Local father-daughter duo embrace rare coaching opportunity

“This is the best result I could have ever imagined,” said Sault Ringette president Bruce Graham, who will coach Team Sweden with his daughter Rachel at the upcoming World Ringette Championships in Finland.

It’s not often that a father is on the same coaching staff as his daughter at any level of competition, let alone on the international stage.

But for Sault Ringette president Bruce Graham and his daughter Rachel, that dream will come true next month when the pair coach the Swedish 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 adulthood before going to school.

Rachel’s father had the opportunity to coach her in the U16 and U19 teams when she was still living in the city.

After graduating from Yale University, Rachel moved to Sweden for work, but her passion for ringette never went away. She became involved in the board of the Swedish Ringette Federation and even played with the Swedish national team as their goalkeeper in 2017.

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

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

The World Ringette Championships take place every two years, but due to the pandemic, this is the first time since 2019.

Graham was the head coach of 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 of having one of my daughters on the couch with me is mind-boggling. I still can’t get 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 has a mix of players. Many come from the 2019 roster, while others crack the roster for their first chance at a world title. The women range from 17 to 29 years old.

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

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

“It’s a great country,” he says. “Believe it or not, the scenery is similar to Sault Ste. Mary. It would be difficult to distinguish between Northern Ontario and Northern Sweden. They look very similar.”

Although it has been a long journey, Graham gives full credit to the Sault Ringette Club and its programming as they have given him the space to learn, adapt and work his way into this role as international head coach.

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

The club has a ‘come and try’ on Sunday 25th September at 6pm in the John Rhodes for any child who would like 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 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, is just amazing. I can hardly wait to get there.”

The Ringette World Championships run from October 31 to November 6.

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