Club Sports coaching couple fosters family life at the LaHaye Ice Center
For ACHA Division II men’s hockey coach Ben Hughes and synchronized skating Head Coach Emily (Halvorson) Hughes, who celebrated their third anniversary last Thursday, their lives together have always revolved around the LaHaye Ice Center.
“Everything happened here at the rink, so it will always be a special place,” said Ben, who is originally from Jacksonville, Fla.
Emily, from Elk River, Minn., worked as an academic advisor for Liberty’s Online Programs in 2016-17 while Ben was a senior defenseman and head captain for the Flames’ Division I men’s hockey team. She then came on staff full time as compliance coordinator for Club Sports in 2017-18, Ben’s first season at the helm of the DII program while he completed his MBA.
They were married in 2019, as they were settling into their respective roles in Club Sports, with Ben taking on more responsibilities as Club Sports director of recruitment and head of the Varsity Club.
Emily continued her passion for the sport that she competed in as an undergraduate through the 2014-15 season by coaching the Lady Flames’ synchronized skaters for the past two years.
“Ben coaching as well is a huge benefit to me because he understands a lot of the ins and outs of what it looks like to be a head coach, so he’s been able to be a huge support these past two years,” Emily said.
Both rely on one another, and other Club Sports staff, including Director of Recruitment Kaycee Tripp, now more than ever, especially after welcoming their daughter, Oaklyn, into their world a year ago last spring.
“It’s been awesome,” Emily said. “She just turned 1, so this last year has been a journey and a little bit of a juggling act here at the rink still trying to manage our positions. Wednesdays, especially, we have practices back-to-back, and so we’re switching off in the hallway of me taking Oaklyn from (Ben), so that’s fun. She loves it here and all of the staff is really supportive. We couldn’t do it without everyone.”
Emily plans to step aside from her synchronized skating coaching duties this year as she pursues her Ph.D. in Communication. They will miss spending as much time together around the rink with their respective teams, as Ben will also be stepping down from his unofficial capacity as assistant synchronized skating coach. But they expect to be just as visible as a couple, and family, during intermissions from on-ice action.
“We definitely don’t have it all together, that’s for sure,” Ben said. “The craziness of the day, and the family aspect of it … it’s a special time. Some advice that we’ve gotten that we don’t ever want to get away from is to include our children in what we are doing.”
“Coaching isn’t really a job; it’s more of a lifestyle and calling,” he added. “It is kind of 24/7 sometimes, so being able to balance that, but bringing them alongside me with that and their support, too, has been huge, and vice-versa.”
He looks forward to celebrating more family times, just as they did for Oaklyn’s first birthday back in March, surrounded by an extended family of hockey players and ice skaters.
“Oaklyn’s first birthday party was at (ACHA) Nationals in St. Louis,” Ben said. “We’re in the conference room of the hotel and the whole team’s there singing ‘Happy Birthday.’ Is it (Emily’s) ideal choice? Maybe not, but (Oaklyn) loved it and it was a fun family kind of gathering that we got to have with the team, and to incorporate them, so that was fun.”
Video by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media