Florence Schelling | The Road to her Fourth Winter Olympics

Florence started playing hockey at a very young age. She was only four when she joined her older brothers playing hockey. She was inspired by them, always taken along when her mum had to drop her brothers off for practise. She would watch them practise and always wanted to join in. They wouldn’t let her. Until one day, she recounts when, while playing at home they let her join them. On one condition – she went in net.

Do you remember your first goalie mask? “When I started playing hockey I just wore a regular helmet, a regular players helmet and it was red.” She begins. “I had a player cage on it, but it was still just a players helmet. My team had white helmets and mine was different but I wanted a white helmet. My parents went to get me a white one but just had my red helmet sprayed. So I would take head shots and you could see the red underneath when the paint would come off.” Florence laughs as she retells the tale, clearly a very vivid and also amusing memory for her.

Who did Florence aspire to be like growing up? “Oh I never really had an idol, I just pretty much look up to every athlete.” She begins. “I observe a lot and I take bits and pieces from what they are doing and I would try it myself in practises and if I thought it was good, I would adapt it to my game and if I didn’t then I would drop it again.”

What would Florence say to a little girl, who like her as a small child was looking through the plexiglass and wanting to play too? Perhaps a little girl like my own daughter who didn’t even really know or understand that girls could play hockey? “Put on a pair of skates and try it and have fun doing it. Even if there aren’t many women or girls that play. I played with the boys until I was 19 years old and it was so much fun. Just go out and try it, it’s a great dream to have. There is so much to it. You have to use your brain, be athletic, you need to have endurance. There isn’t just one aspect. You have to be a complete person to be a great hockey player.”

Playing with the guys, did she ever find that guys would act different on the ice with her. “With most of the guys I played with, they were very protective of me but mostly I was just like them. I don’t remember even one time where it was an issue. I decided to go and study in the US and get my bachelors degree and that was the switch, when I moved, to Women’s hockey.”

“I was sixteen at my first Olympics. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was very very young and unprepared for such a big event. Looking back now I was just a tourist there. Like you went there and everything was so overwhelming. I didn’t really get it. I was there, I had fun and we participated. We didn’t do well but the experience stays with you and I learned a lot from it so four years later in Vancouver it was so much better. Playing in front of a sold out crowd of thousands is very very special. With hockey being so big in Canada it made the atmosphere downtown just so much more special.”

“Honestly I don’t remember when I got my first proper goalie mask, but I never like it. I think I was maybe 17 but I switched back to a regular helmet with a special goalie cage and I basically played with that right up until the Sochi Olympics. I haven’t actually got my mask for this Olympics yet. I asked all my followers for Design ideas and I put some of those ideas into the design. We were given someone by the Swiss Federation who would actually do the painting for us in the end and make my design look better.”

I look forward to seeing the final design as I find masks fascinating as they are the only truly personalised piece of kit a hockey player can wear and to see the stories and personalities is interesting to me.

“We are headed out next Thursday, we just went to get our Apparel. It was super exciting, getting to try everything on. The feeling never goes away because we only get it every four years and it’s super exciting. It’s a very special experience.”

“For us the Olympics is the biggest event ever, so like you can’t compare anything we’re doing for the Olympics to anything we were doing for the World Championships.”

As a woman playing hockey at such a high level, Florence is an inspiration to many young girls and women who aspire to play for their own countries or even just to play in general. What advice would she give to those people who might be hesitating and worrying about what people might think of them. “Don’t even think about what other people think of you.” She says so confidently. “Just focus on yourself and what you enjoy doing and if you want to play hockey, you do it. If you enjoy it go for it.”

Thank you so much to Florence for this interview and we send all our best wishes and luck to her and the rest of the Swiss National team at the Winter Olympics!

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