Aiming towards their first-ever podium finish in the history of the ISBHF World Street Hockey Championships, women’s Team Italia approaches Pardubice 2017 with equal parts anticipation and ambition. After a promising performance at the 2015 edition of the Championships in Zug, Switzerland, the road towards reaching soft lofty objectives shall be defined by successful recruiting and ensuring financial hardships are avoided.
Among the dedicated individuals undertaking the awesome responsibility of the task includes Christina D’Ambrogio. Having also served as the captain for Team Italia in Zug, she embodies the strong spirit of leadership, which helps set the tone for this admirable collection of distinguished competitors. Having played in Zug with her sister Pamela, who is also returning in 2017, both are eager to build on the great momentum that has taken place, while leading Italia to greater heights.
With the ISBHF Championships a biennial event, a significant aspect towards preparing for 2017 began shortly following the final outcome at Zug. The reality for so many of these world class athletes extends beyond overcoming the financial hurdles that plagues so many levels (and types) of sport. Monies raised cover the expense of travel, accommodation, transportation to the venue of play, apparel, and any applicable tournament entry fees.
Akin to the other athletes who look to achieve their sporting ambitions, a crowd funding page has also been launched. Providing a more profound look at the challenges incurred and the desire to meet their goals, it is an admirable introduction to Team Italia, while showing that a donation goes beyond dollars and cents, rather, it is the investment in a dream.
For Team Italia, the path towards attaining such goals may also hold the advantage of strengthening the bonds of teamwork. With less than 100 days before the first faceoff at Pardubice, the team has made a unified effort. Employing social media, a dinner and dance fundraiser shall take place on the Thursday before Easter, on April 13. In looking to bring the community together and raise awareness of this great sport, it is testament to their strong culture of teamwork. As D’Ambrogio expands on the objectives that hope to be reached through this effort, the love of the game, and its subsequent competition, are the factors that make such athletic endeavors a labor of love.
“The athletes receive zero funding to compete at Worlds. Therefore as a team, we have to get creative to be able to pay for our flights, hotel, jerseys, training, etc. We host many different fund raisers – dinner/dance, hockey pool, meat sale, obtain corporate sponsorship, online crowdfunding, (and so forth).
If we do not meet our fundraising goals, then the players have to pay the remaining balance out-of-pocket. This ultimatum turns away many talented athletes from traveling and competing at Worlds. Another big struggle is trying to find corporate sponsorship.”
Considering that the goal of raising funds and/or attracting sponsors involves the same level of commitment that goes into preparing for the event itself, the purpose is to yield a positive result from such effort. As it is not too late for any potential sponsorship, there are numerous compelling facets that have the potential to appeal.
From the outset, there is a strong probability that Team Italia will qualify for the medal round, bringing exposure to any sponsoring brand or firm. As the sport continues to grow, a remarkable number of competing players are coming from elite levels of ice hockey. The connection between the two sports will only help escalate its importance, bringing the potential to gain more prominence.
For D’Ambrogio, the financial commitment is defined by more than just capital. While there is an entrepreneurial spirit on the part of Team Italia, the benefit is that the players involved are remarkable assets. Their preparation and uphill climb towards the summit of unprecedented peaks defines a journey where these exemplary players remain in high spirits, proud of their effort, ready to pay positive dividends with a true team effort.
“As a corporation, the biggest incentive in sponsoring Team Italia is you get advertising opportunity at an international stage and into the European market. Also, you get to help proud Italian heritage female athletes from the Italian-Canadian community. We have been training hard and we know we will make every (one) proud of our performance at Worlds!”
With no funding, a difficult reality for all competitors involved, it only compounds the recruiting challenges from a team perspective. Many competing nations have to go beyond just working hard in their methods to raise funds, as any goals that are not met must be subsidized out-of-pocket, which can serve as a hindrance towards recruiting the best players available.
Taking into account that there is no national league for Team Italia to recruit from, the struggles of assembling a roster and finding committed players is a yearly one. Such effort results in a significant amount of hard work off the court of play, which also incorporates finding resourceful ways to welcome new faces into the fold.
While Rick DiBiase, a longtime member of Team Italia’s coaching staff acknowledges that there have been challenges in recruiting players, he is a proud believer in the benefits that come from donning the Team Italia jersey. Although the amount of time invested is significant, the commitment is well worth it. With final touches remaining for the roster, any female hockey players of Italian heritage, whether the background is on the ice, inline or ball hockey shall be given consideration.
“The biggest challenge has been attempting to explain to the players that the process leading up to the tournament is well worth it, considering the amount of practice before hand, as well as the financial aspects of travelling to Europe and the level of commitment that is required.”
As the Greater Toronto Area represents the largest percentage of residents with Italian heritage in all of North America, Team Italia truly represents a unique facet for international ball hockey, unifying a pair of countries and cultures, while honoring their proud heritage. The area is also a significant base for recruiting as Team Italia is the only women’s team at the Championships which fills its roster with heritage players, which is defined as someone whose parent or grandparent was born in Italy.
Undoubtedly, one of the appealing elements for any prospective player is the opportunity to showcase their skills on an international stage. As DiBiase emphasizes, the chance to compete provides the athlete with an opportunity to pay tribute to their lineage, while acquiring a potential lifetime of memories defines such an experience.
“Yes, this is an appealing aspect of joining the team, as prospective players want to compete on an international level. This opportunity allows the players to participate in a prestigious event and ultimately provides them with a great experience representing their Italian culture and heritage. It is a great honour to wear your country’s colours on a worldwide platform.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
-Interested women’s players of Italian heritage can contact Team Italia ASAP via email: [email protected]
–Link to Dinner & Dance Fundraiser: https://www.facebook.com/events/246978779086924/