Graphic by Jasmine Lewis

The team now gets its chance to compete for the provincial championship over a full season

Up until the 2016 season, the McMaster University women’s field hockey team competed in exhibition games and tournaments strictly as a club. In 2016, the team entered the Ontario University Athletics tournament still as a club, but not the league; they were allowed to play exhibition games, but could not be involved in the league standings with the other seven teams.

“It’s extremely hard to grow a program when you’re not getting enough of that game experience. All these other teams are playing their whole season but then we show up with maybe a couple of exhibition games of playtime. The rest is just practicing,” said Briana Wice, a fourth-year kinesiology student and current co-president of the team.

“It’s extremely hard to grow a program when you’re not getting enough of that game experience. All these other teams are playing their whole season but then we show up with maybe a couple of exhibition games of playtime. The rest is just practicing,” said Briana Wice, a fourth-year kinesiology student and current co-president of the team.

Now, the team is officially an OUA team, meaning they can participate in the entire league and its entirety of games. There is still limbo on when the season will resume. Regardless, training will commence with fitness programming during virtual Zoom sessions. As tryouts cannot be done right now, members will be recruited as part of the training program and then will have to try out once they are given the green light by the OUA and McMaster. Thus, members will have great conditioning prior to their first interaction on the field.

With regards to how the team functions, the team is a full-year team, playing in both the outdoor (September to October) and indoor (January to March) seasons. The team operates in a similar function to an MSU club, with two co-presidents who manage the administrative and financial responsibilities; they report to their club coordinator in part of the McMaster Athletics department.

Whereas U Sports has coaches who are hired on full-time contracts with a predetermined salary, OUA coaches are recruited as volunteers, sometimes being rewarded with compensation, as Wice explained to us.

“I think another thing is that other teams have conditioning and strengthening trainers that are not their coaches. So we have to plan all the fitness training by ourselves,” said Rebecca Jiang, a third-year health sciences student on the team.

Financially, the team is self-funded either through individual payments or through fundraisers.

“We try to fundraise as much as we can to offset [team costs], so paying to play isn’t a major stressor on our athletes,” said Wice. “The big financial burden is going to be all of the travel costs associated with games for a full outdoor season. So that’s travel for every week. Either taking a bus or reimbursement for gas and parking costs . . . As part of OUA sports, it’s required for us to stay in hotels. So when travelling to McGill [University in Montreal], as it’s in the OUA league, there are big hotel costs with that. Financially, we have done a lot of budgeting. We expect our expenses to double the next year; it’s really the travel and hotel costs that increase the cost of the season,” said Wice.

“The big financial burden is going to be all of the travel costs associated with games for a full outdoor season. So that’s travel for every week. Either taking a bus or reimbursement for gas and parking costs . . . As part of OUA sports, it’s required for us to stay in hotels. So when travelling to McGill [University in Montreal], as it’s in the OUA league, there are big hotel costs with that. Financially, we have done a lot of budgeting. We expect our expenses to double the next year; it’s really the travel and hotel costs that increase the cost of the season,” said Wice.

Despite these challenging logistics, the team has high aspirations for its first full OUA season.

“We’re hoping to place higher than previously in the OUA championship. Another goal is to increase the visibility of McMaster field hockey everywhere . . . A lot of McMaster students and athletes are not aware we have a field hockey team so we hope over the upcoming years, we hope a lot of people learn about us and have a couple of home games to raise awareness,” said Jessica Lim, a third-year software engineering student. The team plans to also conduct community outreach for high school students and give more recognition for the sport in its entirety.

“We’re hoping to place higher than previously in the OUA championship. Another goal is to increase the visibility of McMaster field hockey everywhere . . . A lot of McMaster students and athletes are not aware we have a field hockey team so we hope over the upcoming years, we hope a lot of people learn about us and have a couple of home games to raise awareness,” said Jessica Lim, a third-year software engineering student.

As they now prepare for their first season, while a medal would be wonderful in the short run, the overall movement of field hockey to become a global sport remains the ultimate goal. An official announcement from the team regarding their OUA status will be released in the coming weeks.

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