When it comes to excelling in sport, Hannah Jensen is something of a pocket rocket; making her mark in two sports considered ‘minority’ sports in New Zealand; inline hockey and ice hockey.
The tenacious 18-year-old has represented New Zealand in both inline and ice hockey, while staying equally committed to her academic commitments. The former Fraser High School head girl was also recognised in Hamilton City Council’s 30 under 30 project.
The impressive all-rounder manages to juggle her commitments with the same tenaciousness which makes her so successful on the rink. And now she’s helping the next generation of young athletes develop similar skills, as she adds coaching to her resume.
As minority sports, minimal funding and support are available to New Zealand athletes in both inline and ice hockey, and without the support of her family and some massive fundraising efforts, Hannah would have been limited in pursuing her sporting goals.
She has recently returned from the 2016 IIHF Women’s Ice Hockey World Championships in Spain, and this year also competed at the FIRS Inline Hockey World Championships (Italy), AAU Inline Hockey World Championships (Hawaii) and NZ Women’s U18 Ice Hockey Leaside (Canada).
She has just been named assistant captain of the NZ Ice Fernz (Women’s Ice Hockey team), assistant captain of the NZ Inline Ferns (Senior Women’s inline hockey) and team captain of the Hamilton Devils U18 inline hockey junior women’s team.
Fitness Journal adds to Hannah’s workload, with a list of questions:
What aspects of each sport do you most enjoy?
I enjoy the fast pace of both inline hockey and ice hockey and the team environment. My teammates are like my family – my best friends are my hockey teammates.
Inline Hockey is a very free-flowing game. The whistle isn’t blown much which keeps the game going and five players only on the rink from each team at a time which creates a lot of space and allows for us to be creative with the plays we make.
I like that in ice hockey we cool down as we play. Mainly both sports are just a lot of fun. In my opinion hockey is the best sport and I would play every day if I could.
What challenges are presented by each sport?
Transitioning between the two sports can be difficult. The skating style is different, the puck is a bit heavier in ice hockey and there are some game differences between the two. In both sports we are constantly multitasking – skating and puck handling – which I think is pretty impressive.
Being a smaller player on the team can also have its challenges as it does in many other sports.
Both sports are quite costly – gear, training, travel and competitions – especially at the higher levels. There is not an ice hockey rink in Hamilton, so I have to travel to Auckland to play which can be time-consuming and costly.
What are your upcoming goals?
To be named captain in my respective teams and particularly one day be the captain of the NZ Inline Hockey Senior Women’s team.
Name a career highlight?
Being part of the team which gained first place at 2013 Inline Hockey AAU Junior Olympics, beating USA.
What challenges are presented by the fact that these are ‘low profile’ sports within NZ in terms of sponsorship and profile?
Both sports (especially inline hockey) are minority sports not just in New Zealand but in the world – because of high cost and few facilities across the country making it less popular. This means that our national teams receive no funding (ice hockey receives a little from community businesses); consequently we have to fund our overseas tournaments ourselves (cost approximately $5000 each). This is very difficult, especially for those who are studying or working full- time and spend the remaining time training. It has affected our national teams – meaning that we cannot always send our best to international tournaments which is a shame because I know that if we did we could definitely make top three in the world.
This has affected my decision to spend a year working before going to university as I need to save up for my trips. As well as working I am constantly doing other things to fundraise such as holding movie nights, raffles etc.
How and why did you get involved with each sport?
I began inline hockey at intermediate. A friend introduced it to me and I had played field hockey. I had done rollerblading before so I thought why not put them together. I started playing ice hockey two years ago. It seemed like the next step after inline hockey. The ice hockey league in NZ is run differently than the inline hockey league and can provide me with more opportunities.
What are your current career path and plans?
I graduated High School in 2015. Later this year I will move to Denmark to gain my Danish citizenship (I’m half Danish) and play hockey in Denmark. I’m working at the start of the year to save up for my hockey trips.
In the future I would like to study at the University of Waikato for a double major in management and social sciences and hoping to gain a Sir Edmond Hillary Scholarship. I want to take up a teaching career and hope that I can use my management knowledge to improve the professionalism of the inline hockey league in New Zealand and help increase the quality and popularity of the sport.
What sacrifices has your sporting involvement meant for you personally and for family?
My family and I have made lots of sacrifices, mainly financially and time-wise – but I don’t really see them as sacrifices as they are for the sports I love.
My parents have always been very supportive, putting me first, driving me to all my training and competitions, which has proved costly – especially the overseas trips.
At high school my life was a juggling act. In my last couple of years as well as inline and ice hockey I played field hockey and football. I had multiple sports trainings in a day which meant I didn’t have much free time. This affected my academic results as I often prioritised my sports above my schoolwork and the outcome was not achieving my academic goal in yr 13 of gaining NCEA level 3 with Excellence. In my last year I was sick for more than two months which I think was a result of my body being on overload.
Give an overview of high school achievements and strengths?
Throughout high school I was very goal-driven and tried to take advantage of as many opportunities as I could, not only with sports but with leadership which I was very passionate about. I achieved NCEA Level 1 & 2 with Excellence and Level 3 with Merit (a sacrifice for sporting/leadership commitments). In year 13 I was head girl at Fraser High School which was a major highlight.
Tell us about Hamilton City Council’s 30 under 30 project and your involvement?
In 2015 I was named as one of the Hamilton City Council’s 30 Under 30 residents whose “achievements in academic, athletic, leadership and community endeavours have been identified as significant and successful.”
Describe your training schedule?
My training schedules have varied over the past years. Some weeks I spend most nights at the rink. Generally I have training 3-4 times a week and games 1-2 times. I am also given training programmes for my teams which involve fitness – cardiovascular and strength training. For my NZ Inline teams we have training camps (a week or weekend) two or three times to train together before the competition. For Ice Fernz we have an intensive two-week camp just before competition.
What other things help you to stay fit and manage injury prevention?
I love most kinds of physical activity whether it be a hike, going to the gym, a social game of football or just walking the dog. I have been pretty lucky injury-wise (touch wood) but have recently taken a break from regularly seeing a physio and attending Pilates sessions over the last year.
How you like to relax?
I love music – I’ve played instruments since I was a child. I also love reading and watching movies in my down time.
What motivates you to keep competing?
I’m extremely competitive and always want to win and be the best – even if I’m among friends and family. I’m also very goal-driven and won’t stop till I’ve achieved my goal. Having the support of my family and teammates as well as my enjoyment of the games keeps me going.
How did you manage to juggle schoolwork and sport?
Juggling school work and sports was always tricky and looking back I’m not really sure how I did it.
My teachers and deans were incredibly helpful and supportive. I was in accelerate classes in year 9 and 10 and this allowed me to complete NCEA a year early which really set me up. In my senior years I was also given extra study periods to keep up with the workload and teachers were lenient, especially when I was overseas. Because I had sports and academic goals I prioritised my time pretty well – even if it meant spending some lunchtimes in the library or doing an assignment on a plane. My family also have always been very supportive and helped me with what I needed whenever I needed it which I really appreciate.
How and why did you become involved in coaching?
I realised throughout high school that I was a bit of a natural leader and enjoyed being put in leadership situations. This was partially because I always wanted to give something back to the community. And what better way to do so than helping within my own sport? Some younger teams in the Inline Hockey club didn’t have coaches so I volunteered.
What sport and ages do you coach?
In the past I have coached inline hockey ages from U10s right through to U18s, including U10s, U14s and Junior Women Inline Hockey Club teams, as well as the Fraser High school league team and Learn to Skate/Peewee skating programmes.
What you enjoy most about coaching:
When you coach you can see the entire game – and I love the strategic side of inline. As well as this and the leadership side to it, I like passing on the knowledge that I have and seeing others take it on and improve their own game – it’s a satisfying feeling.