Leading up to International Women’s Day on March 8th, we would like to recognize a very important member of our coaching staff, Cassea Schols. Cassea has been a member of the OHA family since May of 2020. As both an athlete and coach, Cassea brings many valuable qualities to our coaching team; particularly her positive guidance, leading the way for women in sport.
As Head Coach of our Female U18 Prep team, Cassea strives to make a difference for girls and women in sport each and every day. This stems from her experiences growing up as a female athlete, which have always been extremely positive.
Cassea recognized the value of sport from a young age, and is incredibly thankful for all that hockey has given her over the years. There have been many defining moments within her life through the sport of hockey, which have taken her places she never would have imagined. In particular, attending Mercyhurst University in Pennsylvania on a Division 1 NCAA scholarship—a dream she had since she was a little girl.
Cassea played four seasons with the women’s hockey team at Mercyhurst while completing a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice, majoring in juvenile justice. As a student athlete balancing academics and athletics, Cassea can relate to our student athletes within our academy very well. Her experiences have inspired her to give back to the sport that she is so thankful for; “I want to give back to those who are now in my old shoes. All of my experiences are ones that I have been so fortunate to be a part of” Cassea states.
From athlete to coach in just a few short months after graduating, Cassea becomes emotional when reminiscing on the past. “I got into coaching because of the person I became in school. Summer of my senior year, I stepped off the ice as a player and stepped back onto the ice as a coach. This was an incredible feeling to be able to be a part of so many young athletes’ lives, and make a positive impact within their journey” says Cassea. “I knew that I needed to do for others, what many great mentors did for me.”
Coaching high school aged students today, brings back many great memories for Cassea—memories that spark inspiration within her coaching strategies. “I want to create opportunity for my athletes,” says Cassea. “How I approach every day is seeking new opportunities, and I encourage my athletes to do the same.”
Cassea has had the opportunity to be a part of the sport of hockey for as long as she can remember. Hockey has paved a path for her life, and has motivated her to be a part of changing the game. Even in 2021, women are not given the same opportunities as men within hockey, and Cassea is motivated to help level the playing field. “Female hockey was not overly prevalent, and there were not nearly as many opportunities for young girls then as there are now.” Cassea explains. We have come a long way, but we still have an even further way to go.
One year, Cassea didn’t make a team because she ‘was a girl’, giving her no choice but to play female hockey. “This is when I realized I was different, as it segregated myself for the first time in my life” Cassea states. Looking back now as an adult, she realizes how unfair this was, “though, I decided to turn this into a positive, as it gave me a different perspective to overcome adversity” says Cassea. “No opportunities were missed as I soon represented my province at the Alberta Winter Games and was chosen as captain for many national tournaments over the years. This is a huge honor” says Cassea, “I would have never been given these opportunities if I continued playing men’s hockey, and am thankful for the doors that opened once I switched over to female hockey.”
Cassea recognizes the importance of being relevant in the sport, and empowers young female athletes to too recognize the impact they can make. “We cannot expect someone else to do it” states Cassea. She has a whole new perspective now as an adult, on creating equal opportunities for female coaches & athletes. She believes that this is the only way for the sport to continue to grow.
As a female coach, Cassea has been extremely successful; attending the Alberta Winter Games, U18 Nationals, and the Canada Games—a key coaching staff member for Team Alberta helping them reach gold on Canadian soil in 2019. Her success within coaching has guided her to Penticton, BC, where she has done an outstanding job coaching our U18 Female Prep Coach here at OHA.
By fully immersing herself into academy culture, it is clear that her values align with our philosophy of ‘building good citizens. “I know that I can help the next generation of females feel confident and empowered. I strive to lead by example, and remind my athletes that they are in control of how they achieve their goals.”
Cassea’s is excited to follow her athlete’s continued success as they more on, and take the next step in their careers. “I enjoy seeing the girls grow through our program, and I take pride in helping them accomplish their goals. For a lot of female hockey players, the next step is university, and it is extremely exciting to witness their success. Seeing them grow into young adults; taking those next steps and deciding which journey they choose to embark on is a huge win for me.”
Encouraging young female athletes to give back to the game whenever they are given the chance, is something Cassea is passionate about. “It is so important to keep females in hockey and in sport. Continue to grow the game and be greatest ambassador that you can be. Value those who are before you, and continue to break down barriers in all areas of sport. Appreciate those who have done it before you and paved the way. I didn’t realize how important female pioneers in sport were until I got older. They were breaking down barriers, and ensured that I had the opportunity to play the sport that I love. It is now my duty to ensure that this opportunity remains for those behind me” says Cassea.
Cassea is a role model for all young athletes, and we are so thankful to have her as part of our family here at Okanagan Hockey Group. Her witty personality and sense of humour brings great joy to our facilities. She is bold, she is empowering and she is truly leading the way for girls and women in sport.
Written by: Michayla Fraser (BSM)
I found Okanagan Hockey Academy to be one of the best experiences in my life. It prepared me to be the best junior hockey player I could be. The staff at OHA were committed to helping me improve and move on to the next level."