15-year-old exchange students Becky Stone, and Emiliano Saldaña Leos have joined the Finch Youth Broomball League at the Bantam/Midget level. They have been improving their skills and confidence on the ice as they tackle this new sport. O’Donohue photo
FINCH –In the international community, Canada is often associated with our national winter sport, hockey. Living in SD&G where broomball is a popular winter sport, it can be difficult to imagine that there are those who have never heard of the sport, let alone know the rules. Two 15-year-old international exchange students who arrived in Canada last September joined the Finch Youth Broomball League this year. They would certainly tell you that they have no prior experience with the sport, though they are enjoying learning the ropes as they go.
Emiliano Saldaña Leos, from Mexico, and Becky Stone, from Australia, sat down with The Record to talk about their first impressions of the sport, what the biggest hurdles to learning the sport have been and what they enjoy most about playing in the Finch League.
Emiliano and Becky both confirmed they had never heard of the sport before arriving in SD&G. Emiliano advised that his host family explained the rules to him, and asked if he would be interested in playing. Becky noted that after having the rules explained to her, she initially could not get past the idea that you would have to run on ice, saying you “definitely [need to] see it to understand it.” Both teens play in the Finch League, Becky with the Finch Cobras, and Emiliano with the Finch Ice Sharks, both at the Bantam/Midget level.
Both students chose the ice as the most challenging part of picking up the sport. Emiliano had never been on the ice before coming to Canada, and Becky said she could, “count the number of times I’ve been on the ice on one hand,” adding that even those times, skates were involved.
When asked what parts of the game came more easily, both chose the option of kicking the ball. Emiliano explained, “They told me that I could kick the ball… so when I have the opportunity, I kick the ball, because it is easier to me, because I have been practising soccer since I was seven.” Becky’s experience was similar noting, “soccer skills transferred definitely, I kick the ball a lot.”
The fun of a team sport and camaraderie of the league stuck out with both students as one of the main highlights of playing broomball. Becky noted, “How we play broomball here, you play against the same teams a lot so it’s a really friendly atmosphere. You get to know the players you’re playing against, and you get to play against your friends.” Emiliano echoed the same sentiment, stating his favourite parts were “being with new people, to play with them, trying new things, new sports.”
Both players have had the difficult experience of trying to recount the rules of broomball to friends and family back home. Becky said, “I can imagine when I explain it to them over the phone, they’re giving me a blank look, it’s a really weird concept.” Emiliano noted that being able to send pictures and videos has helped a bit with explaining the sport.
Both players have improved their skills during their time in the league, and Becky views this improvement as a rewarding part of participating. “It’s a really fun sport, the more you play it, the more you enjoy it, the more you get into it… a lot of the other players were much more experienced, so it was kind of fun to try and catch up.”
These students were provided the opportunity to play a new sport, make new friends, and get more comfortable on the ice. When their time in SD&G ends, they will also be able to bring stories back home, and spread the word that Canada has more to offer for winter sports than hockey.