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A Humble Beginning - Lethbridge Herald Article

A group of university-aged ringette players toil away one-and-a-half times a week for the U of L Pronghorns.  Obscurity would be an upgrade from their current stature, as the University of Lethbridge's ringette team — they compete in a university league, but are not a varsity team.  It's a humble beginning, to be sure.

This is a few years in already and the team has gone from asking players to attend tryouts to cutting players. They've raised a scholarship and they volunteer for the school's Operation Red Nose campaign, which supports Pronghorn varsity athletes.  This week, the team met with university athletics officials who have expressed public support of the squad. That athletic director Ken McInnes attended a game recently was a big win. That they had a meeting scheduled was another.  Are these the humble beginnings of something bigger?

It is a team held together by passion, determination and a little bit of defiance. There's a chip on the shoulder of these women. There's also a love of their sport. A Canadian invention, ringette isn't "hockey with a ring" — it's more like basketball on ice. With sticks. And a ring.  Members of the Pronghorns have adopted and sponsor a Lethbridge Ringette Association team and other players help out with coaching. They're planning a skills camp and they've partnered with the Lethbridge

Members of the Pronghorns have adopted and sponsor a Lethbridge Ringette Association team and other players help out with coaching. They're planning a skills camp and they've partnered with the Lethbridge Sport Council to increase their profile.Players drive themselves to games in Calgary, Edmonton — wherever they can. Trevor Hall drives in once a week from Calgary to help coach. His daughter plays on the team, and he loves the sport.

Players drive themselves to games in Calgary, Edmonton — wherever they can. Trevor Hall drives in once a week from Calgary to help coach. His daughter plays on the team, and he loves the sport.Coach Meryl McKinnon has been here since the start, pouring time, money, heart and soul into the

Coach Meryl McKinnon has been here since the start, pouring time, money, heart and soul into the endeavour. They're fighting for funding, awareness and a shot at becoming a varsity sport.  But while they dream about being a fully funded Pronghorn team, their expectations are realistic.Are these the humble beginnings?  Are these the humble beginnings?

The Pronghorn women's rugby team has won three national championships and beginning this season added a full-time head coach.  McKinnon, a rugby player herself, knows the history of the U of L's rugby team. She knows it started with a group of passionate coaches and players. Those coaches drove the bus, bought the gear and even rented the bus. Those were some humble beginnings, for a three-time, Alberta Sports Hall of Fame team.

Those were some humble beginnings, for a three-time, Alberta Sports Hall of Fame team.

The ringette squad hopes to clear the birth canal one day. Until then, they're still incubating.

"Our girls pay to play," said McKinnon during the team's weekly practice at Nicholas Sheran Arena. They also get an ice time every other week. "And yet we still have girls who are here so that they can play ringette."

The team competes in the University Challenge Cup against teams from across Canadian Inter-University Sport. While none of them are varsity teams, many of the other programs are more-tenured and receive financial support from the school. McKinnon doesn't begrudge them that support."Some of these programs have been around for ages, like the U of A," she said. "They get support from the community, they're in cities with bigger ringette associations or they have more support from the university.

"Some of these programs have been around for ages, like the U of A," she said. "They get support from the community, they're in cities with bigger ringette associations or they have more support from the university."We're still pretty new, even though we're very competitive, we're one of the newer teams."

"We're still pretty new, even though we're very competitive, we're one of the newer teams."These Horns have come a long way in a few years. At first, it was a team which offered a spot for women to play competitive ringette. The city had a recreational women's team in the LRA, but for stronger players, there were no options. Now, the women cut by the U of L team can play on a B team while the U of L women

These Horns have come a long way in a few years. At first, it was a team which offered a spot for women to play competitive ringette. The city had a recreational women's team in the LRA, but for stronger players, there were no options. Now, the women cut by the U of L team can play on a B team while the U of L women act a de facto A team. The C team, for less competitive players, is still active.For the LRA, which McKinnon said has been very supportive, it gives girls playing minor ringette a place to play.

For the LRA, which McKinnon said has been very supportive, it gives girls playing minor ringette a place to play."There weren't a lot of options for girls who came out and still wanted to play after they turned 18," she said. "Especially for the better players. We started out just as a way to get girls playing but this year, we've got a really strong team and we had to cut some girls.

"There weren't a lot of options for girls who came out and still wanted to play after they turned 18," she said. "Especially for the better players. We started out just as a way to get girls playing but this year, we've got a really strong team and we had to cut some girls."It's grown every year."

"It's grown every year." That's the message McKinnon wants to give the university.  As a U of L graduate herself, McKinnon said she's looking for a teaching job locally while also running the team. As long as she can stay in Lethbridge, she'll keep pushing. Giving up isn't an option.  "I don't know what's going to happen, but I think we contribute a lot to the community and the school," she said.

Support comes not just from the players, their parents and the LRA, but proponents like U of L Rec Services program manager Bill Halma. Rugby star Nicole Ronsky also made sure to drop the ringette team into a recent Herald interview.  It all helps.

"We're trying to prove something, not just by winning games," she said. "I mean, these girls go to school, they work. It's not easy but they're great about it. They volunteer their time and I'd love to see if Ken can help us out in any way."

McKinnon said her players respect the Pronghorn logo they wear on their gear. Her expectations? She said she'd love to see the roster on the gohorns.ca website.  That would help with recruitment and sponsorship support. It would give the players a sense of belonging to that Pronghorn community.
It would be a humble beginning.

A humble beginning

Date: November 3, 2015
Time: 11:00 am

We would like to invite you the opening of several new exhibits at the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. On November 3, 2015 at 11:00 am we will be launching:

  • Our new featured exhibit, “Defining Moments: The Injuries That Do Not Define Us” Featuring Honoured Members Kessie Stefanyk, Kyle Shewfelt, Duane Daines(in attendance) and Jeremy Wotherspoon, as well as athletes Deidra Dionne, Greg Baxter and Travis Brigley.
  • A new art gallery “Moments that Make Us” featuring photographs by Dave Holland Showcasing National Team athletes training at the Canadian Sports Institute in Calgary
  • The unveiling of the 2019 Canada Winter Games Chuckwagon.

We would be honoured if you could join us in celebrating the opening of these new exhibits showcasing sports in Alberta.

ExhibitLaunch

Amazing announcements today regarding federal funding for local infrastructure improvement projects. Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program is awarding nearly $340,000 to improvements to Westerner Park, the Innisfail Legion, the Delburne Community Hall, and the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.

The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum will be using it's portion of the grant to expand it's Collections space in order to safely house the 12,000+ artefacts in it's Collection. Project date is expected to take place in 2017, so keep your eyes peeled for upcoming announcements regarding this project!

c150grantweb