VIERUMAKI – The 2016 IIHF Women’s High-Performance Camp also included several development programs open for all countries. One of them was the program on the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend where participants were taught how to organize a try-hockey day and what else it needs to create a successful World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend event back at home.
The World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend started in 2011 as a holiday for women’s hockey where girls and women can try hockey in a fun and safe environment. Events have taken place in almost 50 countries during the first five editions and with participants from further countries (Chinese Taipei, Estonia, Ukraine) among the participants it may even expand further for the 2016 edition.
The list of participants included men and women both from established hockey countries like Germany or Slovakia as well as from countries where hockey is a newer sport such as Mexico or Turkey.
The program in Vierumaki, Finland, combined both Learn to Play elements on and off the ice every day and learning organizational topics to run an outstanding event.
“We are here to make players,” Bollue introduced the program to the participants for the week with 68 kids who will participate in practices and games on and off the ice.
“We should not just organize practice, we should organize an event, make it attractive for parents, communicate,” he added.
Led by Johan Bollue from Belgium, Kevin McLaughlin from USA Hockey and former Finnish national team player Saara Niemi (nee Tuominen), the group worked with kids all week long beside the classroom sessions where they learned about organizing, how to teach skills and team play, psychological and physiological aspects of kids growing up, age-specific training, basic coaching for skaters and for goaltenders and how to promote an event and recruit participants with good examples from all around the world how to make the voice heard.
Stephen Norris, a renown British sports and physiology scientist who is working WinSport Canada, also known as the Canadian Winter Sport Institute, talked about the different steps players make in their careers and that kids need to be treated differently.
“Players at different age groups need to be treated differently as they’re growing up. Performance development starts at about 13 years, becoming a high-performance athlete at about 17 years. And from those high-performance players only few will make it to a world-class player,” he said. Fun is important for kids. And learning proper skating is something that is often forgotten in hockey.
But even if they don’t make it that far, it doesn’t mean they are not important to the hockey community. He talked about the example of Ralph Engelstad, who was a goalie with little ice time at the University of North Dakota. But he had fun and remembered how much he loved the sport. When he became a multi-millionaire through his businesses in Las Vegas, he constructed the magnificent $104 million arena in Grand Forks and another one bearing his name in his hometown of Thief River Falls where he played high-school hockey.
Beside Niemi as a mentor, there were two more former Olympians in the classroom to learn more about organizing such events with David Moravec, who is also the team manager of the Czech women’s national team, and Franziska Busch, the women’s hockey officer at the German Ice Hockey Association.
Busch is happy to be back in Vierumaki where he has been as a player to learn from the program.
“As the association we support the clubs so they can organize such events, organize contacts, giveaways and connect to coaches. Until now we haven’t had many organizers but now we have new clubs who want to join the initiative. Most recently we had such an event in Nuremberg and Berlin where [local men’s clubs] the Ice Tigers and Eisbaren helped promote and there was quite something going on. We have Frankfurt as the next organizer,” she said.
“I really like the Women’s High-Performance Camp and wished I would have had the chance to participate during my time as a player. The program is well organized. We have a full schedule, there’s always something going on. We don’t only learn how to organize the event but also the Learn to Play program. I’m really looking forward to use my knowledge at home both from what I learned in term of practices and of organizing an event for kids.”
On the ice the participants taught local kids skating, puck control, passing and receiving, shooting and scoring and had to run a full-scale World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend event on Wednesday.
The ice was split into four parts with fun games focusing on skating and skating exercises, a fun shooting contest and a mini game. The ice was full of kids and the parents behind the ice enjoyed watching their children having fun.
Outside the participants prepared a nicely decorated registration desk with music in and outside of the arena and created a Facebook page for the event to test their promotional and photographic skills managed by Jenny Goessens from the Netherlands. Click here
to have a look and follow the action.
The concept of having kids try hockey is not new. It has been done in other countries before, and Niemi showed in her presentation how they started it as a national girls’ hockey day in Finland in 2007 where 60 to 80 clubs are now involved annually.
Since 2011 such events have been organized during the same weekend in dozens of countries in North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania to make people and communities aware of women’s hockey, spread the word to other towns and countries, and to give girls and women an opportunity to try the coolest sport on earth and find a program to continue the sport.
The World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend has created many success stories from club teams and has grown to more countries over the years. With the first educational program designed for the event, it is set to grow even more this year.
The next World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend is scheduled for 8th and 9th October 2016. Make sure to mark the date and reserve ice time! Everybody who wants to help grow women’s hockey is welcome to organize such an event – national and region associations, clubs, coaches, rink owners, private persons etc.
The registration form, updated resources and graphics will be made available here
during the next few weeks. It’s also possible to check out the texts and photos from the events from the last five years there.
More photos from this and other programs can also be found in our photo gallery