Junior and Senior years of High School, I participated in the Running Start program at Bellevue College. This dual credit program allowed me to work toward an Associate’s Degree in Business while simultaneously earning my High School diploma. Many of these credits from Bellevue College will transfer to a four-year university. To complete the Associate’s Degree at Bellevue College I would need to continue classes for another year after high school graduation. During this “GAP Year” I was also eligible to play for the Wild so it was an easy decision to stay and further develop my hockey skills.
When you started skating you were a figure skater. How did you get involved in hockey?
I was almost six years old when my dad first took me ice skating. After one lap around the rink I was in love with the sport and knew instantly that I wanted to skate for the rest of my life. I participated in Learn to Skate programs and soon took private figure skating lessons. At this very young age I was a serious competitive figure skater. I competed in US Figure Skating for almost eleven years. During that time I was in many competitions including USFSA Junior Nationals, Pacific Coast Sectionals, and NW Pacific Regionals collecting many medals along the way. I earned the designation "U.S. Figure Skating Double Gold Medalist" which is the highest level possible in the sport. At 15 years old I was near the end of my figure skating career and was searching for something else to pursue. While working a part time job at Sno-King Ice Arena in Renton I met Coach Shaun Miller who introduced me to WWFHA and invited me to participate in tryouts. I was very unsure about girl’s hockey at first but I had so much fun at tryouts I knew I wanted to continue with the Wild and play college hockey.
What did you do to ramp up so quickly on hockey skills and the game?
Being a figure skater helped a lot since I already knew how to move well on the ice. The challenge was to learn how to do everything else and completely re-learn my skating style for hockey. The first year of hockey I was on the 19U Rep A team, known as the team to develop you for higher level competition. Being on that team helped a lot with learning the fundamentals of the game. I also received private hockey lessons and took advantage of any opportunity I had to practice and develop skills and conditioning for hockey.
What do you like about the WWFHA organization?
WWFHA consists of very dedicated staff, coaches, and parents that want to help every player reach their potential both on and off the ice. The organization is best suited to equip players with the skills they need to get noticed by scouts and be prepared to play collegiate hockey.
What do you like about your Washington Wild team, the players, and the coaches?
What I love about my team is that we are all so close. It’s like we are one big family. The coaches constantly push us to be the best players and teammates we can be. They always go above and beyond to help us with anything we need on or off the ice. We are all very supportive of each other and that is something I am very grateful for.
What would you say to players in WWFHA who have your same goals and dream of playing college hockey?
Work as hard as you can with everything you do on and off the ice--both hockey and academics—with the team and on your own. Whatever obstacles you may have, they can be overcome with enough persistence. WWFHA has amazing people within the organization who are all there to help you reach your goals. Most importantly, be very thankful for everyone in the organization for providing the expertise in preparing female players for the next level of hockey.
Washington Wild 19UAA Rep Team, 2017-2018: (Natasha seated on bench, second from the left)