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Training Basket: Sami Jo Small

Training Basket: Sami Jo Small

The night before the Olympic game, in the race to the gold medal, Sami Jo Small was told that she would not be on the ice. At first, she was devastated and angry, but eventually, she chose to rise above those  feelings and embraced her new role with enthusiasm―she became a force of positivity in the dressing room, on the bench, and on the ice, and in doing so ultimately helped the team become champions. A graceful storyteller, Sami shows audiences that a “team” needs all of its members―regardless of their role―if they are to succeed. The Winnipeg Free Press recently put Sami in their “Training Basket” spotlight, interviewing Sami about her career, her hockey school, and how she stays fit these days:

A star in every sport she played growing up in Winnipeg, Small is now one of just 12 women and just the third goaltender to win the triple crown of Canadian women’s hockey. She has won the sport’s three greatest prizes — IIHF World Women’s Hockey gold, Olympic gold and the Canadian Women’s Hockey League championship with the Toronto Furies, winning the 2014 Clarkson Cup in March.

Small makes her home in Mississauga with her husband, Paralympian Billy Bridges of Canada’s national sledge hockey team, but comes home to Winnipeg every summer to run the Sami Jo Small Female Hockey School. The camp has been around for 16 years, and she also runs schools in Kenora and Oakville, Ont.

“Hockey has given me so much, and this camp is my way of giving back to the game that has provided me with so many opportunities,” said Small, who earned a mechanical-engineering degree from Stanford University. “I think it is so important for girls to have the opportunity to be around female role models, whether they are Olympians or just really great female athletes. It is really my instructors that help me that make the camp such an amazing experience for young girls. Not only do they get to learn about the game of hockey, but the players are inspired to dream big, all while having a fun summer-camp experience.”

Small is a co-founder of the CWHL, the first professional hockey league for women that has NHL affiliations. She works full-time as a professional speaker, preaching the value of teamwork in all walks of life.

1. Favourite workout?

I love playing games. Anything that involves competition. In the summer, I love playing ball hockey as a forward and women’s rec as a forward to make a change from goaltending. At the gym, I much prefer heavy-lifting days to any other. Whenever cardio is involved, I grit my teeth and bear it, but if it’s short reps of lifting or abs, then I like it. But nothing compares to actually playing a game. That’s still my favourite.

2. Favourite workout song?

I don’t actually listen to anything when I work out. At the gym I train at they have some workout tunes on, and I certainly like the background music. My favourite bands are Great Big Sea and Barenaked Ladies. Whenever their songs come on, it always brings a smile to my face.

3. Fitness tip?

Workouts should be fun. Try to find something you like. I have a philosophy that I learned while I was in high school. I did well in sports but was an awful distance runner. It was hard for me, but I had a friend of mine tell me that I just needed to be better today than I was yesterday. Making small goals and attaining them develops confidence and helped me be able to push myself past limits that I had self-imposed. That philosophy helped me make the Olympic hockey team and serves me well as the oldest player playing in the CWHL.

4. What’s in your fridge?

I’m embarrassed to say, but I actually have pre-made meals from a local service. I started when my husband was training for the Sochi Paralympics, and I’ve just kept going. They make me three meals a day and provide snacks. Each meal has a starch, a protein and a vegetable. It’s been so helpful for me because I’m so busy and on the road so much, it’s easy to throw an entire day’s worth of meals in a cooler and take it on the road. It’s more expensive than buying groceries, but it’s more balanced and healthier than anything I’d have the time to make. I’m normally quite a frugal person, but I figure if I’m going to splurge, it should be on my health.

5. What’s your guilty pleasure?

Ummm, besides Coronation Street, which I watch every morning (on PVR) while I’m eating breakfast? I’d say my guilty pleasures for food are chocolate cake, perogies and BDI peanut butter milkshakes.

By Ashley Prest/Winnipeg Free Press/Summer, 2014