Ashton Bender wants to inspire young female players

"I want to be an inspiration to young female athletes and prove that you can indeed do anything that you put your mind to, even when it doesn’t seem possible."

October 30, 2023, 2:37 pm
Joey Light

<b>Playing college hockey:</b> Ashton Bender is excited for her first year of university hockey and is eager to push herself as far as she can go and forge a path for future female hockey players.

Moosomin’s Ashton Bender is playing her first year of college level hockey at Grant MacEwan University.

She says she wants to push herself to play at the highest level she can achieve, and wants to pave the path for future female hockey players.

“I did all that I did to get to where I am now because of my love for the sport,” she says. “I want to push myself to play at the highest level, with the best group of female athletes because I have such a passion for the game of hockey.

“I want to be an inspiration to young female athletes and prove that you can indeed do anything that you put your mind to, even when it doesn’t seem possible. I want to help push through boundaries for females in sport and help create a path for the younger generation.”

Leaving home
Bender moved from home at a young age to pursue her dream to play hockey.

“To leave home at a young age and live with a billet family is intimidating and scary,” she says. “It can be overwhelming to move away from your family and have to balance a new team with 19 strangers, while also trying to get comfortable living with a new family. There were fears like what if they are strict, or they don’t cook very well, or maybe we just won’t like each other and my time there is not a good experience.

“Once you get to know the family you are living with, it can be like a second family. I am now very close with my billet family, and I am super glad I got the chance to spend my time in Weyburn with them. I like that billeting pushed me outside my comfort zone and also allowed me to get a unique experience that a lot of people don’t ever get.

“In my second and third year I got the chance to live with the Watson family, they were extremely welcoming and made me feel like a member of their family.”

High expectations
Bender says her coaches’ expectations are set high to develop the best team and players they can.

“There are a lot of expectations put into place by my coaches and team. During the off-season we are expected to answer questions sent out by our coach and attend monthly meetings. We are also expected to be working through a summer workout program in the gym and conduct monthly fitness testing.

“During the season we are in the gym three times a week with a trainer, on ice for practice four days a week with games on Fridays and Saturdays.

“We also have weekly meetings with the team and a visual performance coach. Academically we must be enrolled as a full-time student with a minimum 2.0 GPA in order to play, however it is a team goal to obtain a 3.3 GPA if possible.

“Individually, as a rookie, my role is to be a defensive forward. I am switched from wing to center consistently and I am expected to help keep the bench upbeat and lively with my positive actions and attitude.”

Determination and perseverance
She says she worked hard to achieve her dreams.

“To get where I am now in my hockey career, it took a lot of determination and perseverance. My passion for hockey began when I started playing with the Atlas Hockey Academy Titans. My parents invested numerous hours into driving me to practices and games, which allowed me to play with and against some of the top female athletes. Growing up and even still now I spend many hours a week training by getting on the ice, shooting pucks and stick handling, and training in a gym five times a week. With Covid-19 and sports there is a backlog in recruitment for university sport. It can take a long time to see progress which can be super stressful and challenging, but perseverance and persistence has helped me to get to this level of hockey.”

High hopes
Bender says she has high hopes for her hockey career.

“At this point in my hockey career, I don’t have an end goal set in place. With the new female league beginning it would be an honor to play in that league, or if possible perhaps play professionally overseas. I still have four more seasons in USPORTS after this year so I am not rushing to figure out my next steps, I’m just enjoying the now.”

She has some advice for future hockey players.

“Some advice that I could pass on to future hockey players is to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. As an athlete you have to challenge yourself to have success. This can include trying a new skill that you aren’t good at and it can even involve moving away from your family. Pushing myself outside my comfort zone has helped me reach the success I have. Hockey is only a small portion of your life, when you’re done, you’re done. So, push yourself outside of your comfort zone so that when you look back at your hockey career you are glad that you did what you did, and not to look back with regrets and wishes that you should have done it.”