Field Hockey Canada > “You can always improve your game”

“You can always improve your game”

June 21, 2012 | Field Hockey Canada |

At the 2002 Commonwealth Games, goalkeeper Azelia “Zee” Liu made her first international appearance for Canada in a match against Scotland.  For over ten years, she lived in the net – defending Canada’s goal in 106 international matches.  Earlier this month, Zee decided it was time to begin a new chapter in her life.  After a successful career with the Women’s National Team, the Scarborough native is now pursuing her dream of shaping the next generation by teaching and coaching youth. 

“Zee brought a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience to Team Canada,” says Paul Bundy, Women’s National Team Coach.  “During her time on the team, she truly evolved as a player and as a person.  In the last year she took her game to a whole new level.  She took responsibility for her position as our last line of defence.  Through hard work, determination, sweat and tears – Zee was able to bring her style and technique to a world-class level in an effort to raise Canada’s game on the international stage.  It is very difficult to change your game after playing for 9 years, but she did it.”

Beyond developing her own game, Zee has provided mentorship and leadership to many younger athletes on the Squad. 

“Zee took the time to mentor Kaitlyn Williams as a goalkeeper and encourage her to think outside the box in her training,” says Bundy.  “Her strengths as an educator definitely came out on the field.  She was able to bring Kaitlyn out of her comfort zone and inspire her to give her all in the net.  Zee retires knowing Canada’s goal is in good hands.” 

But she will definitely still be missed.  Her dry wit and calm demeanor were able to unite the ever-changing squad and ease nerves in tense situations.  No doubt, these qualities will make Zee a great coach in the future.

“She is going to be a tremendous asset to our program in the future,” says Bundy.  “It’s great to see her already coaching in Ontario at the club and provincial level – inspiring Canada’s future National Team athletes.”

Q & A with Zee

What did you enjoy most about your time on the National Team?

“I enjoyed hanging out with the team every day.  While most of the other girls loved games, I have always loved practices.  Training with the team, going to the field, working out and going hard were just great.”

What are your fondest memories with Team Canada?

“The Major Games definitely stand out the most – I loved being a part of that.  2003 was an especially memorable year for me.  During a tour of New Zealand I received the news my mom had passed away.  Through experiences like that, you find out how strong you can be as a person.  That tour was definitely memorable for me.”

Who has had the most impact on your career?

“There have been so many people that have supported me through every stage of my career.  Marina van der Merwe and Kathy Broderick helped me elevate my game during my time in university.  When I made it onto the National Team, Sarah Forbes, Carla Somerville and Lisa (Faust) Roberts taught me how to carry myself as a National Team athlete.  In the past year, Mike Mahood really helped improve my game.  My family has also supported me throughout my career.  Thank you!” 

What will you take away from your experience?

“The most important lesson I’ve learned is that doesn’t matter how much experience you have – you can always learn more and improve.  Whenever you reach goals, you should set new ones and never settle.  I have learned to apply that attitude to all areas of my life.” 

How did you know it was time to retire?

“I don’t like to think of it as retiring – I’m just turning a new chapter in my life.  I’ve always been passionate about working with young kids and athletes – and it’s just time to start pursuing those dreams.”

So what’s next?

“I am pursuing a teaching career at the high school level, and volunteering in the meantime.  I’m also participating in recreational sports – I’m still really competitive!  I’ve been playing softball and field hockey, but not in the goal.  I’ve been playing different positions, which has been fun.  I’ve also been involved with coaching at some of the local clubs and at the provincial level.  I definitely want to stay involved in the community and help bring up the next generation of field hockey athletes.”