The Olympic gold medalist tells PEOPLE about traveling with her 6-month-old son Drew while playing in the new Professional Women's Hockey league: "It makes me a better mother"
For Olympic gold medalist Kendall Coyne Schofield, the first month of the Professional Women’s Hockey League has been about a lot more than the action on the ice.
The 31-year-old winger has taken on triple duty: becoming a new mom, becoming the PWHL players’ union president and playing for the league-leading Team Minnesota, who sits atop the standings one month into the inaugural season.
“We call her Supermom,” teammate Taylor Heise tells PEOPLE. “She’s amazing.”
Kendall gave birth to her son Drew last July, and the PWHL draft took place in September. Two months after that, her husband, football player Michael Schofield, received a call to join the Detroit Lions. As the two faced down their busy pro sports travel schedules, they made the decision that baby Drew would stay at home — and travel for away games — with his mom.
“It definitely comes with its challenges at times,” Kendall tells PEOPLE. “But when my husband signed with the Lions, we both looked at each other like, Well, this is going to be a little bit more difficult than we thought, but we can do this.”
With the help of her teammates and a league-funded nanny, Kendall has made it work.
“Drew's been an amazing traveler,” Kendall says. “He might not believe me, but I've been taking pictures so we can remember when he’s older. It's been really special and it gives me a lot of motivation.”
Kendall has received help from teammates on the road, as well as help from the nearby families of the 12 Minnesota-native players on the team. She recounts stories about other players helping carry strollers for her, playing with her son in the team meal room, or keeping him entertained on the bus.
And as she's racking up wins on the ice, Drew is hitting his own milestones, too. He’s eaten his first real food, he’s begun to babble, and he’s been showing signs of crawling at any moment. (“I'm always trying to keep my phone out because I don't want Michael to miss it,” Kendall laughs, joking she has “3,000 photos” of her son from the past month alone.)
Recently, Drew wore his first pair of shoes: A pair purchased by Kendall’s Team Minnesota and longtime Team USA teammate Kelly Pannek. “I ran in the locker room like, ‘Kelly, Kelly come out here!’ “ Kendall says of her excitement to show him off to his honorary auntie.
“Drew's been pretty resilient through it all and does it with a smile on his face and a little giggle,” she adds. “I just tell myself each night, it's so worth it — because it is. It would've been easy for me to retire from the game and I'd be so happy being a mom, but I never wanted him to be the reason that I stopped playing. I knew it was going to be hard, but I'm embracing the challenge and it's making me a better mom.”
The PWHL is helping pay for a nanny to travel with her, hiring assistant coach Jake Bobrowski's daughter Ella, a 20-year-old nursing student who’s on school break until Feb. 8 — just a few days before the Super Bowl marks the end of the NFL season and Michael's return home to take on dad duty.
Coyne-Schofield says Ella has been "amazing," staying back with Drew at the team’s hotel during games that go past his bedtime.
The unique arrangement has also allowed some special moments between mother and son: Drew was in the crowd watching his mom play her first PWHL game when Team Minnesota and Team Boston kicked off their seasons on Jan. 3.
“I kind of forget about the game because there was just so much emotion behind it for so many different reasons,” Kendall says. “One being, obviously, this was the first game that I was playing in this new league that I had a part in helping establish, and having that dream become a reality. And the other, I knew exactly where he was sitting. Ella had a chest carrier on, so he was just bobbing up and down, his head bobbing and smiling. I could see him up there watching.”
Having young kids have the opportunity to watch women play professional hockey is something Kendall has long had on her mind.
“For both young boys and girls to grow up and say women can play professional hockey and men can play professional hockey. To know that, to see that, to believe it, is incredibly important and it's everything,” Kendall says. “And I think this league is showing that.”
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.
Kendall recently received a text from Team USA teammate Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, who sent a picture of her daughter Hazel Ann watching a PWHL game.
“She wants to be a professional hockey player, and that brings a tear to my eye because that's why the league was created,” Kendall says. “It wasn't to benefit the players of the current generation. It’s for the players of the next generation, like Hazel Ann watching the game. It's so important for boys and girls to grow up with the same dream and to know they can have the same dream.”
Kendall points to a quote by Billie Jean King, the pioneering former tennis star who sits on the PWHL executive board and helps champion the league.
“Billie always says, ‘You need to see it to be it.’ But we never saw it,” Kendall says about her and her fellow PWHL players. “ I didn’t see a women's hockey game until I was 10 years old. And I mean now, Drew’s seen more women's hockey games than he's seen men's!”
For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!
Read the original article on People.