Not only did players on a Salmon Arm female hockey team excel at their sport this season, they excelled at human kindness – at supporting one another.
When Autumn Saville from the Salmon Arm Minor Hockey Association’s U15 team suffered a medical emergency just days before the March 11 and 12 league championship, her teammates did not forget about her.
After winning the championship in an exciting final against Lillooet, a team photo was taken with the league championship banner. Also in the photo was Autumn’s jersey, so no one would forget she was a member of the team.
Then the girls took their inclusiveness one step further. When they returned from Lillooet, they took the banner to Shuswap Lake General Hospital where Autumn was recovering from a burst appendix. They brought the banner with them so she could sign it, and then they took a team photo with her in it.
Autumn’s mom Jodie Saville told the Observer on March 17 that Autumn is now home from the hospital, feeling a lot better. Although Jodie knew the team was coming to the hospital, Autumn didn’t.
“It was a pretty amazing moment when we came outside and they were all there. She had the biggest smile on her face I’d seen for a long time.”
Autumn also received a much-appreciated get-well card from the Salmon Arm U13 girls’ team, which won the U13 league championship.
This was Autumn’s first season playing hockey and Jodie expressed her gratitude for how encouraging the coaches were and how inclusive the players have been.
“Just the coaches and how the whole hockey community was, was a pretty neat experience for both of us. How you can have a whole group of people with a common interest and goal, and have fun doing it.”
Jodie highly recommends the sport. It was great seeing the girls enjoying hockey and looking forward to seeing each other every week, she said.
Hockey mom and female hockey supporter Melissa Brett also raved about what an outstanding group of girls made up the team.
“The coaches created a very inclusive environment right from the start. The team held each other up and supported one another through successes and challenges, both on and off the ice. It was a privilege to have my daughter participate in a sport while forming so many healthy friendships. I had some worries after experiencing the pandemic and wondered if it would impact their ability to make close connections, but these girls have proven their resiliency. I think all of us parents can learn some important lessons about life through our kids,” she said. “Winning the playoffs was just the icing on the cake!”
Brett provided some current statistics from SAMHA on its female hockey program.
• In 2022, female teams made up 17 per cent of SAMHA members. Currently 65 female players are registered on all female rec teams in the association.
• Word of mouth from current players and parents has spread in the community, so girls not previously seeing a place for themselves in hockey now see a home. U7, U9 and U11 registration was larger than expected.
• Five all-female U7 to U15 teams in 2022 was the largest number ever seen for SAMHA in a single season.
Brett provided University of Alberta research from Dr. Vicki Harber that demonstrated three key themes to create a healthy culture, encourage engagement and keep girls in sports: social connection and acceptance; skill acquisition; and role models.
“Engaging in sport is so important for females as it not only creates healthy lifestyle habits but it embeds qualities of resiliency and leadership within them. They can equip themselves with so many life tools that will last beyond the sport itself,” Brett said, adding, with a laugh, “I think about this every time I open my wallet or send an e-transfer for something sports related.”
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