RNS players make great gains from strength camp

SCOTT BRIGGS           Telegraph-Journal
May 17, 2016
Miramichi’s Lindsey Donovan and Kristen McKinley of Quispamsis gained as much mentally as they did physically from Hockey Canada’s recent strength and conditioning camp in Hamilton, Ont.
While both Rothesay Netherwood School varsity girls players hope to remain in the national team system, they’ve already taken a lot from the experience.
“You’re more than just a hockey player,” McKinley said about her lasting impression. “The presentations at the camp opened my eyes to being a better person, a better teammate and a better role model.”
McKinley said Hockey Canada places a premium on being “respectful and responsible.”
Aside from stressing proper conduct, the national hockey body spent time educating players on proper nutrition and lifestyle habits. Those skills go well beyond the boundaries of the rink, of course.
“I gained a lot more knowledge about the off­ice aspect,” Donovan said. “It was one of the most memorable things I’ve ever done. I think we brought back (the understanding) of how serious things really have to be in order to be at that level.”
Donovan, a Grade 12 blue liner, was with the under­22 group. McKinley, a Grade 11 forward, was part of the camp’s under­18 group.
The two were teammates with New Brunswick’s 2015 Canada Games Winter team, and they were also members of this season’s Team Atlantic at the under­18 nationals in Huntsville, Ont.
Their Hockey Canada experience puts them in a prestigious group at RNS. The school’s previous players in the Hockey Canada system include the likes of Marlene Boissonnault of Dundee, Marie­Jo Pelletier of Dalhousie and Grace Graham of Island View.
“I think that every female hockey player dreams of playing for Team Canada,” McKinley said. “Ever since I started playing hockey, I’ve wanted to play for Team Canada. It’s quite exciting that I’m now getting the opportunity to try to get there. It was really eye-opening to see the different competition that is out there. It showed me what I have to do to get ready to be at that level in
the future.”
Donovan will be putting her camp experience to good use at St. Francis Xavier University, where she’ll begin her bachelor of arts degree this fall.
“It’s really exciting,” she said. “It’s going to be a great experience and I think RNS has prepared me well, hockey­wise and academics­wise.”
Kayla Blackmore, head coach of the RNS varsity girls team, said Hockey Canada camps yield countless benefits.
“We have a lot of young players in Grade 9 and Grade 10 who are talking to them about the drills they did and the kind of training they did,” she said. “They’re mentors and role models for our
own players but also for younger players in the community as well. We couldn’t be more proud of them. Hopefully we can get a couple of more players there in the future.”
McKinley and Donovan were impressed with the camp’s structure and emphasis on working hard but smart.
"They really have an emphasis on getting to players while they're young enough to be able to teach those skills and habits," Blackmore said. "Every event that I've ever been involved in with Hockey Canada, everything is done with precision, purpose and intention.
"They treat everyone from the under-16 level straight up to their senior national teams and Olympic teams with the exact same professionalism and respect. I think it's great for our players to see that these are the habits and details they have to have."
Hockey Canada's emphasis on being a good person and contributor to the community are also important at RNS.
"When you look at the philosophies of Hockey Canada about building good people and building student-athletes, I think that lines up with the school's philosophy about focusing on the process," RNS director of hockey operations, Jeff Lewis said.
"Coach Blackmore does a fantastic job with our female program here. She's one of the most respected female coaches in Atlantic Canada and probably even Canada. She's done tremendous things with our girls' program and working with these girls individually so they're prepared for the next level."