Paige Rinaldi, a senior at Freeport High, has provided leadership for a Yarmouth/Freeport co-op girls’ hockey team that enters the North playoffs this week as the No. 4 seed. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

When the Yarmouth/Freeport co-op girls’ hockey team began the season in a tailspin, Paige Rinaldi helped them rally. Rinaldi is a skilled defenseman – a four-year starter – but that was not her key role in turning the Clippers from a 2-7 team to a 9-9 team that earned the No. 4 seed in the North playoffs beginning on Wednesday.

Rinaldi’s forte is leadership.

“Paige was never the greatest athlete on any team she was on,” said Yarmouth/Freeport coach Dave Intraversato, who has known Rinaldi for eight years, and also coaches her on the Freeport High soccer team.

“But she was always the hardest worker, the best teammate. She’s very valuable for us, as far as a leader goes, pulling the girls together.

“I’ve coached her for years. Someone will have a bad game and she’s picking people up all the time. She just cares about everyone.”

Rinaldi learned these traits at home, coming from a supportive family. Early on, she was spreading the love, showing a knack for nurturing, as an in-demand baby-sitter and pet-sitter.

“At a young age, she was more of an older soul,” said her mother, Candice.

Like every senior, Rinaldi is thinking about life after high school. She is still deciding on which college she’ll attend to study medicine.

Q: What do you want to major in?

A: I want to go into nursing. I have looked into pre-med. My short-term goal is to be a nurse. My long-term goal is to be an anesthesiologist.

Q: When did you begin thinking about those professions?

A: When I was younger, I always had the dream of being a veterinarian, as many young kids do. I kind of stuck with it. Then I thought of (occupational therapy and physical therapy) and to be trainer for athletes. Then I decided, ‘Why don’t I do it all?’ I could work in a hospital and help with a little bit of everything.

Q: What classes are you taking now?

A: I have my CNA – Certified Nursing Assistant – class. I’ll be certified before I get my high school diploma. I take Latin IV, quantitative math (college class). I took creative writing and now have public speaking.

Q: When others describe you, they always describe your care for others. Where does that nurturing instinct come from?

A:  I’ve always been that way. I enjoy it. I like to take … I don’t know if leadership would be the right word. I like to take leadership when it comes to people. I feel like it’s my place to help.

Q: Where did you learn that?

A: From my family. Before every practice and game, my parents tell me, ‘Work hard, do your best.’ Before every test, ‘Do what you can. Do it as well as well as you can.’ They remind me that I can do it. Even if I’m stressed, I can do it.

Q: Tell me about your hockey team.

A: We got off to a rough start. A lot of diverse personalities. But we picked ourselves up. A lot of team bonding. Everything fell into place.

Q: I know I’ve used the word ‘nurturing,’ but are you ever tough on your teammates?

A: Yes.

Q: How so?

A: I believe in my team, 100 percent. They’ve worked so hard to get us where we are. With one individual person trying to make this team successful, it wouldn’t have worked. We all work together … Sometimes, we don’t always work as hard. Sometimes, I feel slow. We’re all human. It happens. But sometimes, I’ll go, ‘Alright, do you guys actually want to practice because we got to pick it up …’

Q: Are you hard on yourself?

A: Yes, very.

Q: Can that be detrimental?

A: It can be. I’m kind of a perfectionist.

Q: Does anybody intervene when you get like that?

A: My parents … Someone once asked, ‘Who controls your actions in your life, and your decisions?’ I said myself, because I usually do. But my parents obviously have a big part, and I definitely care what they think.

Q: Are you ready to move away from home, for college?

A: It’s going to be rough but, you know, it’s going to be OK. I’ve been very independent.

Q: It sounds like your parents have been preparing you for this?

A: They have. They’re very good at it. They know when to back off and let me learn my lesson.

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