Monday, June 17, 2024

Nepean Nighthawks News: Ice hockey players fall in love with field hockey community

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By Ottawa Sports Pages, for Nepean Nighthawks

Bridget West’s early days in field hockey had more to do with scheduling than a particular attachment to the pursuit – she wanted to participate in a sport that ran only in the springtime.

“I go canoe tripping through the whole summer, so I was like, ‘Hey, I’ll try field hockey,’” recounts West. “I just ended up loving it, and now I play for my university.”

The University of Guelph Gryphons player is now also among the leaders of the Nepean Nighthawks, which recently held its club day, where players from all levels gathered for relay races, mini games, scrimmages, and pizza.

“It’s all ages integrated here and it’s so much fun. The kids love it,” highlights the Nighthawks program coordinator who just finished up her second U Sports season. “It’s a pretty special community. You don’t really find a lot of sports clubs like this.”

When West played ice hockey in her youth, she didn’t enjoy the same experience. In many other sports, participants often have a good connection with their team, but not necessarily throughout the whole club.

Bailey O’Brien, a coach and communications manager for the Nighthawks, also tried field hockey when an ice hockey friend encouraged her to try it out, and immediately felt the warm welcome that’s become a club trademark.

“I just fell in love with it,” recalls O’Brien. “(Club founder) Sandeep (Chopra) was actually my first coach when I was 11. And now we coach together, so it’s kind of a full-circle thing.”

The full Nighthawks coaching team of 18 recently completed the Aboriginal Coaching Module, a nine-hour course developed to reflect the uniqueness of Indigenous culture, values and lifestyles.

“All of our coaches and trainers went, and it was amazing,” highlights O’Brien. “All of the coaches got a lot out of it, and we keep bringing up things we learned in the module when we look at different situations and we apply it.”

Among the key lessons learned was that there isn’t just one way to coach, and that the approach can change dependent on the participant and their background.

That holistic view of coaching was a valuable perspective to gain, O’Brien notes, and it can be applicable to coaching all athletes as well as Indigenous players.

The Nighthawks are trying to help lead the charge to reconciliation through sport. The club is home to the Stick Together initiative, which provides free programming and transportation to Indigenous youth.

The program is one of the many ways the Nighthawks are seeking to offer opportunities for all ages and genders, including Monday games where players who are involved with the club in many different facets gather together for pickup play.

“Half of our coaches here are all on the men’s and women’s teams, and you’ll find them at all the different practices,” O’Brien signals. “And they’re super integrated with the kids as well. It’s a whole community.”

Learn more about the Nepean Nighthawks at

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