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Life in Motion

Meet NEBH Olympic Athlete: Tara Mounsey, NP

Olympics, Sports & Exercise

Tara Mounsey is an orthopedic nurse practitioner at New England Baptist Hospital who works closely with Dr. James Bono, serves as the medical coordinator for the Boston Celtics, and is an Ambassador to the Friends of the Baptist. But did you know that she is also an Olympic athlete? We talked to Tara about her hockey career, and what it was like to play in the Olympic games.

Hockey has been a part of Tara’s life since about the time she was able to walk. “I skated for the first time when I was about three and a half. I loved it, and I’ve been skating ever since.” A natural athlete, Tara picked up the sport very quickly, and by age five, she was participating in organized Youth Hockey programs in Concord, NH. “I’ll always remember my first coach, and winning races to get free hot chocolates at the snack bar. I have very fond memories of my youth career.”

After excelling in the youth hockey program, high school brought Tara a unique experience, playing on the boys’ varsity team. “At that time, there weren’t as many opportunities for women’s hockey as there are now. Playing with the boys was more challenging for me, but at the same time, I did participate in women’s hockey as it was important to me to help build that program.”

During Tara’s senior year, her teammates selected her as captain of the team. That same year, amongst all of the boys she played with and competed against, she became the first female player to win the New Hampshire Player of the Year award, after leading her team to the 1996 state championship. “It was a great experience and I feel very lucky to have paved the way for younger girls.”

Next up was college, where Tara played on the women’s hockey team at Brown University. “Brown had a great program. There were several other future Olympians on the team, so it was very challenging.” After playing on boy’s hockey teams for so many years, one hurdle Tara had to overcome was adapting to the different rules in women’s hockey.  “There was no checking in women’s hockey, so it was playing a different style game which was important to learn because I needed to really master playing at that level to get to the next level, which was playing in the Olympics.”

“I feel like I started preparing for the Olympic tryouts ever since I first laced up my skates. Obviously at age five or six, I’m not thinking too much about the Olympics. But all that while, all that ice time, practice and training, that all counts.” As she got a little older, she could really start preparing. “It really came down to my parents guiding me and seeing that I had a natural gift, and making sure that as long as I was happy and growing with it, I would do extra. I went to the rink to skate before school. I would practice after school. I would run extra stairs and shoot extra pucks. That started at a very young age for me.”

All of that extra training and practice paid off when Tara made the 1998 Olympic team. “When I found out I made the team, the first word that comes to mind was relief. You put all this time and effort into something, and when you hear your name it’s really this huge sense of relief.”  Training for the Olympics was intense. “There was a lot of plyometric training to be stronger and faster, cross training with running, mountain biking and swimming. I spent a lot of time on the ice, practicing with my team and then staying out after practice was over to do extra shooting, just really trying to perfect certain skills. Things that I had been working on since I was five, but realizing that you can always improve.”

Once in Nagano, Japan, it was important for Tara to treat the Olympics like any other tournament. “Looking back, what an amazing experience it was. But when I was in it, my mentality was that I need to treat this like any other tournament. This can’t be this big tournament that’s shown around the world, because then you get nervous and it’s a little overwhelming.” Tara and her team left the Olympics with a gold medal. Four years later, she returned to the Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, this time coming home with a silver medal.

Throughout her amazing career, Tara did face some hurdles along the way. Particularly, several knee injuries, some requiring surgery. “I feel like I learned more about myself as a person and an athlete during the time that I was out with my injury.” Her advice to other athletes dealing with an injury: “Try to find the positives in what you’re going through. Use the time to work on the mental aspect of your sport. We all can get caught up in the physical demands of sports, but there is as much mental training that goes into being an athlete as physical. It’s also important to find different ways to maintain your training. When I couldn’t be on the ice with my team, I was in the pool swimming.”

There are also some lessons Tara shares with her patients who are recovering from surgery.  “When patients do know my history, they know that I have been successful in setting and achieve goals, and that I can help them do the same. I think for them, that instills their confidence in me, that I can guide them through this process.”

Twenty years after her first Olympic games, you can still find Tara on the ice. “I still play hockey. I skate for fun and I skate in a fair amount of charity games. I like to spend time giving back. I realize that my parents and my friends’ parents growing up really put a lot of time into our youth programs, so it’s my turn to give back. I am on the Milton Youth Hockey board of directors. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of out of this sport, and I want to see other kids do the same.”

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