Two former Olympians touched down in Penticton on Tuesday (March 8) to inspire 80 local athletes on International Woman’s Day.
Jacquie Hertlein has been the head coach at Penticton soccer club Pinnacles FC for just one month. Despite that, she’s already managed to bring two individuals to the Peach City worthy of helping her girl soccer players follow their dreams.
Venla Hovi, an Olympic hockey player from Finland, and Joanne Malar, a Canadian swimmer and three-time Olympian, stepped into the club’s facility on Tuesday to share their athletic stories with the players.
But even after the two Olympians were done speaking, the local girls’ soccer athletes didn’t want the Women’s Day celebration to end.
“I opened up the floor and let the girls ask questions,” Hertlein said.
“The girls wanted to know about all the obstacles they faced and the regrets they had. These are all significant things that they needed to hear.”
The head coach added that Tuesday was the first time many of her players celebrated International Woman’s Day or even thought about taking part in it.
Hertlein is the first-ever female head coach at Pinnacles FC, after spending the last two years coaching 14-year old boys soccer.
The former Olympic athletes spent over 70 minutes speaking to girls aged nine to 17.
“It went off way better than I thought it was going to,” the coach said.
“How can we get more little girls involved? How can we make this bigger next year?”
Tuesday served as a day for local girls to realize that they can follow their dreams in sport, despite their gender, according to Hertlein.
When she was a little girl, she didn’t know female athletes thrived in a male-dominated space. But today, it’s all about making today’s generation of girls players aware of exactly that, she added.
“International Women’s Day is a global day to recognize and celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, as well as a time to raise awareness of the progress made towards gender equality,” Pinnacles FC said in a statement.