While female sledge hockey players can be found on almost every team these days, there are still only a couple of national level teams. Canada, always at the forefront of ice hockey in general, is once again helping to lead the way.
The Canadian Women’s National Team has 16 players on their current roster, which is impressive in its own right. But they are still pushing for more. With a series of “Try It” development camps, they’re hoping to attract more women to the sport, including those who have never played before. The first camp was held in Alberta in 2013 and had 14 attendees, while 2014’s camp had 11 women attending in BC. And the third development camp is being held next month, this time in Ontario.
Teenager Alanna Mah was at that first camp and now plays on the National Team, as well as continuing to play for her local team, Edmonton Impact. She’s just one of several young athletes who have benefited from the events.
“I probably look up to Christina [Picton] the most on the team. I think she’s a great leader and on the ice I think we’re kinda alike that we’re both small players and I hope to be as good as her one day!”
Canadian Women’s Sledge Hockey President, Janice Coulter, has been involved with the developmental level side of things since the start and is instrumental in encouraging new players. She knows how important it is to increase awareness of the sport for women, all over the world.
“It is incredibly important for the sport to increase participation numbers to build awareness. We want to be doing more development not only in Canada but in Europe and Asia too. We need more countries engaged to have women’s sledge teams so that we are ready to complete at the Paralympic level when the time comes.”
But it’s more than just about the business side of it for her. Her favorite part of the camps is getting to watch the new players who are trying out sledge hockey for the first time. “Just watching the growth and confidence that can happen in such a short window of time is life changing for some,” she adds.
Each of the camps runs over two or three days, with both on- and off-ice activities and ends with an exhibition game. “ We usually have a shoot out at the end of the fun game which is totally fun – everyone is cheering and it gives every players a ‘star’ moment on the ice.” The camps are led by Tara Chisholm, Head Coach for the Canadian Women’s Sledge Hockey Team, and Derek Whitson, who is a member of the Canadian Men’s Sledge Hockey Team.
In addition to the development camps, players Christina Picton and Ashley Goure also partner with venues local to them to provide a “player mentorship” opportunity, where they offer a one-on-one. And if that wasn’t enough, Tara Chisholm will also be running her second sledge-specific coaching certification on May 20th.
If you’re interested in joining this year’s development camp, it’s being held on May 21st and 22nd in Port Colborne, ON. There is a $100 fee to participate, but it includes all sessions and lunch on both days. It also includes the loan of equipment if you don’t already have it. You don’t need any experience at all to take part and you could find yourself on next year’s roster!
For more information, visit the Canadian Women’s Sledge Hockey Team website.