Dedicated towards the growth of the game, the United Women’s Ball Hockey Foundation (UWBHF) approaches the end of 2017 with a heightened sense of momentum. Among its distinguished founders, Alessandra Glista and Karen Levin were members of the US roster that reached a sensational milestone at the 2017 ISBHF Worlds in Pardubice, emerging with the first-ever podium finish in program history. The euphoric feeling of attainment for these luminaries has served to enhance an already strong sense of teamwork that defines the culture of the admirable Foundation, working in collaboration with co-founders Jason Glista and Sarah Wilson.
Focused on encouraging and inspiring a new generation of talent, it shall be one of the key themes as the UWBHF prepares for its Oktoberfest Tournament. Hosted from October 20-22 at the Breakaway Hockey Dek in Dracut, Massachusetts, Oktoberfest is one of the signature events for the Foundation. All proceeds raised throughout the weekend, akin to their other exceptional events, go back into the game’s future, investing in its growth, while aiming to create more opportunities for aspiring players.
Quickly becoming an essential component of the US ball hockey calendar, Oktoberfest features three different divisions of play, including Women’s A, Women’s B and Coed Divisions. With an effort to develop the level of talent in the B Division, a modification regarding tournament rules shall be in place. Of note, teams participating in the B Division can have two players on their team under the “A-List” classification.
Explaining the purpose of the A-List, Glista mentions that players under this classification include all current members of the US National Team, who shall be on-hand for Oktoberfest.
“The A-list is used for our events and other large tournaments in the US. These women are the top players in our game. All of the Team USA girls are on it as well as some other amazing US players.
This list is revisited after major tournaments and updated as we meet and see more top level talent. The reasoning behind this is we would like to foster the growth of the B players. We allow two A players to play on B teams at our events. The B has become very competitive and we want to ensure it keeps growing. There are some Master’s players included on this list and some U20 girls.”
Overall, more than 60 players are considered A-List, which also includes current NWHL stars such as Nikki Connery and Paige Harrington (who was also part of Team USA in 2017). As a side note, ice hockey legend Molly Schaus is also part of this group of stars. A member of the US national team at both the 2010 and 2014 Winter Games, Schaus was also a Clarkson Cup champion in 2013.
Promising to be more than a highlight at Oktoberfest is a free Team USA Prospect Game for girls between the ages of 10 and 18. Destined to be an opportunity to create special memories, it allows these adolescent competitors the coveted chance to share the court with members of Team USA’s inspiring silver medal winning squad from the 2017 ISBHF Worlds.
To gain mentoring and instruction from such accomplished competitors in a very encouraging setting, there is an added level of prestige in the knowledge that Team USA has attained a new pinnacle in program lore. Considering the growing legend of the podium finish, which included the first-ever defeat of rival Canada, there is poised to be a much greater sense of adoration and hero worship.
One of the pioneers of Team USA, Glista, a highly accomplished goaltender whose decade of experience has also included competition at the first two ISBHF Masters tournaments, is ecstatic regarding the outpouring of support and interest for this event.
Anticipating one of the most successful tournaments in the growing history of the admirable UWBHF, the awareness of the game is poised to reach greater heights. As Alessandra emphasizes, a total of 15 teams allows for a significant presence,
“I think that our success at Worlds was great in getting the sport more exposure in the US. The UWBHF was created to help spread the word about our amazing sport and get more women and kids involved in ball hockey.
The Oktoberfest and Springfest tournaments were also created to give women of all backgrounds and experience a change to play competitively in the only women’s focused event in the US. It is great as it brings together many of the ball hockey players from across the country.
This year the response was amazing, as we will have seven women’s A teams and eight teams in a B/C division. This is the first time we are able to make a C division.”
As one of the game’s most distinguished participants and a key member of Team USA in this decade, simultaneously helping to set a strong standard of leadership and dedication, Karen Levin is ecstatic at the potential for progress. Although the sense of achievement which emanates from the podium finish is definitely obligatory, complemented by the team’s increase in competitive stature, Levin is observant of the greater and richer context that the medal brings.
One of the most admirable elements concerning Oktoberfest is the sense of empowerment. It is a sporting movement that sees the women of ball hockey looking to shape their own destiny, while continuing to cultivate the next generation of talent. Achieving this in a friendly and sportsmanlike environment where emphasis on enjoyment and respect help serve as the foundation for building the game at its grass roots. As Levin emphasizes, the beauty of such unprecedented success on the global scale is one that shall bring with it a positive impact locally,
“To me, what makes the UWBHF’s Oktoberfest important is the fact that it is a tournament for women by women. Our dream is that we can eventually grow the tournament so it is filled by women’s teams. I believe that Team USA earning a silver medal this year will help us to continue to grow the tournament and provide a unique opportunity for women’s teams and women’s players.”
Of note, the impact of the podium finish is one that also sees Oktoberfest as a key recruiting ground for the next step in the unfolding narrative of elite American female ball hockey. The American Street Hockey Institute (ASHI) shall be on-hand, looking towards the talent at Oktoberfest as a springboard in helping assemble competitive rosters for two significant ISBHF tournaments in 2018.
Possessing strong hopes of building on the momentum of a silver medal, ASHI is hoping for a pair of podium finishes at next year’s Women’s Masters (35+) and at the Under-18 ISBHF World Championships. With a gathering of teams from throughout the Northeast, along with entries from the Midwest, the collection of tremendous talent is one that Levin looks upon as one of Oktoberfest’s hallmarks.
While the competitiveness of Oktoberfest brings with it an even greater quality of play, the feeling of celebration that helps set the tone for such a wondrous weekend is what inspires Levin and her colleagues to give back to the game through their tireless work with the UWBHF. In discussing what Levin is looking forward to most about the upcoming event, the values represented through the positive culture established by teamwork and respect is part of a definitive response,
“Good hockey and good people. I most look forward to seeing the friends I have from all over the country. It is truly a privilege to play in an event in which players from New York, Philly, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and many more places come together to play the sport we love. We do not get to see each other often, but when we do get together it is extremely fun… and extremely competitive.”
With a recent increase in the number of registered players at subsequent events, it serves as affirmation that the UWBHF is headed in a positive direction. Aimed at developing the game, while heralding a golden age, it has proven to be a labor of love for those proudly involved.
Considering that the sport has also gained prominence as an opportunity for ice hockey players to remain competitive in the off-season, its growth remains poised to exceed past expectations. For a distinguished competitor such as Glista, whose athletic odyssey has reached numerous pinnacles through ball hockey, the chance to foster a new generation that can emulate her success, while adding to the expanding impact of the sport is one that provides her with a tremendous feeling of attainment,
“I am really proud to see how much the game has grown over the past few years and especially since the UWBHF was formed.
The best part for me is meeting more women who truly love the game and seeing those players who I have played with, coached or played against over the many years I have been involved with the sport. There was a time when I was concerned that we were not getting many new people to tournaments.
Seeing the response to our events and what the UWBHF has done in a short amount of time makes me so proud of how far we have come and knowing what we have been able to do so far is working.
This is a sport I am so passionate about, it has given me so many opportunities and I have met so many amazing people because of it and I am happy that many more women now have those opportunities and share that passion we have for the sport.
It makes me want to work harder to see how many more people we can reach and how we can make a lasting impression on the future of ball hockey.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Images obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/uwbhf/