High Flying Mariah
A Reflection on Fujimagari's Path
Now that the dust has settled on Mariah Fujimagari’s historic and inspiring ECHL win last weekend, I wanted to share some reflections on her journey.
Mariah was a demo goalie at the past two Global Goaltending Retreats, so her winding path from Connecticut to Sweden to Kalamazoo also included a couple of stops right here in Colorado.
During both events, not only did “Fuji” showcase her talent and work ethic, she showed the coaches what a living example of nonlinear development looks like.
Mariah at the GGR
First and foremost, Mariah is a diehard student of the game.
I noticed this right away when we connected for the first time. She was eager to take on the challenge of high-altitude training, and she desperately wanted to soak up as much as humanly possible. Inviting her to the GGR was a no-brainer, but had I balked at the idea, she wouldn’t have taken “no” for an answer.
Sure enough, it didn’t take long for her performance to pay off.
That’s because one of the coaches in attendance was Joel Martin, who is now the head coach of the Kalamazoo Wings. It was during their time together at the 2022 GGR that Mariah first planted the seeds of her recent ECHL feat.
But those seeds didn’t sprout overnight — there were setbacks along the way.
Like the rest of the coaches in Breckenridge, however, I think Martin was impressed by the sheer dedication and commitment Mariah had to her craft.
“I knew that she fit the culture that we have here and I felt like she could help us build that culture, as well, by being a part of it. We're looking for good hockey players, but we're looking for good people, as well, that do things a certain way and we felt like she checked all those boxes.” - Joel Martin
Beyond the altitude, another challenge that the GGR demo goalies face is dropping the ego and trying new things. This isn’t always easy, especially for the pro-level goalies that rely heavily on familiarity and their “ideal” environment.
But for someone like Mariah, a willingness to step outside of her comfort zone has played a role in her success. Combined with all of the time she has spent in places like Slovakia and Sweden, Fuji’s reputation at the GGR is that of a proven sojourner, one that is capable of thriving in all kinds of uncomfortable situations.
Mariah Off the Ice
Fujimagari also brings a strong holistic approach to her game. She has a deep knowledge of proper nutrition and recovery. She cares about mental health and wellness. She knows how to find that one-percent edge. She is detailed in her approach to preparation. She enjoys showing up to do the work every day.
Mariah’s passion for self-care is also a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. She’s so well-rounded as an athlete that coaches are willing to spend that extra minute or extra rep to help her get better.
You also know she values the support, as she’s always quick to credit others:
“I'm just really grateful for every opportunity that has been paved for me every stage of the way. It's not one person that allows an athlete to reach their full potential. It takes a village. I'm so grateful for every single coach and every single trainer and every single mentor and my family that has really led me to be able to have this opportunity here today.” - Mariah Fujimagari
Another one of Mariah’s biggest accolades is her commitment to giving back.
A few months after attending the 2023 GGR, Mariah returned to Colorado in order to coach a girl’s goalie camp at Mountain High Hockey. She even reached out and asked me to come speak to the girls about Lift The Mask .
Making time in the camp schedule to support mental health was just another example of Mariah’s genuine care for the next generation, not just her own personal success. I think this is a big reason why she has such a strong reputation in hockey and why she is considered a leader and mentor for so many young girls. She loves to teach as much as she loves to learn.
While these are just a few of my own personal observations, overall, what impresses me the most about Mariah is the high level of autonomy in her game. She seeks out wisdom from coaches all around the world, but she forms her own path and holds herself accountable every step of the way.
If she does take a step forward and then two steps back, she’s not going to quit. And no matter where she goes from there, she remains fully committed to the process. I also think she finds great fulfilment in her role as a mentor, so she genuinely relishes and loves every part of the game, even the difficult ones.
Like Mariah said on Instagram, “Commit yourself to the journey to find out what limitless feels like.”
Some of the best goalies I’ve come across are the ones that fully abandon the idea of giving up, taking a day off, or “half-assing” an opportunity to get better. It’s simply not an option. They are also the ones that appreciate where they are going, where they came from, and everyone who helped them along the way.
Goaltending is Nonlinear
I think Mariah’s story is also a great reminder to goalie coaches that an athlete’s development is often nonlinear and self-organized. These two terms will be further explored in future posts, as they are key principles of Ecological Dynamics and important concepts for goalie coaching education.
Some of these traits I mentioned above might be considered “intangibles” and can’t really be taught, which is partially true. But a lot of it can be cultivated by intentionally designing training environments that allow for more autonomy and for a “sense of self” to thrive. I wrote about autonomy in a previous post and it will continue to be discussed moving forward.
Ultimately, let’s remember to not lose sight of those “basic human needs” for our athletes. Connecting on a personal level matters. Talking about life beyond the game matters. Exploring new solutions really matters. Self-guidance matters.
If you can keep these things in mind when building your programs, you will do wonders for your athletes and their own intrinsic motivations and confidence.
Lift The Mask Session
I really appreciate Chuck’s words, especially the minute-long video I posted on Instagram yesterday. His support for our #LiftTheMask movement is huge and I’m grateful that we have another resource within the goaltending community.
Goldy’s Mind Streams
I just got my copy of Wayfinding: The Art and Science of How We Find and Lose Our Way. It was recommended by Marianne Davies at the 2023 SMSC.
Rob Gray’s latest podcast reviews a recent research paper that focuses on different ways to apply ecological dynamics to coaching.
The godfather of Swedish goaltending, Thomas Magnusson, was a guest on InGoal Mag’s latest podcast (starting around the 45:00 mark). A must-listen.
Craig Anderson has an interesting new gig with the Buffalo Sabres organization, as he is now in a “hockey liaison” role.
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