As captain of the Canadian Women’s National Field Hockey Team, Kate Gillis has traveled far and wide.
After making the decision to move across the country from Kingston to Vancouver at the age of seventeen to train with the National Program, Gillis has gone on to experience the wide spectrum of what it means to be an international athlete.
Much of that experience includes globetrotting.
Gillis, who is currently in Dublin, Ireland for World League Round 2, through her time with the National Team has also ventured to India, Scotland, England, Argentina, Trinidad and Tobago, and many more of the world’s most exotic locations all in the name of her country.
Before the Women’s National Team rejoined for training early in 2015, the 24 year-old, who played in her first international match for Canada in 2007 and has since gone on to play in 117 more, traveled to the land down under to play in the Australian Hockey League (AHL).
“It worked out that we had some time off and it fit right into our schedule,” she says. “I really wanted to play in the AHL. It was something I always wanted to do. I have a bunch of friends who play in the different leagues in Melbourne and Perth.”
But as much as the experience of playing in the AHL for the Canberra Strikers was about enjoyment, it was also about the hockey. Specifically, how the time down under would benefit Gillis and her Canadian teammates upon her return.
“Australia plays a very fast run and gun style of hockey and (Canadian Women’s National Team coach Ian Rutledge) said I would really benefit from that,” Gillis adds about the experience.
Canberra finished fifth out of eight teams in the tournament, but the placing was just one part of the puzzle for Gillis. The other part was the exposure to a high level of hockey and to those who play it.
With the Strikers, Gillis roomed with Australian national team player Edwina Bone, and also played alongside fellow Hockeyroo Anna Flanagan, and New Zealand Blackstick Samantha Charlton.
“That was a great opportunity to play with them and learn from them and what their teams do and how they play,” she says.
Much of what she took from the hockey was the offensive ferocity with which the Australians and Kiwis play. Something that Gillis believes would benefit the Canadian game if they want to be considered one of the world’s best.
“Sometimes you don’t have too many opportunities when you’re playing against really good teams like New Zealand or Australia,” she explains.
“They’re so attacking and they don’t hold back at all, and just go straight to net. I’m definitely going to take from that and bring it back to our team.”
Canada opens World League Round 2 on Saturday and with the beginning of the tournament is the continuation of Gillis’ journey to lead the National Team to the world’s biggest stage: the Olympic Games.
“The Olympic qualifying year is always huge,” she says. “This will be my third time trying for an Olympics. Each time is different and it kind of depends on where you’re ranked in the world and what the team’s like.”
While her AHL teammates Bone, Flanagan and Charlton will automatically qualify for World League 3 and a chance at the 2016 Olympics because of their team’s world rankings, Gillis and her
Canadian teammates – who are ranked 23rd in the world – have to finish in the top two at World League Round 2 to move on to the World League semi-finals in June.
If Canada finishes in the top three at the World League semi-finals, it will qualify for the Olympics. Otherwise, it will be forced to win gold at the 2015 Pan American Games, which will be held in Toronto this summer.
“One of our goals is to just focus day by day on what we need to do, she says. “Whether it be a game, a test match, or training, all of that is really building up to qualifying.”
Canada opens World League Round 2 against Turkey on Saturday, March 14 before facing host Ireland on Sunday.
The top two finishers at World League 2 gain an entry into World League Round 3 in Spain in June, where the top three teams will earn a spot at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.