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From Yale to Pro: A Saroya Tinker Interview

My favorite memory playing hockey was my last game of my NCAA career, we went to triple overtime against Harvard. We were so resilient and I had never seen such passion from my teammates before.

My biggest influence from a hockey sense has been my dad. He wasn’t able to have all the hockey opportunities I’ve had and I think that he’s been the one I go to most for advice and he’s not afraid to give me constructive criticism. My biggest support system is definitely my family. I have three brothers and they’ve done a good job of toughening me up! I have a 9 year old brother and he is my biggest fan;he plays like me, skates like me and if he could be at every game, he would.

Photo of Saroya and her little brother

Have you faced adversity/prejudice ?

Yes, most definitely. I think that over the course of my career I have had several instances where I have felt uncomfortable and disrespected. Before and in my early years of college I think that I wasn’t confident enough to speak up or didn’t process the knowledge to tell people around me why they were wrong but that changed my sophomore year of college. Attending yale and becoming a leader on my team, I felt as though I had the knowledge and confidence to speak up. In addition to speaking up on my own, I have made sure to be a part of my teams diversity and inclusion workshops. With this, I have been able to choose specific workshops directed towards my teams needs and by doing so, my team has been able to have open and honest conversations with one another. I have also made sure to bring my concerns to the Athletic department which were very open to my suggestions.

Although it is uncomfortable speaking up at times, it’s important that we as Black hockey players do so, so that we feel comfortable and respected in the white space of the rink we step into each day.

- if so how was it handled

How do you see the culture of the sport changing?

I see the culture of sport changing and it’s truly exciting. I see more Black athletes participating in the sport of their choice, I see the openers to include and educate those in the athletic community, and I see Black athletes sharing their stories. Although far from perfect, changes have definitely been made and it’s with the help of organizations such as your own that this is able to happen.

How do you see yourself changing the culture/creating a path for those behind you?

As the first African-American to ever play Yale hockey, I believe that I have helped open up the recruiting process specifically at Yale. Also by communicating openly to my athletic department, coaches and teammates, I feel as though I have also opened up doors for improving the diversity and inclusion workshops Yale offers its teams. Playing my senior year with another African-American player—Kiersten Goode, a freshmen, I feel as though by creating the sisterly bond I have with her, has left her with the ability to lead and feel comfortable at the rink as well.

Photo of Sophomore Kiersten Goode and Saroya Tinker

With the NWHL bubble about to start this upcoming week in Lake placid here are some words that Saroya is looking forward to this "season" and what she expects.

What do you look forward to this upcoming season?

I’m looking forward to not only playing with a new team, but playing at a new pace and new league as well.

What is a personal and team goal this season?

A personal goal for me this season if to just relax and play my game. I think I am often very hard on myself and that takes away from my playing abilities at times so i know relaxation for me is key.

A team goal is to play smart in all zones and to move the puck efficiently out of the D zone.

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