Field hockey as a second language for exchange students has been a fun offshoot of Brenda Kelly’s role as coach of the Princess Margaret Mustangs.
This season, which wrapped up last weekend for the Mustangs with a third place finish in the Valley finals, there were three Japanese students on the roster.
None of the trio, Haruka Kubo, Chihiro Kondo, or Yuki Tange, like many of the other international student predecessors on the squad, had played or even seen the sport before arriving in Canada.
“Having them (international students) is always fun because they often know nothing about field hockey and they’re very, very polite and they’re very receptive to learning,” said Kelly, whose daughter Makeena Hartmann and fellow 2017 Maggie grad Jocelyn Legary, helped with the coaching duties this year. “They’re very quiet, but I think they get a very big thrill out of playing with everybody, because it’s something so new for them. You find, quite often, they haven’t been involved with any sports teams.”
Kelly admits the language barrier can sometimes be a challenge, but that’s easily overcome on the field.
“They learn more by seeing what’s happening. They’re very sweet, they always make it seem like they understand, but I don’t think they always do,” said Kelly, adding she also sends the girls emails about practices and game times which also helps.
The coach added that the international students enjoy the experience of playing so much, they tell their friends when they go home, and some of those students who then come to Canada are already looking forward to joining the team.
“This particular group that we’ve had this time is the best we’ve ever had, their athletic skills are really strong, they’ve just progressed so quickly,” said Kelly. “They get confident, they start to know a game that they’ve never seen, never played, and I think it creates a nice connection between them and the other girls (on the team) as well.
“I think it carries over into their day-to-day lives. I think for them it’s a really nice beginning, to start the first week of school to get something going that they can be part of that they’re involved in.”
The coach is particularly proud of the other players on her team who are quick to step up and help the beginners.
“They are all very patient, which is good because they have to teach the new kids everything from how to hold the stick, where to stand and how to move the ball,” said Kelly, who has been coaching for over 40 years. “I think for them (experienced players) it’s a good learning experience too.”
She believes field hockey is a good sport to learn because there are 11 players on the field for each team, noting there’s room to “hide” somebody who is a little unsure what to do while learning.
“I think field hockey is a sport that they come to love to play and it helps them make friends in a new country and lots of great memories,” said Kelly.
Field hockey a hit with international students
Brenda Kelly coaches the Princess Margaret Mustangs girls field hockey club and almost every year she has the pleasure of working with international students on the team.
This year she tasked her three Japanese girls with providing their thoughts on the season, the sport and life in Canada.
Here is what she put together from the information they provided.
Haruka Kubo – Osaka
-Decided to play after being encouraged by other players
-has never seen or played the sport of field hockey before. It is not a very famous sport in Japan
-really enjoys playing the game with the other players. She was worried about her skill level since she has never played before, but finds the coaches and players have taught and helped with lots of support
-is really enjoying her time in the school system in Canada because she enjoys the freedom
-she will encourage her friends who come to attend school in Canada to play the sport of field hockey
Chihiro Kondo – Nagoya
-Has never played any sports so decided to try one out while going to school in Canada. Thought that field hockey was a “Canadian” sport so joined the team
-has never played field hockey before and actually never even seen the game played
-is really enjoying her time here in Canada especially the beautiful nature
-running on the grass makes her feel great
-she enjoys the Canadian school system because she can take elective subjects. In Japan, only phys-ed is an electiveso she is enjoying having a variety of classes
-Will definitely tell others at home to come out and join the sport
Yuki Tange – Hiroshima
-Decided to play field hockey because she wanted to try out sports while going to school here in Canada
-She has never played the sport or watched it before coming to Canada
-she is living her time in Canada and really enjoying the school system
-she likes having variety in classes
-she will spread the word about how much fun it is to play
-she also enjoys playing basketball.