Hockey Canada skills development camps combine fun, learning
Breann Frykas has already lived one of her dreams.
In August 2007, the East St. Paul, MB native was one of the first 21 players to suit up for Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team, and she got to feel what it was like to put on the Team Canada jersey.
After finding out just what it was like to wear the maple leaf, Frykas decided to try and help the dreams of other girls come true.
Last December, the 17-year-old took part, as an instructor, in a Hockey Canada Skills Development Camp in Winnipeg, joining National Women’s Team members, and fellow Manitobans, Jennifer Botterill and Delaney Collins on the ice.
“It was a great opportunity for me to give back to the game,” says Frykas, who took part in camps herself when she was a young player. “I know how it feels to be in their (the young players) shoes. Just being on the ice with someone like Botterill or Collins, it motivates you to work hard and maybe one day be like them.”
The Winnipeg camp was just one of more than a dozen female-only camps that ran across the country during the 2007-08 season for players at the Atom and Peewee levels (nine to 12 years old), giving hundreds of girls the chance to hone their skills.
The camps consist of not only on-ice skill building, working on a player’s fundamental skills – skating, passing, stickhandling, shooting – but also on off-ice skill building, working on fitness, respect and teamwork.
“More and more girls are signing up to play hockey every year, and camps like these give them the chance to develop the necessary skills,” says Trina Radcliffe, Hockey Canada’s manager of female development. “Some of the girls at this camp could be future Olympians.”
And while it may be a little early to know if any of the players on the ice in Winnipeg will star for Canada in 2018, there was definitely Olympic-caliber talent on the ice, and Frykas took notice.
“Watching the way a player like Jennifer Botterill explains a certain drill, it simplifies things a little,” she says. “And the girls on the ice just have such big smiles on their faces listening to her talk, you can’t help but want to become that.”
Not every camp features Olympic gold medalists as instructors, although all of the camps do include qualified instructors from Hockey Canada as well as the local branch, and tips are passed on to local minor hockey association coaches.
“That’s key,” says Radcliffe. “We want the lessons to be more than a one-time thing, so by having the local coaches involved we can ensure that the players continue to learn.”
Thousands of players take part in Hockey Canada Skills Development Camps every year, both male and female. They learn not only how to become better players, but better people.
So what was Frykas’ favourite part of her experience?
“Coaching on the bench with my team during the exhibition game, it was great to have some time to talk to the girls in between shifts, to see the enthusiasm they have for the game,” she says. “Hockey Canada has helped me develop my skills and given me so many great experiences, it just thrilled me to be able to give back.”
For a complete schedule of Hockey Canada Skills Development Camps, and to download drills and ice plans, visit the Minor Hockey section at www.hockeycanada.ca.
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