Seven months ago, Rowan Harris and Kat Leahy stepped out onto the field at the FIH Hockey World Cup in Spain. This week, they’ll take centre court at the Indoor World Cup in South Africa.
The Indoor World Cup starts on February 5, taking place in Pretoria, South Africa. Canada will open the tournament with a match against Ukraine. With the opening whistle of that match, Harris and Leahy will officially play in their second world cup in less than a year.
According to Harris, who got her start playing indoor hockey in the Ottawa winter in 2012, the decision to join the Indoor National Team last year was born out of love for playing hockey and a desire to connect with her long-time friends and teammates in Ontario.
“Honestly, I just love playing. It’s a great opportunity to play high-level international matches and the commitment to the indoor team meshed well with the outdoor senior schedule as well,” she said. “And growing up in Ontario, I have that connection to indoor hockey and a lot of these girls from the past years.”
Harris grew up in Ottawa, playing club hockey for Outaouais and A&C as well as the Ontario provincial team. She made her international senior team goal keeping debut in 2016 and played for UBC Thunderbirds from 2014-2018. She returned to her indoor roots last year prior to the Indoor Pan American Championship and was a part of that qualifying team. And now, less than a year after playing in the FIH Hockey World Cup in Spain, she straps on the pads for the Indoor Hockey World Cup.
“The big difference is in the size of court of the ball speed. Everything happens so much faster. Sometimes it feels like I’m still learning new indoor skills every time I’m out there,” Harris said. “Although there are differences, I think what I’ve learned over the past few years is how to prepare myself, how to calm myself in pressure moments especially in big international games.”
Rowan Harris and Kat Leahy played in the FIH World Cup in Spain last summer. Bottom row photos/Yan Huckendubler. Top row Photos/Johannes Girgis.
Harris is one of two players accomplishing this outdoor and indoor world cup combination, with the other being Victoria’s Kat Leahy. Along with Leahy, Elise Wong, and Alison Lee, a veteran of the 2015 Indoor World Cup, the team has an experienced leadership core. Leahy said the experience at the FIH Hockey World Cup in Spain will buoy her in those big moments, but she said she still feels like she has lots to learn in the indoor environment.
“I’ve never played in an indoor event of this size and scale,” she said. “So even though I have that outdoor international experience, this will be different for sure. I think my playing experience at the World Cup last year will help, on and off the court, but we also have other leaders like Alison [Lee] who have that Indoor World Cup experience that will show the way as well.”
Leahy made her outdoor national team debut in 2013 and has also been a steady force on the Indoor National Team for the last five years. Although living primarily in Vancouver and Victoria, Leahy has made the regular commutes to Toronto for training camps, tournaments, and team events.
Leahy said the Vancouver Island community has a strong indoor hockey scene, with tournaments at the University of Victoria as well as in Duncan and Cowichan. She also played in the German Bundesliga for Grossflottbeker Hockey Club, where she got additional indoor experience. She joined the Canadian indoor national team in 2017. According to Leahy, the indoor game suits her style and it’s an excellent complement to the outdoor game as well.
“I deliver the ball well, I’m not as much a ball carrier. So, it works for indoor where everything happens quickly, and you have to have quick hands, make quick decisions and control the ball,” she said. “Overall, playing indoor has helped me in my outdoor games as well, the skills translate well.”
Head Coach, Shankar Premakanthan, said the leadership and communication of these veteran players is critical to this team’s success.
“Not only do they of course have a high level of skill,” he said. “They are the best communicators on the court. They also believe and trust in the systems and play we are developing. When you hear the communication and coming from [those leaders], it instills confidence in the younger athletes.”
The team traveled to Austria last month to pay some top European indoor sides and build chemistry and comfortability heading into the World Cup. Harris said that the experience there was critical to setting this team up for success
Harris and Leahy are both looking forward to playing in Pretoria. With teams like Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Czech Republic in their pool, Harris said it’s not the traditional sides they’d face in the outdoor game, but she’s excited for the challenge.
“I’m excited to come into this tournament with a clean slate, without too many expectations,” Harris said. “We grew so much [at the Rohrmax Cup] in Vienna from the first match to the last match. We will be playing our best hockey. I’m so looking forward to playing these games.”
As the indoor program is entirely self-funded, athletes and staff focus time not only on their training efforts but fundraising to help off-set the costs required to adequately prepare for such competition. We need YOU to help these dedicated athletes achieve their World Cup dreams. Your support would help them get that much closer to succeeding.
For those giving large sum donations ($1,000 or more) we encourage you to please download the charitable donation form here and contact Field Hockey Canada directly to process your donation. Hailey Yhap (Events & Engagement Officer) – firstname.lastname@example.org THANK YOU!