How ringette is attracting more players, particularly male athletes

In Alberta, like most other provinces, ringette is a female-dominated sport. However, just across the border in British Columbia, larger numbers of males are also playing the sport because of a mix of league policies and social connections. But officials in that province say there are many more reasons why men should take the sport up.

Sam Jacks created the sport in 1963 in Ontario when his only niece had no on ice sport to participate in.

According to Ringette Canada, roughly 30,000 players registered to play ringette in the 2012-2013 season and less than three per cent were male.

Natasha Johnston, executive director of Ringette Canada, says the high concentration of females provides these athletes with a safe environment, as well as opportunities for leadership and gaining more confidence.

But, in British Columbia, where there are a total of 1,800 players, almost 9.79 per cent of them are male.

The province is concentrating on developing the sport and getting some extra players.

Colin Ensworth is the current sport operations manager for B.C. Ringette and has been involved with the sport for 14 years.

Young girls using their strength as they battle for the ring during a ringette game.

Photo courtesy of Google Images Licensed to Creative Commons “The boys in B.C. initially came to ringette because we were offering a bit of a subsidy. If players would come with their goalie equipment we would wave their registration fee,” he says. “Players who were goaltending hockey saw this as an opportunity to get more ice time and practice their skills.”

As a result, they found they liked the game, stuck with it and, as they grew up, they would convince other male friends to join.

However, waived fees and extra ice time aren’t the only benefit men can get from playing ringette.

According to Ensworth, boys switch from hockey to ringette because the latter sport is fast and team-based but we “really tone down the physicality of the game,” adding that “fans and anyone passing through an arena can’t help but appreciate the skating skill ringette has.”

“The players who don’t engaged in the physicality and make no contact, they are setting up plays, taking shots and they are skating like ballerinas on the ice. Other people go, ‘Holy smokes, that’s what they want to see more of.’ And there’s an excitement when the boys say, ‘Wow, what if hockey were like that?’”

Moreover, “the attitude of hockey is all about getting better and going forward and you must do that to get to the NHL. Ringette isn’t like that,” Ensworth notes. “There isn’t as much pressure to excel all the time … People are out there because they genuinely love the game — for the game.”

“And there’s an excitement when the boys say, ‘Wow, what if hockey were like that?’”

– Colin Ensworth, B.C. RingetteIn addition, according to Rob Tait, who chairs the board of directors for B.C. Ringette, young women who used to play the sport are “coming back and they have boyfriends and husbands that want to play them.”

But the increasing number of male players has positives and negatives for the female-dominated sport.

Tait says younger girls feel boys are too aggressive and that they are at a disadvantage. Meanwhile, the older girls will initiate contact because they don’t like the boys playing.

He says the league is working with coaches and parents to improve these issues, adding, “As long as they play in a manner with the rules are considered, boys have a place to play.”

mwalsh@cjournal.ca

Thumbanil photo courtesy of Google Images licensed to Creative Commons