On September 17th, Queen Charlotte Intermediate’s field hockey team stepped on the pitch for the first time in 20 years. It was a tough match for the rookie athletes as they were up against the reigning provincial champions, Stonepark Intermediate. Queen Charlotte did not walk away with a victory that day – but the match was truly monumental, representing the growing passion for field hockey in PEI.
So how did Queen Charlotte revive their field hockey program?
Three years ago, Charla Currie, a former member of the University of New Brunswick’s field hockey team, transferred to Colonel Gray High School to teach Physical Education. She had coached the field hockey team at her previous school – so why not reintroduce field hockey to Colonel Gray? This inspired Queen Charlotte, one of Colonel Gray’s feeder schools, to also revive their field hockey program. Young women jumped at the chance to try a new sport.
By September 8th, Queen Charlotte had recruited 30 girls for the team and secured Jana Doucette as Head Coach. After Barb Carmichael, President of the PEI Field Hockey Association, dropped off 24 sticks and balls – the girls were ready to take up field hockey.
“I explained the game to them at their first practice and ran through a few drills,” says Barb. “Soon thereafter, the PEIFHA hosted player clinics for three local junior high schools, and a number of Queen Charlotte girls were able to attend.”
While umpiring a match between Queen Charlotte and Summerside Intermediate School later in the season, Barb was pleasantly surprised by the high skill level.
“It was unbelievable to watch this group of athletes in grade seven, eight and nine display so much skill,” says Barb. “For many athletes, this was the first season they had actually played competitive field hockey.”
Despite a solid skill foundation, the Queen Charlotte Team was still in need of some expertise. Stephen Goosen was in town facilitating a Community Coaching Course and offered to spend some time with the Queen Charlotte girls. Goosen provided skills training and encouraged the team to focus on feasible short-term goals rather than the score line. The girls focused on improving through each match, and in their fifth match of the season, Queen Charlotte secured their first victory with two solid goals!
“I was there for Queen Charlotte’s second victory,” says Barb. “As I watched the girls play, I kept thinking to myself ‘this player is going to be good!’ and ‘that player is going to be good!’ Years ago I watched another grade ten girl playing field hockey on long grass and said ‘this little Baker girl is going to be good.’ You know the rest of that story!”
National Team Alumna Katie Baker of Argyle Shore has been an inspiration for many athletes in PEI. She continues encouraging up-and-coming athletes in her home province. For the third consecutive year, Baker has presented one of her personal hockey sticks to a local PEI high school field hockey athlete. This year’s recipient was Sydney Stavert, a grade 12 student at Charlottetown Rural High School – the defending PEISAA High School Provincial Champions. Stavert was named PEISAA League All Star, and was one of three PEI athletes selected to compete for the Canadian Women’s National Target 2017 Squad. Baker’s father, Richard Baker, was on site to present Stavert with Katie’s hockey stick.
There are currently five high school programs including Charlottetown Rural, Montague Regional, Bluefield, Three Oaks, and Colonel Gray High School. Each high school has a local “feeder school.” The intermediate level field hockey programs include Stonepark, Montague Intermediate School, East Wiltshire, Summerside and of course, Queen Charlotte. There is a high-level of interest in field hockey at the junior high age, with each school seeing between 20 to 25 team hopefuls at tryouts every year.
Beyond the fall season, PEI’s athletes have also been eager to participate in summer programs. In 2011, the PEI Field Hockey Association facilitated a summer program at the University of PEI. Two days a week, approximately 24 young athletes came out to learn skills, scrimmage and participate in the Eastern Tournament.
The summer program grew in 2012, attracting close to 40 field hockey players. This year, PEI was able to send a provincial team to the Field Hockey Canada Under 18 National Championships in Calgary.
“The extra summer practices and tournaments have made a great difference in the skill level of our athletes,” says Carmichael. “It was really noticeable when they returned to their school teams in the fall.”
PEI’s field hockey athletes just can’t get enough. By popular demand, PEI plans to start an indoor league in January to allow players to compete throughout the winter.
“We are excited to see what 2013 will bring!” says Barb.