If you're a teenager who struggles to get out of bed for school in the morning -- or, more challenging, you're a parent who struggles to get your teenager out of bed for school in the morning -- consider 15-year-old sophomore Jincy Dunne's schedule this past week.
Late Sunday night, Dunne returned to her suburban St. Louis home on a long flight from a tournament with the U.S. women's under-18 hockey team. About seven hours later, she crawled out of bed at 6:30 Monday morning for school. After attending classes, she played a game on her high school's girls' basketball team that afternoon. Later that evening, she played a game on the boys' hockey team (it won).
Oh, and by the way, that flight Sunday night? Dunne was flying back from Finland. For the second time in two months.
And you think it's demanding to get up in the morning after staying up 'til midnight updating your Facebook page?
"I was a little tired," Dunne said. "I had some caffeine, and that didn't help. Orange juice was better. I had the caffeine, and I felt like my head was going to explode. But I got through the day. Luckily, there were no tests in school."
Dunne did take Tuesday off to recover, but maintaining (surviving) such a schedule is what has helped her become one of the country's finest young hockey players and a possible member of next year's U.S. Olympic team in Sochi, Russia, when she will be just 16.
"It's definitely something that's a goal of mine in the future," Dunne said, "and it's just up to what I'm willing to do and how hard I'm willing to push to get there."
Dunne took up her sport when a younger brother started roller hockey. "I just fell in love with the game," she said. "I think what I enjoy most -- besides the fact I like skating way better than I like running -- is I've met some great people playing hockey who have been there to support me and I like being on a team where you have a whole bench willing to support you no matter what."
That support team begins with her parents, Tom and Tammy Dunne, as well as her five siblings -- Jessica, Joshua, Josey, James and Joy (Jincy was the name of Tammy's grandmother). The kids all play sports, which means Tom, and especially Tammy, spend a lot of time chauffeuring them from their O'Fallon, Mo., home to school, practice, games and tournaments. They recently traded in a 6-year-old Ford Excursion that had 320,000 miles on the odometer.
"People ask me if I'm a stay-at-home mom and I say, 'No, I'm a stay-in-the-car mom," Tammy said. "But it's provided me with a captive audience. People talk about family time and quality time, and, for us, a lot of that is spent in our car. It gives us a chance where we can sit and discuss issues."
Being a hockey parent is always demanding, but it's especially so given the number of teams on which Jincy plays. In addition to the girls' basketball team at The Fulton School at St. Albans, she plays with the high school boys' team at Westminster (Fulton does not have a hockey team), the St. Louis Lady Blues and the U.S. U-18 team. She also played with the St. Louis AAA boys' hockey team when it went to the national championship game last year, and she still practices with them.
"The thing I love about her is how mature she is, compared to all the boys," said St. Louis AAA assistant coach and 19-year NHL veteran Keith Tkachuk. "It's just fun watching her. She gives up a lot of size and strength but still finds a way to win a battle one-on-one because of her smarts. That shows her intelligence and character.
"Her skating ability is amazing. She has great footwork and is very skilled. When she comes out and practices with us, she demonstrates the drills because she is such a great skater."
Tkachuk says that although the boys could be a little intimidated and quiet around Dunne off the ice, things changed in the rink.
"When an opponent hits her on the ice, something just goes off and everyone goes after that guy who hit her," he said. "That shows you how much they care for her. They do it even though she can handle herself. I remember two years ago, she was going against my son Matthew and flat-out beat him. She knocked him down. I loved it. The head coach and I were in the stands laughing."
Lady Blues co-head coach Patrick Quinn says he's been impressed with Dunne's emotional growth in transitioning among the teams. One day, the 5-foot-6 defenseman will be playing with boys who are 6-2, weigh close to 200 pounds and are very loud, and the next day she is with smaller girls who do not respond well to teammates shouting in their face. Yet she has learned to adapt to both. "It's been fun to watch her mature emotionally," Quinn said.
One of Jincy's teammates is Katie Matheny, the daughter of St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. Dunne recalls a lesson the manager told her after she got too upset about a bad tournament. "He was really cool about it, and he told me not to worry," she said. "He told me life is all about how you treat people. He said, 'Sports won't last forever, it's how you treat people that counts.'"
Dunne not only is a superb hockey player and terrific athlete but also is a top student with a fine voice who sang Carrie Underwood's "See You Again" at a funeral this past summer. She says she eventually would like to go to medical school, although she isn't sure what branch of medicine to pursue yet. "She's a young lady who is capable of doing anything," Quinn said. "People talk about renaissance men, well, she's a renaissance woman."
"Jincy has this crazy schedule for hockey, but always keeps up with her work, never asks for special dispensations on her assignments, or wants any attention for her successes,'" said Kara Douglass, the head of school at Fulton. "She has a strong sense of justice and doesn't hesitate to stand up for what's right or to stand up for the underdog."
Which is not to imply that Dunne is perfect. She struggles with the same issues so many teens do. As one unnamed family source revealed, cleaning her room is "an area of possible improvement."
"She's always had a personal drive," Tammy said. "Our family is very faith-centered, and that's been a huge part of the development of all the children and where we attribute their ability and gifts. If you are talented in some areas, there is a greater responsibility that comes with that."
"I think it's one of those deals where she is a kid disciplined enough to be a self-starter and do it all," Tom said. "She's busy, but she likes being busy and she's used to it. It's a way of life for her. She's getting her bang for the buck in life, that's for sure."
After the trip to Finland and the basketball-hockey doubleheader Monday, Dunne stayed home from school Tuesday to rest. She also baked some cookies and pizza. And she watched a news program on the disturbingly high number of senior citizens who are not treated properly in rest homes. Jincy turned to her mother and said she eventually would like to start some sort of private business where such seniors would not be abused. "Just something that will help others," she said.
Of course, that remains in the distant future when Dunne is much, much older (say, like 27 or 28). More pressing is making the 2014 Olympic team and squeezing a trip to Sochi into the busy life of a high school junior.
"To me, that's a no-brainer," Tkachuk said. "She won't only be on the team, she'll be one of the best players. ... She's going to be a very successful young lady, not just in hockey but in life."
"The Olympics are for sure a goal of mine, but I also want to influence people and show them that faith and hard work will get you anywhere you want to go in life," Dunne said. "And a big goal is to give back to the people who have supported me throughout my career to show how thankful I am to have crossed paths with them."