Field Hockey has been a part of Ghasan Hamam’s life since he was a middle-schooler school in Halifax. Some of his fondest memories are at tournaments and hockey festivals. He met his wife through field hockey. It’s safe to say, the game holds a special part of his heart. He is the head coach of the Acadia Axewomen field hockey program, which now holds a special title as well: 2021 Atlantic University Field Hockey League Champions.
Hamam does the hour-long drive from his home in Beechville, Nova Scotia to Wolfville — home of Acadia University — multiple times per week to coach. For him, it can be a challenge and a grind at times, but the experience is always worth it.
“It has been so rewarding,” Hamam said. “I love being a coach for multiple reasons. First of all, I see the game from a different perspective and I learn more about the sport. And I get to see the athletes’ growth from being first years all the way to their fourth year.”
According to Hamam, the team has made significant strides over the past few seasons, adding elements of structure, leadership and administration, which has also led to more growth on the field. Acadia last won the eight-team hockey league in 1957. Over the past decade, the Axewomen have been a middling team in the standings, most recently finishing sixth in 2019 (COVID-19 cancelled the 2020 season).
Acadia’s Cinderella run to the 2021 banner included wins over University of New Brunswick and a shootout win over Dalhousie. Then they faced UPEI in the finals, a team they had lost to 5-0 during the regular season. Coming into this year’s season, Hamam knew the Axewomen was good but even he couldn’t have anticipated the amazing performances in the final tournament.
“Even just winning that quarterfinal [against UNB] was a milestone, because it put us into tier one. Then we beat Dal [in the semifinals] in a shootout in extra shooters. It was a big upset. This was the first time any of us had been this far,” he said. “At that point, we had already accomplished so much this season, I didn’t know what was going to happen in the finals. Then we scored first … and scored again. People were shocked. It just came down to how bad our players wanted it.”
Acadia University wins its first field hockey championship since 1957. Photos/Provided.
Hamam’s first year as a head coach of Acadia was 2017. At the time, he had only just graduated university himself. By 2021, he had worked with a whole cohort of athletes over multiple years. This season, Hamam was awarded AUFHL Coach of the Year honours, a peer-voted award. He credits the team and program for the growth they have shown over multiple years. For Hamam, the personal accolade is appreciated, but he credits the team for their hard work and great play.
“It’s a humbling and special moment for me to be recognized, but honestly it’s more about the relationships that I’ve made. I’m not here trying to win any awards,” he said. “We’ve seen growth year after year. The girls want to improve, they want to compete and get better. This year, I could tell we had a good team early on. I was thinking to myself, ‘we could make it to the finals if we do this right,’ In the end, we even surpassed our own expectations.”
Hamam said the Atlantic University league is a great opportunity for women to access high level hockey in the maritime provinces. He also volunteers on the board with the Field Hockey Nova Scotia and oversees men’s Indoor hockey development. Hamam sees a skill and ability gap between the Atlantic league and Canada West and OUA. He’s hoping in future years, the leagues can play amongst each other to offer that experience to the Atlantic players.
When asked if he plans to continue that hour-long drive from Beechville to Wolfville to coach the Acadia Axewomen, his answer was clear.
“100 per cent I’m going to keep coaching, I’m attached.”