When you reach 30 years of doing something it’s a reasonably good indicator that what you’re doing you are doing right.
The Red Deer Ringette Association recently hosted the 30th edition of the Friends On Ice tournament which draws teams from out of province as well as from around the region with a range of age groups involved.
“We have everywhere from U-6 to Masters which is players over 30,” said Red Deer Ringette President Wendy Glover. “A lot of our Masters players are coaches or have kids playing or have played previously themselves.”
Glover, who coaches a U14 team, also played in the tournament as she grew up within the sport and is proud of the growth the game has seen over the years.
“We’re quite excited this year because we have increased the number of a lot of our younger teams,” said Glover. “We’ve got around 60 players just at the U9 age group. We have two teams at U6, another four teams at U10 and then 10 teams above that so we are quite healthy.”
She says like most sports when girls get a little bit older they are interested in trying their hand at school sports so there may be some drop off in the numbers with the older girls.
But many of the on-ice officials at this tournament are female so they are staying in the game in that manner.
“We have some that start as young as 13 or 14. They start reffing the younger girls,” she said.
The younger teams are also seeing a number of boys signing up to play the game which isn’t as easy as it might look to someone who hasn’t played the game but it can certainly supply some needed skills for the players if they should decide hockey is their next step.
Many hockey coaches are telling young players to take a year of ringette to get a very good lesson in passing and skating, she said.
In the meantime Glover says the various ringette associations are working hand in hand in order to keep things moving in an upward direction as far as growth is concerned.
For example, Ringette Alberta has a very good model to showcase the sport called ‘Come Try Ringette’ which was put in front of the public in the fall.
“So then girls or boys could register directly after the event and join us for that season,” she said. “As opposed to holding it in the spring where they have a whole summer to wait. So they get the excitement from their friends, through schools and just trying to do a lot of marketing.”
Another sign of the healthy stature of ringette is the fact more local sponsors have jumped onboard in support of this tournament and the City makes certain the first weekend in the new year is free in order to use as many ice surfaces as they can spare to host the event.
Glover says the goal is to expand this tournament to bring in more teams and at the same time keep the young players who are the future of the game coming back.
“If we can continue to grow we can retain top athletes,” she said because there are opportunities for them like playing in the World Championships. “There’s opportunities for scholarships through the universities.”