Equipped with world-class facilities and offering an internationally recognized Canadian education curriculum, the Canadian International School of Beijing undoubtedly attaches great importance to their hockey program. We interviewed four of their top players—Rachel, Charlie, Song Tianyi, and Song Tianxin, who are uber passionate about their life on the ice.
“I fell in love with hockey the first time I watched a hockey game,” Rachel told us with excitement, and explained to us some of the rules of the game.
Hockey demands lots of strength and energy, and is physically challenging for athletes especially girls involved in a coed team.
“During the mixed games, there is an inevitable amount of physical contact no matter if you’re a girl or a boy. It can get even more competitive because no boy wants to lose to a girl,” said Rachel’s mother.
“Rachel even got punched in her face competing with an American team last year, when she tried to score and the opposing team’s goalkeeper tried to stop the puck. Rachel used her full force to confront the goalkeeper and scored anyway,” she said.
Rachel’s parents were not that supportive of Rachel’s decision to play hockey until she showed her persistent enthusiasm.
“I convinced my parents by playing hard. I never complained despite how tough the training was, and tried to make progress with each practice.”
Nine-year-old Charlie is the team leader for the grade 1-3 team. Starting hockey when he was just six years old, Charlie usually plays center. Charlie told us his favorite part of doing hockey is the speed.
“I feel like I’m Optimus Prime when I wear my hockey gear. I enjoy it even though the training can sometimes be really tiring,” said Charlie.
“Charlie is not very tall, that’s one of the reasons we chose hockey for him rather than basketball,” Charlie’s dad told us. “He is agile and has good sense of logic, which puts him into a more advantageous position for playing the sport.”
“I think having a positive attitude is more important than winning the game,” Charlie’s mom said.
“Yeah, we agree on that. We think as parents we need to give Charlie our full support and understanding. His devotion and passion ultimately will help him stand out,” Charlie’s father added.
13-year-old Song Tianyi and 12-year-old Song Tianxin are a brother and sister, who have been playing hockey for five and half years, and one and half years respectively. Tianyi plays full back, while Tianxin is the goalkeeper.
“I have faith in them. I believe they will play better and better if they set up goals for themselves and keep powering forward,” said the pair’s mom.
Tianyi and Tianxin dream of entering the National Hockey League (NHL) and Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), and playing for the national team in Beijing’s 2022 Winter Olympics.
“Rachel has become more strong-minded thanks to playing hockey.” said her mom. She wants to prove to her coach that she can play as well as the boys on the team.
“I’m happy to notice Charlie’s changes as well. He became more outgoing and strong-willed. Playing hockey not only improved his physical fitness, but gave him more self-confidence, and gave him the belief that you reap what you sow,” Charlie’s dad told us and turned to his son saying “I’m very proud of you. Nothing else but your own devotion and hard work can take the credit for what you’ve achieved.”
“Being a team leader has cultivated the spirit of teamwork into Rachel,” said Rachel’s mom. “She comforts her team members whenever they fail to score instead of complaining.”
“For me, I care more about the unity of the team than wining the competition,” said Rachel, “All of the team members are my good friends. I’m so happy to play with them.”
We could tell that they were consumed with passion for this sport that only recently has entered the national spotlight with Beijing getting its own KHL team and preseason NHL games occurring in multiple cities across China. Rachel’s face lit up with pleasure and pride when talking about the most unforgettable game they played.
“For the first half of the game, our opponents were three goals ahead when I was transferred into the center position. From there I scored four goals and opposing team scored one. The score was 5:5, so the last several minutes were super intense. We landed an extra goal in the last two minutes before the game ended, and succeeded in holding the lead despite the opposing team becoming desperately aggressive.”
“I think the opposing team was too eager to win. Being too competitive sometimes doesn’t help in this game,” Rachel said, and we could see why she was one of the team leaders with this very positive outlook.
The most impressive game Tianyi played was the U12 Tournament in Beijing last year. His team didn’t lose a single match.
“The moment of scoring is very exciting. Of course we lost sometimes, but that didn’t frustrate us into performing poorly during the next game,” Tianyi said.
“As a parent, I totally understand other parents’ concerns,” said Tianyi’s mother, “I always tell Tianyi to play fair and square, respect other players, and don’t regard winning as the only purpose.”
“The pleasure of winning of course comes with the frustrations of losing. I think for the children, learning how to face failure and overcome it is more important than enjoying the pleasure of victory,” said Rachel’s mom.
“They lost in a game in Hong Kong. They played really hard and were so upset when the opponents were celebrating. Rachel controlled herself until I told her that it was ok to cry.”
Hearing what her mom said, Rachel kissed her head and became quiet in thought.
“One of the team members asked to be taken out during a game due to feeling unwell, but Charlie’s team didn’t quit and played harder. I was so moved by their spirit and attitude,” Charlie’s Dad recollected. “Learning to balance winning and losing is a major process of growing-up.”
Even though practicing hockey is very demanding, these children also perform well in their studies, as well as other hobbies. In addition to hockey, Tianyi also plays baseball and piano, and helps his mom do housework.
“He is very independent, and even helps me cook and take care of his younger sister,” his mom added.
Tianxin, his younger sister, has been learning dancing and piano, which may seem quite the opposite of this very physical contact sport. Charlie is excellent at swimming and is also an ABRSM level-5 piano player. Rachel likes all kinds of sports, and is learning the Chinese flute and French.
“I found out that good hockey players also do great in other areas. I think it is the spirit of not giving up they gained from playing hockey and this works additionally in other areas of interest,” said Rachel’s mom.
At the end of the interview, Rachel read one of her favorite lines of poetry from The Biography of Yue Fei: “Don’t waste your youth and regret fruitlessly when moving forward into old age.”
We could tell when talking to these active kids that regret, especially regarding hockey, was the furthest thing from their minds, as they were gaining all of the necessary tools to live their lives in the moment. This is an invaluable attribute that follow them on and off the ice for many years to come.
This article appeared on p48-51 beijingkids’ November 2017 issue.
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