It has been a few years since buses carrying IIHF staff members, coaches, and campers from all corners of the world rolled into the Vierumaki Olympic Sports Institute in Finland, but last Friday saw a welcome return as the 2022 IIHF Women’s High Performance camp got underway.
The week-long camp, part of the IIHF’s annual sport development program, brings together athletes and coaches from various IIHF Member National Associations to play, teach, and learn from each other in a friendly and inclusive environment.
“We are extremely happy to have these campers joining us after four years without a Women’s High Performance Camp,” said IIHF Council Member and Women’s Committee Chairperson Zsuzsanna Kolbenheyer.
“We have a few familiar faces and some new ones, but what is especially great is that some of the former campers that were here many years ago have now returned as coaches. It is tremendously gratifying to see this as continuity and legacy-building through this camp is what we have been trying to achieve through these camps.”
In all, the 2022 Women’s High Performance Camp features 150 participants representing 19 different countries. This includes 79 U18 female athletes coached by 36 team staff and supported by 35 including administrators, equipment managers, athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, and even a mental skills coach.
With overall participation numbers reduced due to COVID-19 and the rescheduling of cancelled IIHF events, the IIHF decided to integrate a goalie camp into the Women’s High Performance Camp. A total of 28 goalies are taking part, with goalies being rotated among the four teams during trainings and 4-on-4 and 3-on-3 scrimmages.
Learning, teaching, growing
The IIHF operates two kinds of global camps; IIHF Hockey Development Camps and IIHF Women’s High-Performance Camps, that ordinarily run in alternating years. The last camp took place in 2019 and since there non have operated due to COVID-19.
The camps are exclusively invitational to IIHF Member National Associations. The programs that are featured at the camp are used as a platform to launch the IIHF’s development and education programs, specifically aimed at assisting each National Association to achieve their own development objectives. The programs assist each National Association in upgrading and operating quality development and education programs within their country, leading to the global growth of the game
“We bring in not just campers from our MNAs but also request them to provide coaches, administrators, trainers, equipment managers….anyone who they think would benefit from learning about this or that development program happening at the camp or to work and learn from a more experienced colleague from another MNA. We strongly believe that this develops their own skills and educates the future leaders of ice hockey around the world.”
For the campers, the IIHF aims to provide personal growth and skill development opportunities for all the participants, as well as promote international friendships and relations. Campers are split up into teams and international mixed up with campers from other countries. These teams play, train, and learn together throughout the week.
“We are also aiming to develop networks amongst the women’s hockey family to share issues, find solutions and learn from each other,” said IIHF Women’s Program Manager Blanka Elekes Szentagotai. “Developing the high-performance U-18 athletes from countries around the world, as well as educate the current and future leaders of women’s ice hockey is a priority for the IIHF.”
Female athletes leading teams
During the week, the players will have a full schedule that includes:
- Position specific on ice-sessions
- Team practices
- Games (4 on 4 and 3 on 3)
- Off-ice sessions – weight room, speed-agility-quickness
- Classroom sessions – Integrity in Sport, Mental Skills, Anti-Doping, Media
Andrea Brandli-goaltender, Switzerland
Klara Peslarova- goaltender-Czechia
The camp’s Sport Director is Mel Davidson, longtime Team Canada women’s Hockey coach and administrator. Davidson welcomed all the campers on their arrival day and wished them good luck and offered a few points of advice.
“You are here because you have been chosen by your countries, you have been asked to come by your countries, and you are representing your counties,” said Davidson. “So come every day with an open mind, ask questions, get to know your teammates, and take this opportunity you have to learn and grow."