We would like to introduce Venla Hovi, former Olympian and current Head Coach of our U17 Female Prep team here at Okanagan Hockey Academy (OHA) in Penticton, BC. Today is International Women’s Day, and we would like to recognize Venla’s achievements and success in sport, helping her become the women she is today. Since joining OHA in the summer of 2020, Venla has brought great joy to our facilities. Her coaching philosophy & techniques, along with her driven personality have been contagious to everyone around her. She is most definitely seen as an icon for women in sport, and her story is one that many people will find inspiring.
As a fierce and confident young girl playing hockey, Venla did not let anything stand in her way. She knew from the early age of four that she wanted to make it to the top, and she did exactly that. Her confidence has always played a huge role in her success, as she never segregated herself from others. “I didn’t separate myself from the guys even though I grew up playing boys hockey”, mentions Venla. “I was always competitive and ready to prove myself each and every day. The guys were my good friends and they never made me feel any different.”
It is clear that Venla’s positive experiences have helped her get to where she is today. She has never let anyone else determine her future, and has always stayed true to herself. “Stick to your path and make it your own. There are always people that will tell you what is okay and what isn’t”, states Venla. “You need to face those daily battles head on and overcome adversity. This allows you to learn and grow.”
Her love for the game only continued to flourish, when experiencing some of her ‘firsts’; challenging herself to get better and better. “When I first started playing hockey when I was four, we always played outside, however the finals were always played in an indoor rink. At the age of 6 years old, my team made it to the finals, it wasn’t a fancy rink my any means, just an underground rink, but it was something different. The final game ended in a shootout and I was last to go. I ended up scoring the game winning goal…a top shelf goal, raising the puck for the very first time.”
The passion in Venla’s voice when she tells this story is moving. Her curiosity from that moment on opened many new doors and exciting adventures. She has since played in eight World Championships, winning silver in 2019 and bronze in 2017, 2009 and 2008.
Her Olympic dream came true, not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES! Representing Finland at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, 2014 in Sochi & 2018 in PyeongChang. In both 2010 and 2018, her team brought home a bronze medal.
Venla spent one season in the NCAA with Niagara University prior to playing seven years in Finland. She returned to the collegiate ranks in 2015, attending and playing for the University of Manitoba, where she won a national championship in 2018, before spending one season with the Calgary Inferno, where she helped her team win the Canadian Women’s Hockey League championship.
As an athlete, Venla has always been an incredibly hard worker. “I was very determined, and committed to what I wanted to achieve within hockey, and where I wanted to go. It is all about hard work.” Venla states. Though, along with hard work must come rest, which is crucial to the development process. “Having a break sparks creativity”, says Venla. “Toward the end of my career I realized how much development was happening because I allowed my body to have a break. It opened up a whole knew me as I was capable to do so much more with my body when my mind was rested.”
Listening to your body is so important, and we cannot stress this enough within our academy. Coaches like Venla ensure that her athletes are giving themselves a break to prevent injuries from occurring and re-sparking creativity within their own lives. “It is all about new ideas, whether it’s within hockey or life. For your brain to function properly, you need to rest. Make sure that you are entering each day with a fresh mind”, says Venla.
While training for the Olympics, Venla worked a full time job, while also attending school full time. She has always viewed academics and athletics equally, and believes that this is what makes an athlete standout. “Show up every day ready to perform and compete. Be willing to challenge yourself, and have the determination to get better and be better than you were yesterday”, comments Venla. Her mindset as an athlete is now reflected on her coaching, and she expects her athletes to recognize the importance of having balance with their lives.
Coaching is something that Venla has always shown an interest in, as she has always been passionate about helping younger players throughout their journey. For her, this has never only meant within hockey, but in all areas of their life as well. “Kids are going through so much in their lives. I have always shown an interest in helping them develop and learn. I think being part of that journey is a very special part of my job. Every day is so different and although each day brings new challenges, there is always new excitement”, mentions Venla.
Venla’s coaching style is extremely unique—one that she has developed through her own personal experiences. ‘Feeding curiosity’ is a huge part in Venla’s coaching habits. She says, “If I spark curiosity in a player, they will think about all of the places that hockey can take them and question what doors will open up”. “When kids are willing to learn, they are willing to work hard, and this comes from within.”
Her coaching philosophy is all about ‘giving opportunities’. She states, “By giving players an opportunity to be something that they haven’t been yet, or they don’t even know yet is something I truly live by when I coach. Kids often have the opportunity to be so much more than they even know, and I want to help them recognize this.”
Another big piece within her coaching style is ‘never be afraid of failure’. “I always encourage my athletes to try something new, because I believe learning comes from failure. Sometimes this creativity leads to frustration, however you cannot fear this because good things will come from it”, Venla comments.
Venla’s experiences within sport have provided her with endless opportunities to learn from so many incredible people, who are now lifelong friends. “I truly enjoy having those meaningful conversations”, she says. “It is surprising, some of the people that you end up connecting with, and how their mindset can impact you. I believe that you can learn from anyone around you, and this has allowed me to get better as a coach and as a person.”
All of these experiences have shaped Venla into an incredible coach in all areas of her life. Our female teams within our academy view her as a true role model and find her leadership style to be incredibly inspirational. She empowers young athletes every single day, and strives to make a difference within their live. Venla is fearless, vibrant & unstoppable, and she is truly leading the way for girls and women in sport.
Venla has been invited to attend the Global Skills Showcase as a top skill development coach in hockey worldwide. She was selected from over 150+ applicants to attend from March 22nd-26th, 2021, and will be breaking down deceptive techniques for puck retrievals. Congrats, Venla!
I can confidently say the Okanagan Hockey Academy had an impact on me as a hockey player but more importantly as a person. OHA taught me to bring my best self in all aspects of life including as a student, player and community member. I learned many life skills during my time at OHA that I will take with me much longer than my playing career and that is the greatest gift the staff, coaches, billets and community gave to me. I strongly believe I am a more well-rounded individual because of my time at OHA. I hope any young hockey player with drive, determination and a passion to become a better player and person is able to have the chance to attend somewhere so amazing. For me OHA gave me the best balance of academics, athletics, family and social life. I am extremely grateful for my time at Okanagan Hockey Academy.