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Ready to Play

Ready to Play

A perforated, dimpled plastic ball, light and short hockey stick, and special shoes—the equipment a floorball player needs to buy. Stamina, stick skills, and the willingness to be a team player are the essential qualities a floorball player needs to have. They, however, can’t be bought!

Sonja Hotke [BA 2011] has the equipment, which she also sells. She has the qualities a floorball player needs, and she coaches a junior floorball team. She also manages the national women’s team, and this year they are going to the world championships for the third time. Right now, there’s not much space in Sonja’s life for anything that isn’t floorball related.

Floorball started in Sweden and Finland in the 1970s as a way to play hockey inside, with a standardized set of rules and affordable equipment suitable for indoors—thus the plastic ball and shorter sticks. “There’s no slashing, hacking, or lifting of sticks,” says Sonja. “The game was designed to be aerobically challenging.” Floorball started in universities and spread to schools, and there are over 50 countries, including Canada, in the International Floorball Federation (IFF). Floorball is recognized as an official sport, and now the IFF is working to have it included at the 2016 summer Olympics.

Sonja, as the oldest of six kids, grew up skating and playing hockey on the pond on her parents’ farm, but there was no money for organized sports. “Once I could pay to play and drive myself, I could play what I wanted,” she says. She played hockey all the way to the Senior A level, but playing at that level while going to school and paying rent was getting too expensive. Sonja was working at a summer sports camp when the man who became her current boss gave an introductory floorball workshop. He invited her to play and, after fifteen emails, she finally agreed. Sonja discovered that she “really liked it— it’s very similar to hockey skill-wise.” She just kept going back.

“When I play, I really feel close to God..."

Love keeps her there—love of just being active and love of the sport and the team. “I love being part of a team, especially the national team. It’s almost like a second family,” says Sonja. “And just having a good game, whether we win or lose, you get that good feeling – I’m doing something I love. It’s good to do that.” Yet it goes even deeper than that. “When I play, I really feel close to God, especially in the big games, just using your talents to bring glory to God. I really try before the games to pray and focus, to be like ‘no matter what happens on the court, your relationship with God is secure’.”

In one big game, Sonja learned a crucial lesson. She was a member of the 2007 Canadian national women’s team that went to Denmark for the world championships. “You go thinking you’ll be playing, and then you find out you’re not on the roster,” reveals Sonja. A teammate came to her and told her that she just needed to be ready so if she did get the chance to play she could do her best. “The game started, my team got a penalty, and I got an opportunity to play. I played the best I could. Through the rest of the tournament, I played the second or third line.”

Just be ready when you are called. That lesson, along with the lessons about the importance of teamwork, respect for your opponents, following the rules, and listening to her coaches, as well her psychology degree from Tyndale, have prepared and taught Sonja to be a better player and also become a coach herself.

Sonja plays defence with both her club and the national team. She likes the position because it gives her more control. Coaching, on the other hand, gives her less control. It’s hard to find the best way to convey to her junior team players what she wants them to do on the court. “A lot of coaching is off the court, at the hotel, before and after the games, building into the lives of the players, especially with the younger ones who are away from home for the first time,” says Sonja. “They appreciate it when you know who they are beyond being a player on the team.” The Canadian Under 19 team will be going to Poland for the world championships in May 2014.

Sonja earns a living by working for FloorballPro, North America’s main supplier of floorball equipment, and she gives floorball her heart—a heart not just conditioned by running, strength workouts, and a few hours of team practices a week but a heart conditioned by God’s love as she plays the game and cares for the players.

Here’s hoping that Sonja gets to play floorball in the 2016 Olympics—Godspeed!