Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Leader Of The Next Generation

She may not look it in this picture with her beaming smile and her flowing locks coming out from under her helmet, but Alyssa White is a leader for the next generation of women's sledge hockey players and girls across this great nation. Alyssa is 14 years-old, and the Winnipegger broke through a pile of barriers - notably age and ability barriers - in a big way when she was named to the Canadian Women's National Para Ice Hockey Team! She is the youngest player on the team by three years, and #27 should be one to keep an eye on when the national takes to the ice this winter!

What makes Alyssa's story so cool is that she hasn't let anything get in her way when it comes to chasing her dreams. She was born with spina bifida – her spine and spinal cord didn't develop in the womb as they should. This can affect a person in a number of ways, most notably in their mobility. Specifically, Alyssa was diagnosed with lipomyelomeningocele, a form of spina bifida that sees a fatty mass attach itself to the spinal cord. MRI scans detected the mass on her spine, leading to the diagnosis, but that's really where the unfortunate part of this story ends because everything about Alyssa's life has been her ability to manage and overcome obstacles and barriers to become one of Manitoba's most dynamic young women.

According to this Global News story, "Alyssa has had at least a dozen surgeries on her legs and feet to help her mobility. Today, she needs no specialized equipment to live her life as a healthy teen aside from a walker and leg braces." Not only is she overcoming the perceived setbacks presented by spina bifida, she's conquering life in ways that most adults have yet to do. Alyssa was chosen to be Children's Rehabilitation Foundation's youth ambassador in Manitoba this year, and she's hoping to help her sport - women's sledge hockey - included at future Paralympic Games!

As reported in the story, Alyssa's family had to delay a trip to Disneyworld because of the young lady's desire to make the national team. Alyssa made good on her end of the deal, though, officially making the team with the release of the team roster today for the 2019-20 season!

(click to enlarge)

There's nothing I like more than good stories about people inspiring others, and Alyssa White should be an inspiration to all! At 14, I never had any concept of playing for a national team, but, like another hockey phenom in this country, White could be the Hayley Wickenheiser of women's sledge hockey. As you may recall, Wickenheiser started with the Canadian women's ice hockey team when she was just 15, so the parallels about their youth seem applicable. That being said, Hayley went on to have a long and prosperous career with Hockey Canada that saw her accumulate all sorts of awards and accolades, but it all happened because she was dedicated to her craft and put in the hard work needed to be the best. As it stands, Alyssa White is standing on that precipice, and I feel she's going to do some amazing things when all is said and done.

The one thing that may slow Alyssa's greatness on the ice? Her work off it. As per the Global News story, she told reported Allison Dunfield, "I really want to become a professional sledge hockey player and a veterinarian." Becoming a veterinarian is no small feat and requires countless hours in classrooms and labs to hone one's craft, but that too is an awesome goal for Alyssa to have. I have no doubt that she's going to reach whatever goals she sets her sights on, and she's the kind of person who will undoubtedly demand excellence from both herself and her teammates in any setting, especially on the ice with the Canadian national team.

Well done, Alyssa! You've already got a fan in me!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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