It takes a certain amount of perseverance to play ringette and a definite passion for the sport, says Carole Schwartz, this year’s coach of the U12 Woolwich Storm team. But a new effort to create the township’s first provincial team is taking even more energy as organizers try to balance the needs and wants of team members and parents.“What we are hoping is that next year we’re going to have a provincial team in Woolwich so that girls that want that competitive level of sport don’t have to travel outside of Woolwich,” Schwartz said.
This year, two girls from the U12 Storm team are participating in the provincial competition with the Kitchener U12 provincial petite team. Coaches agreed to have Rosie Martin and Maddy Camm play for both the Woolwich regional team and Kitchener’s provincial team, as Woolwich could not afford to lose two players. This made it a busy ringette season for the two girls, yet the benefits of exposing them to a higher level of competition were not lost on the coaches
“The improvement was amazing. When you play at that competitive level you can only get better by playing a higher level of ringette,” Schwartz said.
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Next year the Woolwich Storm, part of the Western Region Ringette Association’s western division, hopes to have two provincial teams at the U12 petite and U14 levels in order to keep players in the league and improve on their skills.
Girls looking for a higher level of competition often leave the league to try out for provincials elsewhere. Last year ringette lost about five players to girls’ hockey, Schwartz said.
That there are two sides to the regional ringette teams is also apparent. Some players want a higher level of competition and others are happy to stay where they are.
“If we don’t have provincials we’re going to lose probably four or five girls who really want to play provincial at the U12 level. They’re going to go elsewhere and we’ll never get them back. On the other hand, you don’t want to lose those girls that are playing ringette who are playing purely for the fun and enjoyment. If we continue as we are right now we have the potential of losing both.”
Schwartz said the smaller scale of Woolwich teams may hold an advantage. Ambitious ringette players often have to compete against 50 or more girls for a spot on a provincial team. A Woolwich provincial team will likely see less rivalry and give more opportunities to girls who want to improve their skills through tougher competition.
This year’s regional team had great success after finishing off their season during the regional championships in Guelph March 23-24. The Woolwich U12 and U14 teams finished at the top of their division, placing fourth in the entire region.
Martin and Camm are looking forward to the provincials with Kitchener at the U12 championships in Oshawa April 11-14, which will expose the players to a more sophisticated level of competition and further challenges as well.
“It’s exciting and I’m kind of nervous because there’s a whole bunch of teams, some teams that you’ve never played before,” Camm said.
Getting provincial teams together will require a strong effort to raise more funds and receive more ice time for the teams, noted Schwartz.
“There’s a lot of fundraising that needs to be happening. The girls only have home jerseys, we don’t have away jerseys. We don’t have a shot clock in our association yet, at the regional level it’s not required. They’re about $1,500. There’s a lot of legwork that needs to be done. If we don’t do it we stand to lose on both ends of the scale.”
Staff members have to post a tryout schedule by May 19 and have teams chosen by June 19, according to Ontario Ringette Association rules.