Two weeks ago, Catherine O’Reilly, accompanied by Ashley Moore (IIHA’s Women’s Development Officer) and Jana Gerkena (Latvian Hawks player and top IIHL referee) championed Ireland’s cause at the IIHF Women’s Development Camp in Vierumaki, Finland. Catherine was selected by the IIHA to represent Ireland as a player at the camp and when asked to report on her experiences at the camp, she gladly took up the offer and gave us the following vivid account.
Finland IIHF Women’s development camp 2008!
For so many reasons I will treasure this experience, I will start from the beginning!
Initially when I was informed on being selected to go, I felt overwhelmed! Immediately I filled with anxiety and excitement with the thoughts of such an opportunity. I was determined from that moment to prevail of every moment and instruction.
On arrival in Finland we stayed one night in Helsinki, the Ramada hotel. here I met some of the girls whom had flew in from what seemed like every corner of the globe, each and every one excited, I made many friends even in the first 24 hours, I was positive about the week remaining!
Next day, shipping out to Vierumaki! Hosting grounds for the women’s 57th camp! No pressure due!
After a brief bus journey, ARRIVAL! Cascades of women hockey players flooded into the hall! A contrast from the hockey scene in Ireland. I was positioned forward and was to play for team 4, later to be named “THE BLUE WOLVES”, the best team in my opinion, but I could be slightly biased.
The hall echoed a symphony of foreign languages and the only word we all related to was “ICE-HOCKEY”.
A day in the life of Vierumaki consisted of a healthy nutritious breakfast, off ice training, on ice training, class room session, and an action packed territorial game! 3k runs, conditional training with bungee ropes, a designed warm up, olympics day consisting of javelin, long jump (beating my personal record with 2.40 metres from standing), sprints, and accuracy of hitting pucks on net targets.
I learned so much from my experience in Vierumaki, the importance of playing my position and not letting down my team, and more importantly how to play my position! The standard of world women’s hockey was breathtaking; I had never dreamt of such a standard let alone had the opportunity to be part of such an amazing environment! The contrasts in hockey cultures where phenomenal, girls skating from infancy right up to girls skating one year, aka me! We attended an anti doping seminar, learned information an athlete of any standard must be aware of!
Coming from an athletic background I understand the importance of training to reach or maintain a standard! I am passionate about ice hockey and have a desire so strong to improve and this camp provided me with hope! The drills, training and practices were hockey orientated, I witnessed a standard and I was shown a way to achieve, next step is “spreading the word”. Pre training and games, I will stress the importance of warm ups and stretching followed by cool downs post games, wearing tape on shin pads, balanced diet, and share all my experience with fellow team mates!
The coaches, mentors and equipment manager of “The Blue Wolves” guided and instructed me. Noticeably my standard of hockey wasn’t even comparable to the general standard, but I was determined! Benefits, I learned how to hold my hockey stick, was reminded on a regular basis to “BEND MY KNEES” and eliminated habits slowly but surely! As Julie one of my coaches taught me “start with as little habits as possible”. I agreed it was too difficult having bad habits and focusing on staying on my feet!
I learned the meaning of team; we became sisters of the not annoying kind! Literally shoulder to shoulder the entire experience! We worked on strategies, sang team songs, picked each other up, coached, guided and bettered each other an experience one would strive to belong to. What I lacked in skating I made up for in something else, each girl gave something to make this experience so unique and special!
Nearly 300 girls let loose on a shopping spree to Helsinki, u guessed right, very very EVENTFUL!
On the Wednesday of camp after The Blue Wolves’ victory in our game, we headed to Helsinki! Goal objective for our team, organising a birthday present for our goal keeper!
Teary eyed on the last night! My team finished up with a record of 4 wins and two loses! But in my eyes each game was a victory! We had gained something more than victory, that being loyalty, friendship, improvement and a strengthened love of the game “ice hockey”
On a cultural, athletic and social note, it was one of the best experiences of my life! I will never forget this opportunity to play abroad and represent Ireland as a player! And I will do everything in my power to improve and help others do the same with the ways I have been shown!
Thank you to everyone who made it possible!
Full details on the camp, along with daily newsletters can be found on www.iihf.com or at IIHF Women’s Development Camp.