With Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe region a hub for the development of elite female hockey talent, among the organizations leading the way are the Stoney Creek Sabres Girls Hockey Association. Featuring numerous alumnae that have played at the university level, plus the professional and international ranks, the legacy of the Association looks beyond exceptional on-ice achievement.
Having introduced an exciting, and highly empowering program in 2021 named Future Leaders, the results are poised to yield a highly positive outcome in the long term. Geared towards encouraging girls to coach and lead through mentorship, another benefit brings tremendous value. Worth noting, part of the program involves subsidies to write the various levels of Hockey Canada coaching exams, essential towards the objective of earning coaching certificates.
Serving in the capacity of Association President, and liaison with the OWHA, Eugene Farago possesses over a decade of coaching experience. Raised in Stoney Creek, his hockey resume demonstrates a strong local connection. Having coached with the Sabres and Warriors organizations, he has also shown entrepreneurial spirit as co-owner of The Shoot House Hockey Centre, an initiative which helped young players keep their skills sharp during temporary stoppage in play due to the pandemic.
Possessing a passion to grow the game, Future Leaders represents a strong point of pride. With the long term in mind, Farago’s sentiments also indicate an opportunity to enhance the organizational culture, simultaneously enriching the player experience.
“The only way that the women’s hockey program reaches the heights that it can achieve is by preparing for the next generation of coaches and leaders from our current players.
Our young girls will listen to and respect our male coaches, but they are immediately star struck when they have an older version of themselves on the ice as their friend and their coach. These are the coaches that will instill the passion for the game that will be the core of the game’s future growth.”
Every September, the arrival of a new season provides opportunities for interested participants to register via the Association website. Afterwards, the importance of the program takes shape as participants are assigned a team and coach.
Notably, players in the Association are also eligible for participation. As proud hockey mom Barb McFadyen recounts, the display of leadership demonstrated by her daughter, among the participants this season, shows the potential for other players to make a positive impact.
“My daughter is in her second year of the Program. She plays U18BB and has been assigned to a U13B team. The coach mentoring her is doing a fabulous job.
She runs many of the drills at each practice that she is able to attend and also, from time to time, he has her create and submit practice plans prior to a practice.
At games, although she is unable to be on the bench due to her age, her role is to lead the pre game warm up, give the pre game “pep talk” and announce the starting line and finally she also speaks to the girls in between periods.
Also, she is encouraged to speak to the girls at practice, correcting them and giving them tips and tricks. Her end goal – after she ages out of minor hockey – is to return to the Stoney Creek Association as a coach and maybe, one day, also in a role in the Association Executive Committee.”
The success story of McFadyen’s daughter, whose season included a tournament in Pittsburgh, stands as testament to the goals of Future Leaders. From developing a fundamentally sound approach to coaching, to cultivating self-esteem and a stronger skill set, the result is a true win-win situation.
“Future Leaders is not just about being a helper, it is about being a coach and a leader. The Future Leaders are taught how to think about their own skills and break them down to make them teachable. The current coaches then help them create drills and organize the flow of a practice.
Eventually, these Future Leaders will design and run an entire practice on their own, using our current coaches as helpers. It is a huge boost to their confidence.”
Undoubtedly, the privilege of wearing the Sabres green and gold paraphernalia remains part of a player’s identity. The values obtained stand among the pillars of a players approach in the successive chapters of their hockey odyssey.
A fundamental aspect of such values includes the celebration of players, past and present. The 2022-23 edition of the Rivalry Series represents an extension of the organization’s legacy. Brianne Jenner and Kristin O’Neill, both Cornell Big Red alumnae, Sarah Nurse, one of the game’s most popular figures, plus Megan Carter, currently in her senior season with the Northeastern University Huskies, are all former Sabres stars garbed in the Maple Leaf.
Optimistic about the potential of the Future Leaders program to add another enjoyable facet to the experience of being a Sabre, Farago finds value in the benefits. Emphasizing the feeling of family, finding friends and role models, the opportunity to create synergy will build a new legacy for a proud organization.
“Once a girl becomes a Sabre, they are green and gold for life. At various stages of their career, they may have to wear a different jersey, but they are always a part of the Sabres Family. That culture comes from the interaction of our players with each other at all ages and the mentorship and role models that they provide.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated“