BY KALISHA MENDONSA
A local female hockey player recently returned from the exciting opportunity of taking part in the 2017 Alberta Cup Challenge.
The Alberta Cup Challenge is a Hockey Alberta Female Development program that gives the girls extra training and skill-building opportunities. This year, the Challenge took place from May 3rd to 7th in Olds.
It’s an intense weekend of competition and development, with the athletes first having to work their way through regional camps and try-outs to make the cut.
Lacombe’s Hailey Hoogkamp, 14, was the only representative from the city to take part this year. There were other girls from Central Alberta, but Hoogkamp said she was honoured to be the only Lacombian in the Challenge.
“It was a really good weekend, and I had a lot of fun. I learned quite a bit from the coaches, too,” Hoogkamp said.
Despite her team placing last in the tournament, Hoogkamp’s attitude was positive. She said it was a great learning experience and that she’s happy to have had the chance to take part.
“You can’t give up. You have to keep going, even when you get cut from a team or mess up. You just ask what you did wrong, fix those things and go back next year,” she said, noting it’s important to take losses as an inspiration.
“You learn that you should never give up in a short competition. You have a certain amount of time to learn everybody’s names and to get along as quickly as you can so you can work together.”
Hoogkamp has had a lengthy career for a young age, and her mother Dinelda said it’s been a life-long dream for her daughter to play for Team Canada. Since Hailey was old enough to tie her own skates, her mother said she’s been a go-getter.
“It’s so great to see her hit the goals that she wants. Hailey has always been really self-driven. We never ever had to get her up early in the morning, or do anything like that. She’s always the one up early saying ‘let’s go.’ It’s been really great watching her grow,” Dinelda said.
“With Hailey, I think her biggest asset is that she has a never-give-up attitude. She plays her position like she knows where she needs to be. This year, she got to sit down with a few coaches and got taught a lot more about positioning. She’s one of those kids who can get taught something once, and then just goes out and does it.”
The weekend was truly a learning opportunity, with Hailey saying she was happy to receive some extra coaching in terms of player position and puck handling.
“We went over new positions and whole bunch of new kinds of drills in the practices,” Hailey said, explaining that positioning has to do with where she stands on the ice, and how to anticipate plays to skate a little more offensively.
Hailey used to play on Lacombe Minor Hockey boys’ teams before switching to Lacoka last year. She said this was a big asset in her skill development, and part of the reason she was able to place second in her league last year, with 24 goals and five assists.
“When I was playing with the guys’ teams, it was pretty different. I was always getting ready alone, for one. But the games are a lot faster, and there’s a lot more pressure – you had to be ready for anything at any time,” she said.
“With the Lacoka girls, its a slower pace so I have more time to make moves and the pressure doesn’t seem as hard. I think playing with the boys helped me a lot, because it’s given me confidence with my puck handling.”
From the beginning of the tournament, the girls showed up to register Wednesday, and were thrown into a practice immediately. From there, they woke up to an early morning practice and got right into the games.
Hailey said it was a lot of fun learning from the various coaches and from all of the girls in the competition. She said it was cool to learn about different coaching styles, and to watch the game play of the other girls to try to better her own performance.
Her mother said sometimes these quick-competition formats can be difficult for the girls, but that Hailey had a good time regardless.
“I think she had a blast, honestly,” Dinelda said. “That girl has a lot of miles under those skates,” she added with a laugh.
For Hailey, the development camp was a great weekend overall and she said she is looking forward to taking the lessons into her next season.
“Everybody kind of learned from everybody else this weekend, because we all came from different kinds of coaching, and that was really good,” she said.
“I’ll be taking what I learned to work on my shot and my control over the puck.”