After three days of gruelling fitness testing and hours of playing ringette, Sam and Paige Nosal and Josslyn Denstedt were all exhausted. They’d all survived one round of cuts, but there was one more round to go before Team Ontario was finalized. Their legs were burning, and Sam thought she might be sick. But they had to push on and keep fighting, knowing the coaches who would make the final selection were watching.
Finally they got the letters that told them whether or not they’d made it. The news was good: all three will be on Team Ontario for the Canada Winter Games next year.
“To actually make the team was just an unbelievable feeling,” Sam said.
They’ve been training six days a week since early March, but this whole season has been about preparing for the winter games. To be eligible to try out for Team Ontario, girls have to play AAA ringette. Every two years, for the Ontario Winter Games, each of the province’s six regions puts together an all-star team. This year the Northwestern division was unable to ice a team, so the Ontario Ringette Association decided to fill the gap with a composite team made up of players cut from their home region’s AAA squad.
Scott and Terry Nosal coached the team, and Sam, Paige and Josslyn all played for it. Dubbed “Northwest United,” the team won silver at all three tournaments during the season, and again at the Ontario Winter Games. At each of the tournaments, coaches for Team Ontario were on hand to scout the players and decide which ones to invite to tryouts.
The girls had already started training before they got their invitations, but getting the letter added some urgency to their workouts. The neighbours have gotten used to seeing the girls set up pylons in the street in front of their house and run sprints back and forth. Interval training is important for ringette, which requires short bursts of action. They also work on agility, speed, upper and lower body strength, core strength, and plyometrics, which help build explosive power.
The tryouts last weekend started with fitness testing conducted by Brock University, which offered to train the team for a year for free. Speed, agility and strength tests were followed by drills and speed testing on the ice.
On the second day, Sunday, they were sorted into teams – each of the three girls was on a different team – and played against each other. Monday started with one more game before the initial group of about 50 was cut down to 24. In the afternoon they hit the rink again, playing 10-minute periods for two hours, without even stopping to clean the ice.
“That’s where they had to play their hardest because it was the best against the best,” Terry said.
Having trained for two months, the girls thought they were well-prepared, but by that point they were exhausted. All they could do was remind themselves why they were there and how much they wanted it, and push on.
“This is it; you only get one chance,” Sam told herself.
The Canada Winter Games are held every four years, and by the time the next games come around, they’ll be too old to try out.
Josslyn said the worst part of the weekend was the nerves; she was nervous for herself, but she was also nervous for Paige and Sam. When they got their letters for the final round of cuts, the girls went off to open them together.
Drained by the tryouts, the girls took one day off, but by Wednesday they were back on their training schedule. In two weeks, they head to Carleton University in Ottawa for a small tournament with several other provincial teams.
When the ringette season starts, they’ll be playing AA with St. Clements as well as taking part in monthly training camps and challenge cups in other provinces. And next February they’ll put all that training to work when they arrive in Halifax for the Winter Games.