Hockey school stresses fun

For Katie Weatherston, running a hockey school means more than just teaching the basics of the sport.
The Thunder Bay resident, who won a gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy back in February as a member of Canada’s women’s hockey team, has brought her girls’ hockey school to Fort Frances this week.
“I think it’s great for girls’ hockey, but also for their growth as a person,” Weatherston stressed.
“We try hard to make them well-rounded individuals. We try to make sure they are on the right path, as well, both off-ice and on-ice.
“It is definitely more than just hockey.”
Weatherston said she came up with the idea for this hockey school because there were not a lot of opportunities for girls in hockey when she was young.
“I think there is some really good hockey players up in the north, but with a limited amount of girls, you don’t play a variety of teams and this is one way of bringing all those girls together,” she remarked.
“I wish that when I was around there was an all-girls’ hockey school that was competitive but also fun,” she added.
The camp is for girls aged eight-16. As well as being offered here in Fort Frances, Weatherston also ran a camp in Kenora last week and has one planned for later in the summer in Thunder Bay.
Nicki Mosbeck, 15, of Emo attended Weatherston’s camp last year in Thunder Bay and said she is excited to be back at her camp this week in Fort Frances.
“It’s the fact that she is an idol for a lot of kids,” Mosbeck said. “She puts on a camp for us to come, enjoy, and learn things that were going to need to know if were going to make it.
“It’s cool that she is here to help us.”
Mosbeck said she’s learned a lot from Weatherston, especially about the changing game.
“We work a lot on skating because the levels of girls’ hockey are getting harder and faster,” she noted.
Weatherston said the most rewarding part of the experience, for her, is seeing how excited the girls are to be there.
“It’s a lot fun for the girls and we really enjoy doing it. It’s nice to see smiles on their face,” she noted. “They have all the questions and excitement about the Olympics and the gold medal.
“It’s really cute.”
The school includes many different elements, much more than just on-ice skills. Weatherston focuses on skills such as shooting, passing, skating, and stick-handling during morning on-ice sessions.
There also is a lot of off-ice conditioning, such as proper warm-ups and cool downs, as well as a large focus on team-building and goal-setting for the girls.
“We basically cover everything. I try to teach them everything I have ever been taught,” Weatherston said.
Girls range in skill level from having played for years to being brand new to the sport.
“If we can help spark interest in the sport, that’s what we like to improve these girls,” Weatherston said.
“We have a few new players out here so it really goes to show you when you do bring a hockey school in what can happen,” she added. “We feel like we have already drawn some girls into the sport.”
Mosbeck now plays for the Muskie girls’ team. Although she used to be a figure skater and ringette player, she said hockey is the best sport for her.
“When you’re a team, your kind of like a family,” she explained. “On our high school team, you get to know each other because you’re all bonding together.
“When you play, you win and you lose, but you’re still all together,” she reasoned.
At Weatherston’s school, a big emphasis is put on team-building. As such, the girls spend a lot of time playing games and getting to know each other.
Weatherston agrees that enjoying the game—and the people you play with—is the most important part of the sport.
“We ask them why they are here and we really push them,” she noted. “If they are not having fun, they need to re-evaluate why they are playing hockey.
“If you don’t enjoy it, you’re not going to want to practice and play and you’re not going to improve,” she stressed.