When Elmira’s Brianna Jacobi heads to PEI next week as part of Team Ontario’s ringette team, she’ll be following a path that came naturally.
“Watching my mom and all my siblings growing up playing, it was definitely an influence. But then as I got older, it’s definitely the friendships. I just didn’t want to leave the friendships,” she said of growing up surrounded by ringette players.
There’ll be plenty of fellow enthusiasts at the Canada Winter Games, where she’s heading February 18.
“We gave all of [our kids] the choice to go play hockey,” said Nancy Jacobi, Brianna’s mother. “Brianna always was adamant: nope, she’s staying in ringette. She watched a couple of her friends play hockey, I think, and saw how slow it was. She said ‘No, I’ll stick to the ringette.’”
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Brianna has been playing ringette since she was four years old, beginning with the Learn to Skate program. Her two older sisters played the sport, and her mother did too. She briefly considered switching into hockey, but stayed with ringette.
“It’s such a fast sport,” said Brianna. “There’s so much teamwork involved. Hockey didn’t have that.”
“Having to pass over the blue lines and stuff, you have to work as a team more than you do in hockey. There can’t be a one-man-show in ringette,” added Nancy.
In order to play for Team Ontario, Brianna had to go through a series of hoops. While playing a season at the AAA level, she was scouted and invited to try out for the provincial squad. After two rounds of try-outs involving about 70 prospects, Brianna was accepted to Team Ontario in May 2022.
Brianna also made Waterloo’s National Ringette League team, the Waterloo Wildfire. Now, she’ll be able to play competitively in Canada’s highest ringette league until she decides to retire, as there are no age limits. Here she plays with some of the most skilled women in the game.
From February 19 to 25, she’ll be in Prince Edward Island to play in the Canada Winter Games.
But there are sacrifices that need to be made for such athletic success.
“It gets expensive,” said Nancy. “This level especially, paying for two different teams. And then the biggest expense is the travel because Bri’s dad and I like to go to all the tournaments. ”
The pandemic was also a challenge, because it meant no playing for two years. Brianna had to work hard to make up for that lost time. She also volunteers with the learn-to-skate program and her niece’s U10 team to help train kids so that they can catch up, too.
Brianna is studying kinesiology at Wilfrid Laurier University. Though she’s not sure exactly what she’ll pursue after university, her ringette goals are clear: she wants to play for Team Canada.
Reaching this goal takes lots of work and sacrifices. If she’s not on the ice, she’s training in the gym, balancing schoolwork or heading to a tournament. It really stretches her time management skills.
“Definitely social life, it’s a lot harder especially in university when people are going out during the weekends and I’m travelling with my team to different provinces, I just lose a lot of the social aspect. But I’d say it’s worth it because I’m with my friends and I’m having fun and I’m in a competitive environment. It is a sacrifice sometimes, but I wouldn’t change it.”
Brianna says it’s the friendships she’s made along her entire ringette career that have really kept her going, as well as the support from her family.
“I’m really lucky that they’re willing to sacrifice their time and money so I can play. I would not be able to play at this level without them and their encouragement and everything.”
She feels a bit nervous for the Canada Winter Games because of the level of competition and the presence of scouts. “It’s a very big competition and there’s going to be a lot of scouts there, but I just need to play like I usually do.”