VIERUMÄKI, Finland – 27-year-old Viona Harrer recently ended her career as a goalkeeper after her first Olympic Winter Games in Sochi 2014, eight World Championship participations (including Division I play) and 163 national team games for Germany to cut down on her playing career.
To remain in shape she will continue playing with German champion ESC Planegg – as a skater.
“Already at the end of the regular season I was looking for new equipment and tried as a skater and now I’m fully integrated as such,” Harrer said. Will we see her again on the national team like Julia Zorn, who turned from goaltending to forward in 2009?
“At the moment I wouldn’t assume that (laughs). But it’s not my big goal to return to the national team as a skater,” she said. “I didn’t want to quit from playing entirely. I played as a goalkeeper because it was fun but the last season it wasn’t that much fun for me anymore and if you go to practice just to be there then you have to start thinking.”
After having played hockey in a professional environment in the last few years thanks to an army-sponsored program for athletes, she says she wants to return to civil life. She will first work at a hockey academy in Bad Aibling for a couple of months and then do an internship for a hockey program of a TV broadcaster in Germany to see what she’d like to do and hoping she will have a permanent job.
That she was in Vierumäki for a week is no coincidence. She got her first coaching licence in Germany four years ago.
“I have always had in mind to work as a coach when I quit playing. Former German national team coach Peter Kathan asked me whether I want to go to Vierumäki and I thought that would be cool and went,” she said.
In Vierumäki she was part of the Long-Term Player Development Program in a group of instructors from five continents. Something that impressed her.
“There were 26 people from 26 different countries in the program with English as the common language to communicate. It’s a great group of people with different cultural backgrounds,” Harrer said.
“I met new people and although we sometimes tend to think that hockey in Germany is not super-developed you land with both feet on the ground when you meet people from countries with much bigger challenges. I even didn’t know for instance that there’s ice hockey in Malaysia or Morocco.
“Being here is one of the best things I’ve done in my life. “
In the program she learned about coaching young kids from the beginner’s stage until later.
“We had 70 Finnish kids here every day which was great. We learn pedagogical aspects with kids. After all they’re kids who want to have fun and give fun back to you,” she said and will take new things learned home for her new jobs.
“What I learned is that although I’m coming from a performance-oriented environment, teaching hockey also has a social component for kids who want to have fun, be taken care of and socialize through sport. And that hockey dissolves cultural borders.”