#FHCSheCan Stories are an opportunity for Field Hockey Canada to showcase the amazing things that girls and women do in this sport. By featuring some of the inspiring stories of women within our community, we can motivate and empower girls to stay involved and keep playing.

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#FHCSHECAN ATHLETE STORIES – JPAC REFLECTIONS

In August 2021, The Junior Women’s National Team claimed first place at the Junior Pan American Championships, qualifying them for the 2021 Junior World Cup.  A historic accomplishment, this team has become the first Canadian Outdoor Team to accomplish this feat, the following are stories and reflections from the women involved in this success.


Stephanie Sajko (She/Her);  Victoria, BC, University of Victoria, MF/D

Describe your pathway within field hockey. How did you get to where you are today?
I started playing field hockey at the age of seven through the Victoria Junior Field Hockey association spring league and the Rising Stars Program at UVic that was and is still currently coached by the assistant coach of the Vikes and the Vikes players themselves; this is where my love for hockey started to grow. I wanted to continue my journey to the next level, so I decided to join the regional program in 2013, where I started with Learn to Train. The next year I was eligible to join Train to Train, which was very exciting as this was when I made my first Team BC team.

I continued to play within the regional program and Team BC until about 2018, but I was also a part of many other teams in my community. I played within the women’s league in Victoria where I played for Division 1 and 2 Lynx, I played for the Wildcats Premier Team, and for my high school, the Mount Doug Rams. I graduated from Mount Doug in 2018, and that fall, I started my first season with the UVic Vikes. I was also invited to attend many Field Hockey Canada Talent Identification camps during the years I was a part of the regional program.

From these camps and my other hockey commitments, I was invited to come on tour with the FHC Wolfpups for the first time in 2019 at the Four Nations Tournament in Dublin, Ireland. I was very honoured and excited to have the opportunity to broadcast and test my skills at the international level. Ireland was an amazing experience, and I was very fortunate to also go on the tour to Chula Vista in 2020 before the pandemic hit. During the pandemic, we were lucky enough to still be able to participate in hockey in a different way, through our virtual learning environments. In British Columbia, we were granted the opportunity to begin training again that fall with the Vikes and through NextGen, which helped ready my skills for the JPAC selection camp that was held in June 2021

What was the most memorable moment from JPAC?
The most memorable moment from JPAC for me, was when we won the semi-final match against Chile. The major focus of the tournament was qualifying for the Junior World Cup, which is something everyone in the NextGen program had been working towards for a while. The game was super intense as we were playing the host team, so the stands were going absolutely wild. But we said to ourselves, we can either let the noise get to us, or pretend that they are cheering for us! Once there were a couple seconds left on the clock and the buzzer went, I remember feeling immensely overjoyed and ecstatic. All the time, effort, commitment, blood, sweat, and tears we put in were finally worth it as we had a secure spot to go to the Junior World Cup. And of course, finishing off the tournament winning a gold medal was the cherry on top!

What are your main takeaways from JPAC?
One of the main takeaways I have from JPAC is to trust the process. During the six weeks we were at UBC training, some of the drills started to become very repetitive. I would sometimes wish Patrick would switch up the drills more, but he knew what we needed to work on and what would make us successful at JPAC. Over the duration of the tournament, I began to realize that Patrick really had prepared us in the best way possible. If we had not worked on aspects of our game like circle defense, 2v1’s, 3v2’s, penalty corner attack and defense, etc., we would not have had the same outcomes in our games that we did.

What are you most looking forward to in the next year or so?
In the next year or so, I am really looking forward to my varsity field hockey season with the Vikes. Unfortunately with COVID, we did not get a season last year, which was a real upset as our team has been doing quite well over the past couple years. I am very excited to see what my team has in store for this season! Through training and playing with the Vikes, I am also excited to work on my skills and hockey IQ in order to prepare for the Junior World Cup this December.

What advice can you give to your younger self / other girls wanting to follow in your footsteps?
The advice I can give to my younger self or younger athletes is to make sure you keep having fun while playing. The experience of playing sports is more enjoyable if you have a good balance between pushing yourself and working hard, but also having fun and enjoying each experience with your teammates. If you keep this balance, everything else will fall into place!

Nora Struchtrup;  Victoria, British Columbia.  University of Victoria, Striker.

Describe your pathway within field hockey. How did you get to where you are today?
I started playing at age 10 with the Uvic Vikes Rising Stars program and loved it from day 1. I began playing in the FHBC high-performance programs and played on BC provincial teams from grade 8 and onward. I began playing in div. 1 of the women’s league in grade 11 and that year also began playing for the island premier team. I was a pretty average provincial level player until something clicked the summer of grade 10 and in spring of grade 11 I was invited to be a part of the NextGEN program. Since I have been training with NextGEN and have participated in multiple training camps and tours to Holland and Chula Vista. I also train and play for the Uvic Vikes.

What was the most memorable moment from JPAC?
I think the most memorable moment was when Thora scored her goal in the semi-final against Chile. I was on the bench at the time and everyone jumped up and hugged each other. No one said anything (can’t jinx it) but I think we all knew that goal meant we’d make it to the final and to South Africa.

What are your main takeaways from JPAC?
I think the biggest takeaway has been the importance of trust and belief in yourself, your teammates, coaches, and staff, but most importantly in the process and the training everyone has put in.

What are you most looking forward to in the next year or so?
I will be training and playing with the Vikes in hopes of helping the team to another U-Sports win. I am hugely looking forward to the Junior World Cup and really want to make it to the quarterfinals (at least) with the team there. I am so excited to reunite with the team and see if we can make some more history in SA and place the highest team Canada ever has.

What advice can you give to your younger self / other girls wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Trust in the process. In grade 10 I was cut from pretty much every team I tried out for while many other girls my age made the team. It was very very tough for me but taught me so, so many lessons.

 


#FHCSHECAN ATHLETE STORIES – SHE’s GOT IT ALL

EWong - SheCan-WebsiteDescribe your pathway within field hockey. How did you get to where you are today?
I was introduced to field hockey watching my older brothers play from the sidelines for Vancouver Hawks. Eventually, I was old enough to get off the sidelines and after our family moved to Chicago, Illinois and I played with Windy City Field Hockey under Barb Liles and Olympian Katie Beach. During this time, I trained and competed with the USA junior national teams and graduated high school a year early to attend Princeton University.

Over my four years, we were 2x Ivy League Champions and had two Elite Eight and two Final Four appearances in the NCAA tournament. I had advanced standing with the University and was also able to take a semester off to live and play abroad in Holland at SCHC. In my final season at Princeton, I was named a Honda Sport Award Finalist, First Team All-American, Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year and was selected to the NCAA Final Four All-Tournament Team and Mid-Atlantic Region First Team.

In August 2018, I had the opportunity to join the Canadian program at a training camp with Giles Bonnet. I made my officially capped senior debut for the Canadian Women’s National Team in a six-game series in China in January 2019. That spring, I traveled between Belgium to train with the team and New Jersey to defend my thesis and graduate. Over the summer, we finished in second place at the FIH Series Finals in Valencia and at the 2019 Lima Pan American Games, where we were finalists for the first time since 1991. In the fall of 2019, I joined the rest of the WNT in Belgium and signed on as a player and coach for KMTHC in Mechelen along with fellow Canadian Karli Johansen. We competed in the Honour Division for our club in addition to training and playing with the WNT in preparation for our Olympic Qualifier. I was a part of the team that competed against Ireland in the two-game series for the Olympic berth and lost in overtime sudden death shootouts.

In December 2019, I joined the Canadian Women’s National Indoor program and played my first cap during our tour to Belarus. After we paused during COVID, I rejoined the WNT in Vancouver. Coming back to Vancouver has brought me full circle, where I’ve been able to give back to the Vancouver Hawks as a lead coach while simultaneously training for the indoor and outdoor Pan Am Cups, our World Cup qualifiers.

What Motivates you?
The relentless pursuit of better. My parents always encouraged us to fully commit to whatever we set our minds to, to seek excellence, and to give back at every opportunity. As an athlete striving to qualify for two World Cups and upcoming Olympic Games, I believe these values have served me well as a teammate and competitor — to reach for greatness despite the setbacks and challenges set in our way. For me, that means asking how I can serve my teammates on and off the pitch. How can I serve the program, my country, the sport of field hockey, and the future players better?

Could you share a highlight or key moment in your career that you are proud of?
Beating the USA 2-0 at the 2019 Lima Pan American Games to advance to the championship for the first time since 1991.

What do you think is the biggest barrier in women’s field hockey?
Field hockey is already a comparatively small sport in North America. Add gender inequity in support and visibility to that and you have a massive barrier to the growth of women’s field hockey. Throughout my career, we’ve always had to work five times as hard to get half the coverage. Growing up, I woke up at ungodly hours to watch the early morning time slots for women’s sports and loved seeing kickass athletes I could aspire to be like. It’s so important for young athletes not only to watch their sport being played at a high level, but also to see unapologetically strong female athletes competing on the international stage.

What advice can you give to young Canadian girls wanting to be involved in high-performance hockey?
Dream Big. Surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed and want to help drive and guide you towards your goals. At the end of the day, your community — your teammates, coaches, family, and friends — are who you play for and what makes it all worthwhile.


 

MScholz-Website

 

Describe your pathway within field hockey. How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up playing ice hockey and took up field hockey when I got to High School. It was an easy transition and I went on to play Team Alberta. I always knew I wanted to stay home for University and attend UofC. I earned a spot on the Dino’s Field Hockey Team and was recently recommended to the WNT program by my coach. I am in Vancouver training with the National Team for the summer and I plan on returning to Calgary for my last year with the Dinos. I will hopefully have a long career with the program as an athlete, or in a supporting role.

What were some of the challenges/obstacles during your journey?
Throughout my field hockey career, it was always challenging being in a position of losing more games than winning. From playing Team Alberta to Dino’s, we worked very hard but did not always get a result. This stems from the nature of field hockey in Alberta where there is less participation and less year-round opportunity to practice. It was discouraging at times because we put in a lot of work as individuals and as a group, and struggled to win. My team and I overcame this obstacle by changing our perspectives on what winning meant for us. Instead of looking for wins on the scoreboard, we could become a winning team by improving every time we step on the pitch.

What Motivates you?
I am motivated by my goal of competing for Team Canada at the Olympics. I am also motivated by my desire to grow the sport in my home province. Hopefully, through my dedication and drive, I can inspire younger players to follow in my footsteps.

Could you share a highlight or key moment in your career that you are proud of?
Following the 2019 season, I was named a top 11 USports player. I was proud to be able to represent Alberta and the University of Calgary.

What do you think men, governing bodies or the sports industry as a whole can do to help drive visibility of female sports? What radical things must change?
Equal government funding for men’s and women’s sport will minimize the gap in visibility and participation. This should be emphasized at the grassroots level. Funding and promotion from the ground up will create a community of support and engagement that will transfer to the top.

What advice can you give to young Canadian girls wanting to be involved in high-performance hockey?
Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t seem like there is a clear path to the top. If you work hard and stay dedicated, opportunities will present themselves.

 


 

DHusar-Website

 

Describe your pathway within field hockey. How did you get to where you are today?
I started playing field hockey in 2015 with A&C and began playing provincially that same year for the u16 B team after lots of encouragement from my coaches. I went to lots of tournaments and showcases in the US where I gained experience and began to take the sport more seriously. I’ve played for Team Ontario at nationals every year since then and I’m now in the u23 age group. In 2017 I was selected for a JWNT talent ID camp where I was invited to train in Chula Vista on my first trip with the Junior National Team. Since then I’ve been to training camps and tours with the Junior National Program in Canada, the US, Ireland, and China. In 2019 I started attending the University of Virginia where I currently play NCAA Division 1 field hockey in the Atlantic Coast Conference and I’m going into my third year.

What were some of the challenges/obstacles during your journey?
When I first began playing field hockey, I was still playing rep soccer and rep ice hockey, so it was a challenge to manage my schedule as well as the stress and injuries that could arise from playing so many high-level sports. In 2018 I suffered a stress fracture in my shin which ended up keeping me out of field hockey for almost 3 months, and as an extremely active person, this was very difficult for me. I’ve found injuries to be one of the biggest physical obstacles but also mental obstacles as an athlete because of the drastic changes in lifestyle you must endure in order to recover properly. By being diligent in my recovery and taking the necessary measures to stay connected to the sport and stay fit, I was able to transition back into playing field hockey fairly smoothly once I was cleared.

What Motivates you?
The countless opportunities field hockey continues to bring me motivates me to keep growing and improving as a player. I strive to play at the highest level possible to challenge myself whenever possible. In the NCAA I get to play against top collegiate programs on a weekly basis which pushes myself and my teammates to become stronger as a team. On the Junior National Team I am motivated by the fact that I am privileged enough to represent my country and play on the international stage. International competition is the highest level of hockey there is and I am excited by the potential Canada has to compete with the best nations in the world.

What do you think is the biggest barrier in women’s field hockey?
The biggest barrier in women’s field hockey is the lack of exposure to the sport. Especially in Canada, not many people know about the sport and it limits the amount of opportunities available. Also with the two main Canadian hub cities being on opposite sides of the country, it makes it difficult to have regular, high-level competition on a consistent basis.

What advice can you give to young Canadian girls wanting to be involved in high-performance hockey?
Take advantage of as many opportunities presented to you as possible. Every practice, game, and tournament is an opportunity for growth as an athlete and will only make you better. Also, make an effort to surround yourself with other people who have similar goals and intentions as you. These are the people who will push you beyond your perceived limitations and help you become the best player you can be.

 


 

RDonoehoe-Website

 

Describe your pathway within field hockey. How did you get to where you are today?
I began playing recreationally and eventually fell in love with the sport. That love mixed with my competitiveness allowed me to pursue it to a point where I now represent my country and play semi-professionally in Belgium

What were some of the challenges/obstacles during your journey?
Self-doubt has been something that I have had to overcome, especially when I was released from the Women’s National team in December 2014.  Thank you to my family and close friends who supported me and an opportunity to play overseas I was able to begin shifting my mindset in a more self-love and positive perspective. I still struggle with it, but I now have grown and have the tools to manage and cope when I find myself going into that place of self-doubt.

Could you share a highlight or key moment in your career that you are proud of?
Winning Silver at the Pan American Games in 2019 in Peru. But also the overall accomplishments that team achieved from our Chile tour in January of 2018 up until the Olympic Qualifier in Ireland in November of 2020.

What advice can you give to young Canadian girls wanting to be involved in high-performance hockey?
Never stop. Believe in yourself. And do not let anyone believe you cannot do it, because you can.


SheCan-Website (1)

 

Describe your pathway within field hockey. How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up in Kelowna, played many different sports, and signed up to play field hockey at school when I was around 12.  At the time, I had no idea what the sport actually was, and had never seen it played. I played on provincial teams and eventually chose to pursue the sport in university at UBC and was picked up by the national team at age 18 after my rookie season with the Thunderbirds. I began playing abroad at age 20, ended up playing 7 seasons in Europe – in both the Netherlands and Belgium. Wouldn’t be the player or person I am today without those experiences.  This past year I returned home, due to Covid, and am currently training with WNT in Vancouver, preparing for Pan American Cup in January 2022 where we hope to qualify for the World Cup.
What were some of the challenges/obstacles during your journey?
There have been many, many barriers and obstacles throughout my time with the WNT. Taking ownership of our reality, making no excuses, and finding any way possible to overcome those challenges as a collective has made us stronger, more determined, and more successful.
What motivates you in your current role?
 1. Qualification for the World Cup and Olympics – and working towards those audacious goals with a group of strong women. 2. The drive to leave the WNT program in a better place than when I, and many of my teammates, began playing.  3. Inspiring the next generation to aim high and stop at nothing to achieve their goals.
What advice can you give to young Canadian girls wanting to be involved in high-performance hockey?
Don’t let anyone or anything stand in the way of what you want to accomplish and of what you need in order to be successful. Take ownership of your success, be yourself (whether people like it or not), be bold, and be unafraid to fail.