Attitude is crucial in team sports, with talent and athleticism not far behind.
Fortunately for the fledgling Red Deer under-14 girls field hockey team, all three attributes are in good supply.
The first-year squad practises weekly at Aspen Ridge and has already competed in two tournaments, with the third and final event of the season set for this weekend in Calgary.
Red Deer added a mix of players from the host community to the roster and took top honours in a tournament in Didsbury, then posted a 1-3 record while playing against older, more experienced competitors during a recent event in Edmonton.
“The Didsbury tournament was a nice success story. The girls got a trophy and some medals,” said Torsten Bechtolsheimer, who along with Heidi Olstad and Sue McRorie, coaches the team.
“The girls had a blast. We didn’t expect to win but they are skilled and very athletic. They have a fast pace and can utilize their speed to their advantage. It’s fun for them to do that.”
In Edmonton, the Red Deer girls played in an under-16 category.
“We wanted to face a better challenge and find out how the girls would perform on a higher level,” said Bechtolsheimer. “We lost three games and won one, which is not bad. But also all these Edmonton teams had provincial athletes … four to five players on each team were provincial athletes and prospects for the national team.
“They didn’t blow us away, it’s not like we lost 10-2. We lost by scores of 4-1 and 4-2. It was acceptable, those were not devastating losses for us.”
The Alberta Field Hockey Association was instrumental in the formation of the Red Deer team, Bechtolsheimer noted.
“Calgary and Edmonton have established field hockey teams and the (provincial) head office approached Red Deer in February, distributing flyers and brochures and posting them in multiple schools in Red Deer,” he said.
Bechtolsheimer, who played field hockey in Germany for 30 years, learned of the AFHA’s probe from his girlfriend, a school teacher, and contacted the provincial association about the possibility of setting up and coaching a team in Red Deer.
“They were very receptive. They said they need more coaches and we ended up with three coaches in total,” he said.
The next step was organizing open tryouts, which started in April.
“After two trials, we had eight players signed up for the team,” said Bechtolsheimer, noting that eight is the minimum number required to field a team.
What the squad is lacking in quantity, it makes up for in quality.
“Our girls play ringette or ice hockey in the winter season and they are very athletic, so they already had the right mindset and a certain skill set,” said Bechtolsheimer. “So for them it was an easy transition, I think.
“It all came about very quickly. The girls were receptive. They were eager to try the sport and they loved it.”
The fact the players have experienced a fair amount of success as a first-year team has helped keep interest at a high level.
“They showed in Edmonton that they can compete at a higher level and I think they will stick with it for sure because they can see that the hard work pays off,” said Bechtolsheimer. “They are just pumped up about field hockey, which is great for us as coaches. It makes our lives easier from a motivation aspect. The girls want to play and have fun.”
The plan for next season is to form two girls teams — at the under-12 and under-16 levels — along with an adult team.
“We didn’t have enough boys come to tryouts this year to form a team, but our long-term plan is to get a boys team,” said Bechtolsheimer.
“Then for adults, we could have maybe an under-40 team,” he said. “It’s all depending on the feedback. We have to spread the word and promote the sport, but a lot of our parents have indicated they would be willing and happy to try it.”
The Red Deer U-14 girls field hockey team roster: Jenna St. Pierre, Jordyn Burgar, Gracyn Hollman, Kaylee Sawchuk, Caleigh Meraw, Emma Meraw, Jade Bussard, Rachel Bahler.