Cracking the lineup for Team Alberta’s under-18 women’s team comes with a great deal of responsibility, but for rookie goaltender Courtney Vinet, her duties extend much further then the confines of the goalie crease. As part of a leadership challenge, Vinet and her teammates were sent out over the summer to take on a leadership role within their communities.
“I searched for something that would be very unique and outside the box,” said Vinet. “I wanted to support a cause that no one else in our community is. Prader-Willi Syndrome is something that a lot people aren’t aware of.”
Prader-Willi Syndrome is a complex genetic condition characterized by weak muscle tone, feeding difficulties, poor growth, delayed mental development and obesity. It’s a disability that hits close to home for Vinet – and something she witnessed everyday while playing on her club team, the AAA Minor Midget Camrose Kodiaks.
“I noticed our equipment manager and water boy, Jonathon, was struggling with his weight and had absolutely no exercise in his daily routine because of his disability. I wanted to help,” said Vinet.
With the goal of meeting twice a week for an hour, the 16-year-old designed a fitness program involving a variety of cardiovascular, core and muscle exercises.
“I wanted to help Jonathon get started on a fitness program he will hopefully incorporate into his daily life,” explained Vinet. “I think it is important for him to know that physical activity can be enjoyable and there are many different ways of keeping active.”
“Courtney has helped me physically by making me stronger. It also makes it more fun to workout when there is someone there with me,” said Jonathon.
While the benefits to Jonathon have been obvious, the skills obtained by Vinet during the process can directly translate back into the U18 team environment – the purpose behind the task set out by the U18 coaching staff.
“We are trying to provide experience, real life situations that the players can relate back to hockey. These skills will help provide direction to our team when things maybe don’t go exactly to plan,” said U18 assistant coach Wade Borynec.
“The experience taught me leadership skills and how to address a situation when it felt like there were some obstacles in the way,” added Vinet. “It taught me the importance of teamwork, as I felt he (Jonathon) wouldn’t excel if I wasn’t there to encourage him.”
“Being a leader isn’t easy on the ice – or in the real world. Everyday leaders, day in and day out, make a difference. We want the girls to begin to understand that and hopefully help them become better people. If we encourage this it will pay dividends to Team Alberta, not just this year, but for future years to come,” said Borynec.
Vinet’s teammates have been impacting their respective communities in a similar capacity. Sadie Lenstra has been volunteering with the Inn From the Cold program, helping Calgary’s homeless, while Riana Magee volunteered her time at the Riverbend Retirement Home in Edmonton.
“It makes me sad to see people lonely and unhappy. I realize something small like a smile or chatting with someone can go along way. My goal was to improve their lives in some way,” said Magee.
“When we as a Hockey Alberta U18 staff established this model we knew what we wanted, but we weren’t sure if the athletes would buy in. The response and effort that these young ladies have put into it has been tremendous and as a province and Hockey Alberta, we should be very proud of them,” added Borynec.