After only picking up the sport three years ago, local field hockey player Jordyn MacDonald has already been identified by the national team program for a potential roster spot on their 2028 Olympic team as part of its Next Gen program.
At only 14 years of age, MacDonald, who plays forward and midfield, was scouted by the team after playing on team Ontario’s U18 B squad that picked up a bronze medal at the Field Hockey Canada National Championships held in BC earlier this month.
“At the [Next Gen] camp, they said ‘your goal should be the 2028 Olympics.’ That was pretty crazy to hear. I think everybody was a bit shocked when they said that,” MacDonald said.
Having been influenced to try the game by her aunt who is an umpire in the sport, MacDonald was naturally drawn to the game.
“I grew up playing ice hockey a lot, and soccer. And I find it almost like a mix of those two with its own little elements in it. I just also like the community around it – there are so many great people I’ve met. That makes it even more fun,” she said.
MacDonald has always had big dreams.
“With ice hockey I [had Olympic goals]. I wanted to make it to the NHL, obviously that probably won’t happen. Sportswise, after I found field hockey, dreams definitely became almost more realistic,” she said.
Due to a scheduling conflict MacDonald was unable to try out for the provincial U16 team, so she jumped at the chance to try out for the older group.
“I said ‘why not? You know, if I make it, that’s great.” It was definitely scary. But I did know some girls from just playing with them or like seeing them on the pitch. So I started to get more comfortable once I started playing with them,” MacDonald explained.
The national champion experience brought “a lot of laughs and a few tears,” she added.
“The first day, I was very nervous, just because I was like, ‘Oh, what if they’re really good?’ But after playing the first game, I started to settle in more, and my teammates were amazing – they helped a lot. It was all around very fun,” she explained.
The bronze medal game which ended in a 3-1 shootout win over team white from B.C. was “fairly intense, “ MacDonald said.
“I had full faith in our goalie. She’s very good. And yeah, when we won, it was just a lot. I was so proud, and everyone ran in to celebrate.
During the season MacDonald plays for the Guelph Cobras, where she is coached by Michelle Turley.
While Turley said it’s “pretty incredible” for a 14-year-old to make the U18 team, it is a culmination of her skills and work that she has put in.
“She has excellent stick skills. We work on stick skills a ton at our practices and during COVID the one year we really weren’t able to do any drills so for that one year, we mostly worked on our stick skills. They’re so smooth – she has exceptional stick skills and now that we’ve been able to be in drills and opportunities to play, I’ve also seen that she’s a good passer as well,” explained Turley, who also coaches at the University of Guelph.
MacDonald has progressed quickly with the Cobras; she was part of the U16 high performance development program last year. She has now progressed to the U18 high performance team where she has also had the chance to practice with some UOG players.
“It really helps because it really pushes her, but she’s never bowed down to that or anything. She accepts the challenge with a smile on her face. I mean, I think the first couple times she did it with us she was a little nervous and apprehensive,” Turley said.
MacDonald has benefitted from her coaches who all have extensive experience in the sport, her Mother Tracey added.
“Some sports, you don’t always get that because there’s so many kids, they don’t have enough coaches that have that high level of knowledge. But she’s lucky to have those two coaches that have helped her along. And then the coaches at the next gen program were great coaches as well,” Tracey said.
Tracey sees her daughter following in the footsteps of another field hockey player from Elmira, Morgan Hanley, who plays for the Virginia Commonwealth University.
“It’s been amazing to watch her progression. [How she] learned to play the sport. I was just full of pride when she was playing for Team Ontario,” she said.
Beyond continuing to get better, MacDonald’s goal is to introduce others to the sport.
“I genuinely think it’s an amazing sport. I’d love more people to find it, instead of always, I guess being pushed to the more mainstream sports like hockey, soccer and stuff like that.”