June 1, 2010
It’s a wrap…
Thanks to everyone from coast to coast who have provided the delicious filling for my submissions over the past few months. Athletes, coaches, and support staff have been nothing short of fantastic.
I’ve learned that Field Hockey Canada is special. I feel privileged to have been welcomed into the Canadian Field Hockey family circle albeit for a brief period of time.
In wrapping up my gig let me share with you some thoughts from two senior women national players: Katie Baker and Jessalyn Walkey.
On coach Louis Mendonca:
PEI native, Katie Baker, a 2009 selectee to the Pan American elite dream team credits “Louis for helping me love playing again. He is an amazing coach. He truly wants what is best for all of us.”
Continued the national team co-captain and CIS (St. Mary’s University) First Team All Canadian, “Louis is creative, but, he also brings in other coaches when he feels they can help us in some way.
“He is passionate, and his passion passes on to the entire team. He inspires us not only to be a national team, but a winning national team.
Added Jessalyn Walkey, “Louis has given me SO much in the last year that I cannot begin to put it in writing. He has filled my game with tactical knowledge, individual skills, game experience, and life experiences.
“He has ignited passion and determination within me, and ultimately the desire to be an Olympian.”
The decorated University of Guelph alum remembers meeting coach Mendonca for the first time. “Louis was quite persistent when I first met him in the fall of 2008 and I am very grateful for his belief in me. He has given me countless individual hours on and off the pitch to enrich my game.
“He is a phenomenal coach. He will be a huge part of helping me reach my own goals of being a world-class player! My learning from him has just begun, and I look forward to reaching our Olympic dream together.”
Praising the national senior women’s team:
Said Katie Baker: “In the past two years we have had a lot of youth and inexperience (join the team), but I like it. It brings a lot of fresh air and creativity.”
And Jess chipped in, “Initially I was VERY nervous (when I joined the team for the 2009 Dublin tour). After coming off an impressive university season everyone (on the team) was very supportive and encouraging. The team has always been composed of a great group of women. They truly are the best!”
Overcoming ‘a devastating injury’:
Jess Walkey’s road to fulfilling her Olympic dream was derailed earlier this year with what she described as “a devastating injury.” The resolute young athlete indicated that she had “two options: Let it be extremely upsetting and possibly end my career, or be positive and get through it no matter how hard.”
Continued the 19 year old, “Right from the moment I tore my ACL I promised myself to not ‘let it win.’ I had to make this injury simply an obstacle to overcome.
“I believe many challenges will seem quite simple compared to this one once I return to the pitch. This is not to underestimate the size of this obstacle however, and what I still have to go through.
“It has been a rollercoaster: physically, mentally, and emotionally. The two weeks after surgery were the worst. Now I know it’s all up from here. I look forward to the little successes along the way.”
And Jess attributes ‘the little successes’ to a special team. Her ‘incredible support team’ which includes her “incredible parents who have been so supportive, patient, and positive through this whole process.”
As well, Jess feels “blessed to have a fantastic surgeon, and wonderful rehab team. The athletic therapist, osteopath, and performance specialist that I am rehabbing with have known and worked with me for years. They are fantastic and have done an excellent job in getting me healthy and ahead of schedule.”
Said the Rockwood Ontario native, “This has been the most challenging experience I have had with sports.”
But, the optimistic young national senior team member truly believes that this setback “is simply a chapter in my journey towards the Olympic dream.”
Some months ago I met the dynamic Louis Mendonca for lunch. Lunch was good, but field hockey 101 was better. The dialogue was exhilarating. I got goosebumps when Louis shared with me the tradition and the power of the signing of the Canadian flag once a player has earned her first cap. National team member, Jessalyn Walkey talked about the significance of ‘the signing.’
“I was awestruck when I got to sign the flag and then to stand there and sing our National Anthem. For the first time I had found my very own personal connection to our country. I knew what it meant to be Canadian, and how proud I was to be representing my country. The flag is filled with signatures of those who have played, coached, and managed for Canada over the years.”
Continued Jess, “It was one of the greatest honours I have experienced. I was joining a community of athletes who strive for an Olympic dream in field hockey, a desire to represent Canada, all stemming from a love for field hockey.
Concluded the young national, “Signing the flag for me was a visual passing on of the legacy and responsibility to our sport and our country. In that moment passion and determination was ignited in me that I will hold with me for the rest of my life, but especially when I march with my team into an Olympic ceremony one day.”
Thanks Field Hockey Canada for letting me march with our national teams over the past few months. It’s been a great gig.