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Courtney Laughlin helping out Caps coaching staff at development camp

Courtney Laughlin watches development camp drills at KCI. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
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In addition to the expected members of the Capitals’ and Hershey Bears’ coaching staffs on the ice during development camp, there was a new face in the mix as prospects worked through drills.

Courtney Laughlin, the daughter of Comcast SportsNet Capitals color analyst Craig Laughlin, had the chance to help out and see how professional coaching staffs prepare for and run the week-long camp. She just finished her second year as an assistant coach of the women’s hockey team at SUNY Potsdam and was invited by General Manager George McPhee to treat development camp as something of an observational classroom.

“It just kind of came up during a conversation about coaching in general,” Laughlin, 25, said earlier this week. “Once you start to learn about coaching, you see how things work on the women’s side and then you start to learn about the men’s game and you want to keep going. This is the highest level of coaching, and to learn about the ins and outs of it has been a great opportunity.”

When her playing career ended with the conclusion of her senior year in college, Laughlin wanted to find a way to remain involved in hockey. She always enjoyed teaching others and turned to coaching, spending two years at her alma mater as an assistant.

She decided to go back to school to pursue a Master’s degree in sports management at Georgetown, but wants to continue coaching after completing her education.

Laughlin knows there are inherent challenges to being an aspiring female coach. According to the 2004-2010 NCAA Gender-Equity Report, of the 84 NCAA women’s hockey programs there are only 26 female head coaches. There are no female coaches in the men’s NCAA programs.

“A couple college teams that I’ve been in contact with have expressed interest, but there is that ‘Oh, she’s a girl’ factor. That’s to be expected, somewhat,” Laughlin said. “But I hope to continue coaching one way or another. I don’t know where it will take me but there are plenty of opportunities out there.”

And if there’s one piece of advice she took to heart this week, it’s that the more she learns and more experience she has, the better shot she has at achieving that goal.

“That’s one thing Coach Oates told me,” Laughlin said. “To be respectable in any field, knowledge is key. If you can express that knowledge and portray that knowledge, you’re golden. So being able to learn from all of these different people is really helpful for me.”