Jana Headrick grew up in a hockey-loving Ojibway family and started playing hockey when she was three years old.
As the years passed, she no longer saw herself in the sport and lost the sense of friendship and belonging that comes with a team of peers.
“Female hockey grew in my area and wasn’t necessarily overly supported, so the opportunity wasn’t always there,” she said. Information morning Fredericton.
Headrick, originally from Garden River First Nation near Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., kept looking for her team and she found it at the University of New BrunswickReds.
This fall, she’s using her team’s resources and her coach’s expertise to offer camps to Native girls in the Fredericton area to ensure they have the opportunity to discover their own passion.
“It’s super meaningful and super fun for me to be out there and interact with all the girls and see all the smiles on their faces,” she said.
The camp is now sold out, with four weeks to go.
The team also had an equipment ride to get sticks and skates for the girls participating. In the camp, they will learn the sport and how it can be a way to get into higher education and find a community, Headrick said.
Indigenous studies spark passion
Before coming to UNB in 2020, Headrick spent four years at the University of Toronto, pursuing Kinesiology and Indigenous Studies for her undergraduate degree.
She said learning about native issues made her see her experience growing up in Garden River in a new light.
“[Learning about] Indigenous issues, and especially Indigenous issues around sports, made me really want to try and do something about it,” she said.
She wasn’t sure how to handle that until she met her hockey coach at UNB, where she’s pursuing a master’s degree in sports and recreation.
“She really forced us… to go out into the community and learn about different backgrounds and basically, like, be honorable so you’ll be a better citizen when you leave here.”
Sarah Hilworth, head coach of the Reds, said in a press release that she hopes Headrick will inspire other Native girls to start their own hockey careers.
“We believe hockey is for everyone and this is one of the ways we want to take that walk,” says Hilworth.
Headrick said the team recognizes that there is an accessibility problem in the sporting world.
“Hockey is a very expensive sport without diversity,” said Headrick. “It is not an accessible sport for children from many different backgrounds and populations, including First Nations.”
Headrick said she hopes to see more people like her on the ice in the future.
“When they see me, they may realize they can use something they love as a vehicle for higher education,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a sport. It can be writing, art, whatever passion they have.”
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