What do the Winter Olympics, the KOHA, and Athletic Mentors have in common? They’re scoring awareness for the sport of Girls & Women’s hockey.
This summer, Division I Northeastern Husky Forward Tessa Ward will suit up to help coach Mark Olson lead Athletic Mentors’ first Ladies Dryland Summer Training Camp. The freshman and her team earned the Hockey East Championship this season before being sidelined on the way to the NCAA’s Final Four.
For Ward, growing up with a dad in the NHL (Eddie Ward) and four brothers who vied for ice time in their backyard hockey rink, playing came naturally. The basement of her childhood home is still riddled with holes in the wall from their games of competitive mini-stick. Dad was in the mix, much to her mom’s chagrin.
Ward’s older brother, Keegan, now plays for Northern Michigan University. When they were younger, watching him play inspired her.
“I was so jealous. I saw him having fun on the ice, and thought I could do it better than him…” Ward recalls. She’s played since she was four years old, entirely on boys’ teams until Bantam major level. Then she switched over to girls hockey, playing on the Lansing Spartans.
“That’s when I really realized this was something I can do and want to do at the collegiate level.”
For Ward, the dryland camp is the kind of thing she wished she would have had growing up.
“I think it would have been motivating to see girls my age working, getting stronger, growing in the game. I had to travel to play on a girls’ team. It’s great they’re building a program. I’m really looking forward to mentoring young girls.”
Ward credits in part the Team USA Women’s Olympic win this year with the surge in popularity experienced in women’s hockey. “I think it’s shown a lot of girls that hockey is a sport was can all play. It’s not just for boys anymore.”
Earlier this year, the Kalamazoo Optimist Hockey Association teamed up with Athletic Mentors to offer 40 girls, ages 8U to 16U, an opportunity to train both on and off the ice. The program turned heads at USA Hockey.
“The excitement and buzz that is surrounding girls and women’s hockey right now is contagious,” said Emily West, USA Hockey’s ADM manager. “The staff in Kalamazoo is continuing to go above and beyond for these girls and it’s an awesome thing to see how much those girls enjoyed the event.”
That trend will continue this summer in Richland under the tutelage of Coach Mark Olson, former D1 player and national champion, and Tessa Ward. In Dryland training, Athletic Mentor’s unique blend of performance-powered mental and physical conditioning with precise skill development will help serious players ratchet up their level of play. On-Ice skills and conditioning will also be available for those who want to hone their stride strength, power and explosive stops and starts. The coaching team includes former NHL Pro Eddie Ward; pro power skating coach Stacey Barber, and new team member, Nicole Reitz. For Ward, it’s a pleasure to work alongside one of her most influential coaches.
“I’ve worked with Mark since I was ten years old. I trust him as a trainer more than anybody else. He’s honest, works hard, and keeps you working towards a goal. He’s been wonderful to me and my brothers, and has taken me to the next level as a hockey player and a person.”
She hopes she can give some of that back to the program.
“My advice to younger girls is to keep working hard. Keep your head up, and have fun playing hockey. Make a goal and stick to it and don’t let anybody tell you no. Hockey is not just for boys anymore.”
For more information about Athletic Mentors’ program, visit Ladies Summer Dryland Camp or call 269.743.2277.