Ireland in Vierumaki – Day 7

(Today we got another look into the High Performance Camp from the IIHA’s Seanna Conway.)

Saturday, 21st July

The final day in Vierumaki was bittersweet. Every single person, from staff to player to observer was physically and mentally exhausted. We had planned and coached and planned and listened and planned some more all week long. The athletes had skated every day, ran, trained, and listened and skated some more. The Mentor Coaches were also exhausted from imparting all of their wisdom and energy to us all week long.

However, we still had one day left and each and every one of us had to dig deep.

Team Olympus had an early breakfast at 6:30am, followed by a pre-game skate. Our athletes went through another session with Marc Power and Danielle Goyette, this time focusing on balance and edge work. We also did a really funny, but also valuable skating relay with rubber chickens. Yes! Rubber chickens! The object is to skate with the arms moving you forward, as opposed to side-to-side. So, instead of passing a stick between us, we skated with 2 rubber chickens, and passed them to the next person in line. If you get hit in the face with a chicken, you are skating with poor form! Marc told us that he does this with the Ottawa Senators every year! Even the coaches had to participate. Unfortunately for my relay team, I was last to go and was up against Coach Vytautas! I had a small head start as my team was ahead but a quick turn on the course sent me flying on my backside and unfortunately, myself and the 2 rubber chickens did not win the relay! Nonetheless, Team Olympus was energized and ready for a big game in a few hours.

The ladies had a cool down and we all headed for our pre-game meal. All the team staff sat together and we admired the fantastic energy and mood of the team. There was constant chatter, constant laughter and smiles all around.

After the meal the staff went to a seminar with Mel Davidson and the athletes went to a seminar with the Athlete Ambassadors. The Ambassadors spoke to the athletes about important topics such as time management, proper rest and sleep.

Our seminar with Mel was such a perfect way to end the week. Mel talked to all staff about the role we play in our organizations, the goals we need to set for ourselves and our programs and the constant need to keep pushing ourselves and evaluating where we are. As Mel explained, it comes down to whether you want to be a Duck or an Eagle. Do you ‘Quack’, i.e. nag, nag, nag and give out, spreading your negative energy outwards to colleagues? Or do you soar like an Eagle? Are you a leader?

In this final seminar we also got a quick live demonstration from Mark Power and Danielle Goyette about the off-ice conditioning and exercises we can do to become better skaters. Video demonstrations with Team Olympus’s own Iya Gavrilova were shown to us and dissected at every second! Danielle informed us these videos would all be made available to us. The great thing about exercises is that once the athletes learn them they can continue to practice them on their own time and within their own training schedule. This will be an invaluable resource for our National teams.

After this uplifting and exciting seminar, we headed to the rink for our final game. Team Olympus needed a win and we needed it badly! We told the team to give every last ounce they had, to empty the tank and leave everything they had on the ice. And this, they did. We won 2-0 over Team Kilimanjaro. Our starting Goaltender, Maria Omberg from Sweden was flawless in goal, making a huge breakaway save in the final minutes of the game to preserve the shutout. The ladies crashed the net furiously all game and we earned the 2 goals through hard work and determination.

The feeling after the win was electric. The girls hugged and smiled and took pictures and the coaches beamed from ear to ear. We accomplished our goal and ended the amazing week on a high note. After the match we had Team ice cream, as well as final goodbyes and speeches. It was hard not to shed a tear. We chatted, took pictures, exchanged email addresses, added one another on Facebook and promised to keep in touch.

A week in hockey paradise was over, but our lives had been forever changed, for the better.

Now, the real work begins.

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