Being There Without “Being There”: How the Lancer Women’s Hockey Players are Helping Girls Connect with Sport During COVID-19
Photo credit: golancers.ca
by: Shaun Smith
With a lack of programs designed to keep young female hockey players connected to sport throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, at the start of 2021 the Lancer Women’s hockey team brainstormed and created the Lancer Development Bubble.
The first round of the bubble began in January and ran through February. For four weeks approximately 10 girls aged 10-14 participated in hockey-specific discussions, home workouts, mobility exercises, and in the words of Amy Maitre, “gave them some hockey at a time when they can’t be on the ice with their team.”
Maitre, who took the lead on the project, has been with the Lancer varsity hockey team since 2016. Several players attended different sessions, with coach Deanna Iwanicka also making appearances, but Maitre is the constant. The idea was originally pitched by Iwanicka; she and Matire developed it together.
Maitre has been an alternate captain on the team and has functioned as an assistant coach during the pandemic, transferring her leadership qualities from the ice to video calls. Hoping to fill the of sport as a result of the pandemic, Matire has worked to keep hockey present in the players’ lives.
“Hockey is something that the girls are used to doing. Two practices during the week, games on the weekend, it’s something that consumes a lot of their time,” explains Maitre. “That’s something that
you’d hope they’re enjoying doing so to not have that definitely leaves a hole in their week. To keep hockey in their lives and something to look forward to during their week, I think that was a big part of why we initially wanted to get started.”
Each session has a different topic and features a minimum of two guest Lancers who offer their own stories, experiences, and perspectives. The topics are not entirely limited to hockey either.
“A lot of the conversation surrounds hockey,” reflects Maitre. “But goal-setting happens everywhere, in school, everywhere. So a lot of it’s transferable.”
The guest Lancers shared their admiration of the program. KayCyn Hernandez, a second-year blue-liner for the Lancers from nearby Harrow, acknowledges the importance of giving back to the community.
“As a local Lancer, it was a great way for me to connect with hockey players from organizations I grew up around. I really enjoyed how interactive it was and how it gave players the ability to make new friends while sharing their passion for the sport.”
For the local Lancers, such as Hernandez and Maitre (who attended St. Anne’s high school), this can be seen as giving back to their community. However, other Lancers who are not natives of Windsor-Essex see the benefits as well. Second-year forward Maggie Peterson, originally from Alberta, sees the positives for women in sport.
“It’s not only a great opportunity for female hockey players to stay engaged and enjoying the sport they love, but is an opportunity for us Lancer athletes to share our experience and knowledge with young, aspiring female hockey players,” Peterson commented.
The participants came from community teams across Essex County. The Lancers promoted the program on social media and reached out to local coaches for interested players.
“It was great to be able to connect with the girls,” said Maitre. “We had some girls who were teammates so they knew each other a little bit off the hop, which made it easier as we’re all staring at a screen. It broke that initial ice, which was nice.”
While the first round of the program ended in February, a new round began on March 24th. Maitre has also expressed a desire to keep the program running into the future.
“In the past as a team, we’ve done a skate with the Lancer event, a similar idea where we have different age groups. Anytime [in the future] we can be on the ice would be ideal.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues on, Maitre and her teammates are ensuring that no one is left behind, and through their example, girls across the region are learning that this is one of the many qualities of the Lancer family. An example to young hockey players, yes, but also, an example to us all.