Olivia Schultz (pictured) skates during a recent Team Colorado practice. At 18 years of age, Schulz is in a gap year after graduating high school and she anticipates playing NCAA Division III hockey in 2021-22. All photos by Katie Hinkle, SportsEngine
Colorado Hockey Hub: You grew up in New Mexico but now play hockey in Colorado. What led you to make the move across the state line?
Olivia Schultz: I wanted to play at a higher level, more competitive, and the highest level we have in New Mexico is Tier 2. I decided I wanted to play Tier 1 and Colorado was the closest option to home. I’ve been playing in Colorado my whole life; being on the only girls’ program in New Mexico, we’ve always had to travel and Colorado is always where we would go. I’m really familiar with it and I have a lot of family and friends up here, and I knew a lot of girls already who play for the team I’m on so I just figured it was the best option for me and what I wanted.
CO Hockey Hub: What is the biggest difference between playing in Colorado versus New Mexico?
OS: It’s definitely more competitive in Colorado, even at the Tier 2 level, because there’s a bigger hockey community in Colorado — especially in girls’ hockey. The Mustangs are the only girls’ hockey program in the whole state of New Mexico. There are girls from all over the state, and even some from out of state, and because of that they’re not there for all of the practices. We don’t get a lot of ice time in New Mexico because, like I said, it’s a smaller hockey community. It’s harder to build team chemistry when you only have a couple practices a week and there are only seven people there out of a roster of 15 to 20 players.
CO Hockey Hub: What are your ultimate goals for your playing career?
OS: My goal is to play NCAA [Division III] in college. That’s pretty much the whole reason why I’m taking a gap year and playing in Colorado. I decided later in high school that I wanted to play hockey in college and I didn’t have a lot of time to get scouted or talk to schools. I figured I’d take a gap year, play a higher level and get more experience to give me more time to make my decision.
CO Hockey Hub: You said you didn’t decide until late in high school that you wanted to continue to play. Is there a reason you didn’t consider the possibility of playing in college before that?
OS: It’s actually something I never really thought about, because none of my coaches and no one in New Mexico really gave me much information about playing in college because there’s just not a lot of knowledge about it. I didn’t even think it was possible for me. I didn’t think I had the potential and I wasn’t educated about all the different levels of college hockey. Once I started playing for Colorado Select, my coach for that team had a lot more experience and knowledge about it. He’s pretty much the reason I wanted to keep playing. He made me realize I had the potential to do it and said there’s more options for me out there than I thought there were.
CO Hockey Hub: Was there a specific moment when you realized your talent and decided you wanted to keep playing past high school?
OS: It was when I tried out for the team a couple years ago in Colorado. I was so nervous because I hadn’t really experienced Tier 2 hockey. I had only played rec hockey in New Mexico my whole life. I was beyond nervous and was like, ‘I’m not going to be good enough for this, I’m just some girl from New Mexico.’ Then when we got on the ice for the first ice session, and I was one of the better ones out there, it made me realize my potential and actual skills because I just had never been exposed. That was when I realized that I could do it.
CO Hockey Hub: What are some highlights or favorite memories of your hockey career so far?
OS: I’ve gotten to travel to some places I never would have otherwise. When I played for Colorado two years ago, we went to Nashville, Wisconsin and Chicago — it’s just a really cool experience. One of my favorite parts of hockey, if not my favorite part, is the relationships you build with your teammates. I have friends at school, but it’s nowhere close to my teammates — they’re my sisters. It’s a really tight bond.
"One of my favorite parts of hockey, if not my favorite part, is the relationships you build with your teammates. I have friends at school, but it’s nowhere close to my teammates — they’re my sisters. It’s a really tight bond."
--Olivia Schultz, defender for 19U Team Colorado girls
CO Hockey Hub: What do you think are some of your strengths when it comes to playing?
OS: I would say that my height gives me a huge advantage because I’m about 6 feet tall. I’m more aggressive and more of an enforcer, which makes it easier for me to win puck battles. My height also makes my stride longer, which helps with my speed.
CO Hockey Hub: Do you think your size has impacted your playing style, or is that aggressive style something that comes naturally to you?
OS: I think my height has a lot to do with it. I think if I was on the shorter side, I wouldn’t have the confidence to be as aggressive. I think people are naturally intimidated by me because of my size, so I just use that to my advantage. If they’re going to be scared of me anyway, I’ll just use my height and be more aggressive. When I was younger and smaller, and didn’t stick out because of my size, I was never like that. When it became more obvious that I was a lot taller than most girls, I definitely became more aggressive. Playing defense, too, I’m really protective of my teammates — especially my goalie.
CO Hockey Hub: Is there someone who’s had a really big impact on your life, whether in your hockey career or your personal life?
OS: I would say my little sister. With her medical condition, I’ve had a relationship with her in ways that most kids don’t have with their siblings which has shaped me into who I am. She’s just a huge inspiration. I have never seen a kid go through more than she has. She is the toughest. There was one time where she was in the hospital and me and my older sister went to see her. We were crying because we were little and it was really confusing to us why she was in the hospital. She was laying on a hospital bed with IVs and her head wrapped up with EKG stuff, and she hugged us and said, ‘It’s okay, guys.’ She’s the one going through this and she’s the toughest one out of us. She’s just a huge inspiration. When she does stuff like that it makes me think that if she can go through all of that and still have a positive attitude about it, then I can do anything.
CO Hockey Hub: Your younger sister Eva was diagnosed with a severe form of epilepsy when she was very young. What kind of relationship do you have with her?
OS: We’re best friends. We’re super close. She has some behavioral issues at times and she won’t listen to my parents at times. But if I try to get her to do something she’ll listen to me over them because I can be that calming voice to her. She behaves better when I’m around, for the most part. If she had a choice of me over my mom or dad putting her to bed, or me or my parents driving her somewhere, she’ll always choose me because she just loves doing stuff with me. I’ll do stuff like get her ready for bed — help her change, brush her teeth, read her a book, tuck her in, stuff like that — or she just asks me to help her do something that normally a parent would do, just because it means a lot to her.
Schultz, who is nicknamed 'Danger,' is interested in pursuing a nursing degree when she transitions to college.
CO Hockey Hub: You mentioned your style of play as an enforcer, taking care of other people, and sticking up for your goalie and teammates. Do you think that has stemmed from the help you’ve given in taking care of your sister or do you think that’s naturally your personality?
OS: It could be a little bit of both. With my sister, it’s overall being a more protective and caring person. I’ve definitely noticed that compared to others the whole time I was in high school — the maturity level was so different. I was more mature because they don’t have that understanding; they’ve never had to take care of a sibling. A lot of stuff I do for Eva they wouldn’t do for their siblings because it’s more of what a parent would do so they just don’t have that understanding. It’s definitely made me more of an overall caring person like that but I think there is some naturality to it, too.
CO Hockey Hub: Did you have a favorite class in high school, and do you know what major you want to pursue in college?
OS: I was good at English, but I never really enjoyed it. I’ve never been a school person, but I liked electives. I did one working with young children and working with the preschool at my school. That was really fun because I like working with kids. But for the longest time I’ve wanted to be a nurse. I’m very confident that’s what I’m going to major in.
CO Hockey Hub: Is what’s happening in the world with the COVID-19 pandemic making you scared of that choice, or more excited?
OS: It doesn’t make me more scared. If anything, it would make me more excited because there are so many people that need medical help right now and there’s a higher demand for it. So if there’s any way that I can help, I’m even more willing to do it.
CO Hockey Hub: Is there a fun fact about you that most people would be surprised to know?
OS: I’m pretty good with cars, which surprises a lot of people. Mechanically, I’m not that great but I could change a flat tire if I had to — or jump a car. My dad owns a collision repair and auto shop and I work there for him, sanding and masking cars, detailing them, replacing parts — stuff like that.
CO Hockey Hub: If you could go on a vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go?
OS: One that sticks out to me is Disneyland. I went with my family a few years ago and we were supposed to go again this year for my sister’s Make-A-Wish but it got canceled because of the pandemic. We’re still going to go when it is reopened and it’s safe to travel.
CO Hockey Hub: Do you have any nicknames?
OS: Probably my most famous nickname is ‘Danger.’ The story behind that is that it started when I was pretty new to the girls’ team, so it was a long time ago. One of my teammate’s little sisters was really scared of me for some reason when I was 9 or 10 years old. She would just run away from me all the time going, ‘Danger, danger, danger!’ I have no idea why, so one day I told her I wasn’t mean and she said, ‘You’re not?’ and she turned around and gave me a hug. From then on, the name stuck. Some of my coaches refuse to call me anything else. A lot of people think it’s because of hockey, and because I’m big and scary, but it has nothing to do with that.
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