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Local father-daughter duo embraces rare coaching opportunity

“This is the best outcome I could have ever imagined,” says Sault Ringette president Bruce Graham, who will be coaching Team Sweden with his daughter Rachel at the upcoming World Ringette Championships in Finland

It’s not often a dad gets to be on the same coaching staff as his daughter at any level of competition, let alone the international stage.

But for Sault Ringette president Bruce Graham and his daughter Rachel, that dream will become a reality next month when the pair coaches Sweden's national team at the World Ringette Championships in Espoo, Finland.

Born and raised in the Sault, Rachel played ringette from the time she was five years old until her early adult years before moving away for school.

Rachel’s dad had the opportunity to coach her on the U16 and U19 teams when she still lived in town.

After finishing school at Yale University, Rachel moved to Sweden for work, but her passion for ringette never went away. She got involved with the Swedish Ringette Federation board, and even played with the Swedish national team as their goaltender in 2017.

“She’s having lots of fun,” Bruce Graham says. “Rachel really enjoys what she’s doing there now. She’s really immersed herself in the Swedish culture, and she’s even fluent in Swedish.”

The proud father has been involved with Sault Ringette since 1997 and has coached for nearly 20 years. Graham worked his way up through the ranks, coaching house league, regional, and eventually the top levels of provincial – leading a wide spectrum of age groups along the way.

The World Ringette Championships takes place every two years, but because of the pandemic, this is the first time it is being held since 2019.

Graham was the head coach for the Swedish national team three years ago when they won the gold medal in the President’s Pool on Canadian soil, and he’s looking forward to defending that title – this time, with his daughter by his side.

“To be able to coach with your daughter at any level is a real privilege,” he says. “The thought that I’m going to have one of my daughters on the bench with me is mind boggling. I still haven’t gotten my head around it. To do that on the international stage – it’s just the icing on the cake. I don’t know how to describe it.”

Sweden’s national team features a mix of players. Many are from the 2019 squad, while others are cracking the roster for their first opportunity at a world title. The women range anywhere from 17 to 29 years old.

“It’s similar to women’s hockey where you have a fairly large age range,” Graham says.

The head coach was in Sweden for three weeks back in May, spending some time with his daughter and the national team in preparation for the upcoming championship.

“It’s an amazing country,” he says. “Believe it or not, its landscape is similar to Sault Ste. Marie. You would have a hard time differentiating between northern Ontario and northern Sweden. They’re very similar.”

While it’s been a long journey, Graham gives full credit to the Sault Ringette Club and its programming for providing him the space to learn, adjust, and work his way into this role as an international head coach.

“It’s a very strong organization we have in the Sault,” he says. “The opportunities the club has given me is the real reason I’m able to even do this in the first place. Their ability to provide top-notch, world-class programming is the reason I am where I am today.”

The club has a ‘come try it’ on Sunday Sept. 25 at 6 p.m. at the John Rhodes for any child who wants to give ringette a try.

While he has a genuine respect for other sports like hockey, his love for ringette is undeniable.

“I live for ringette,” Graham says. “I love the sport, it’s my passion, and I just can’t get enough of it. To be able to participate in an event like this on the international stage, and then have my daughter there with me is just awesome. I can hardly wait to get there.”

The Ringette World Championships will run from Oct. 31 to Nov. 6.

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Alex Flood

About the Author: Alex Flood

Alex is a recent graduate from the College of Sports Media where he discovered his passion for reporting and broadcasting
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