The world’s top Masters (35+) women’s ball hockey teams are arriving in Bermuda this week for the 2018 International Street and Ball Hockey Federation (ISBHF) Masters World Ball Hockey Championships.
For the two American women’s teams attending, playing outdoors in a tropical country like Bermuda will be a unique experience. However, what is perhaps more significant is the current state of women’s ball hockey in their home country.
Many of the members of the two American teams, Team Blue and Team Red, have been in the American women’s program (which is governed by ASHI, the American Street Hockey Institute) for years. For example, Alessandra Glista represented the United States in the first ever ISBHF Women’s World Ball Hockey Championships in 2007, and both her and Lorraine Anderson competed in the first ever ISBHF Masters World Ball Hockey Championships in 2014, Glista with Team Blue and Anderson with Team Red.
Both Glista and Anderson are ecstatic when they speak about the traction the sport has gained over the last few years.
“When I started [playing ball hockey] back in 1999, there weren’t many women in my area and … within the United States that played ball hockey,” said Anderson, who played on co-ed teams when she first took up the sport. “It was more of a man’s sport and from there to today the amount that the sport has grown is leaps and bounds.”
Anderson has seen significant changes over even the last two years, citing the tryouts for the Masters teams as an example. In 2016, there were just enough women who tried out for there to be two teams. However, the number of women who tried out for the 2018 teams was double, if not triple, that of 2016 (and this was before Bermuda was announced as the host country).
Glista and Anderson have both noticed how making it onto the national team has become increasingly more difficult as the number of high calibre players has increased. Much of this could be due in part to efforts to promote the sport throughout the country.
“There’s definitely been tremendous growth at the grassroots level,” said Glista, a goalie who started an organization called the United Women’s Ball Hockey Foundation (UWBHF) with her husband in order to help promote the sport in the United States.
As it says on the UWBHF website, the foundation was created “to support and develop the women’s ball hockey community by providing opportunities for increased women’s participation, advancement, and awareness at a local, regional, and national level.”
Ball hockey is often more accessible than its on-ice counterpart. As Glista said, “Everyone can play, all you need is a stick and a ball … you don’t need to learn to skate.”
Part of what the UWBHF does is organize clinics for girls and women. Glista strives to have these clinics be run by national team players, and recently held one in Iowa that had 100 girls in attendance.
While ball hockey tournaments across the United States previously struggled to fill their women’s divisions with teams, many tournaments (such as those organized by Glista) now actually have so many women’s teams apply to play that they have to turn some away. The competition is tighter as well, with fewer lopsided scores than seen in the past.
Another recent initiative aimed at growing the sport is the ASHI’s U20 women’s team that represented the United States at the 2018 ISBHF Juniors World Championship. This team gives younger players more high performance opportunities and helps work towards creating a high level feeder system for the senior national teams.
With the American women’s program at what is likely an all time high in terms of participation and calibre, there is excitement around the possibility of what could happen at the 2018 Masters Worlds. This tournament will be the third Masters World Ball Hockey Championships, and both Team Blue, which won silver in 2014 and 2016, and Team Red will be looking to make the podium.
“Each tournament is always a unique experience,” said Glista, who has also represented the United States in six ISBHF Women’s World Ball Hockey Championships. “We’re super proud of winning silver [at the last two Masters Worlds], but our ultimate goal is to be the best.”
“It really is an honour to represent your country in this manner, so of course we want to do our best and show off the program we have here in the USA for ball hockey,” said Anderson. “Personally I think we all just want to help out and be a part of the whole team experience.”
Follow the 2018 ISBHF Masters World Ball Hockey Championships at www.bermudahockey.com
Photos courtesy of Alessandra Glista and Lorraine Anderson
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ISBHF Masters World Ball Hockey Championships player Keeley Prockiw will be taking over Women’s Hockey Life’s Instagram stories live from Bermuda on Thursday September 27th. Follow @womenshockeylife on Instagram to watch!