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'Striving to bring back the gold': Canadian ball hockey Captain Melissa Miller wants 2022 worlds win

One of the most highly accomplished competitors in ball hockey, capturing provincial, national and world championships, the 2021 calendar year resulted in several special achievements for Melissa Miller.

Bestowed the captaincy honour for Canada’s entry at the 2022 World Ball Hockey Federation (WBHF) Championship, the upcoming event will accentuate a superlative legacy of previous international play.

Before the 2021 year expired, Miller, whose vocation outside of the rink is physical education teacher, relocated to her hometown of Kingston, Ont., after many years spent in Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe region. With the emotional return to the community where she first played hockey, she added the title of entrepreneur.

Launching her own training venture, representing a fascinating amalgam of her love of fitness and strong skills as an educator, M-Powered Fitness represents an exciting new chapter for Miller.

Based on the word “empower," while emphasizing the initial of Miller’s surname, the focus of M-Powered Fitness is built on the core values of motivation and inspiration.

“I have always had a passion for both fitness and teaching, so I decided when I made the move back to Kingston that I would start up my own business on the side while trying to get on with the Limestone District School Board," Miller explained to Team OFFSIDE.

"The fitness industry can be so impactful on people and I wanted to be able to 'M-Power' people to live an active and healthy lifestyle.”

An admirable component of Miller's ball hockey journey has involved balancing coaching duties as well as still playing the sport on behalf of her country. First involved with Canada’s under-20 national women's team, Miller’s acumen provided tremendous benefit to that growing program.

Considering Miller’s long-time experience as an educator, along with her coaching background, it's no wonder motivation is a key cornerstone of Miller's business venture. Regardless of the circumstances, Miller is able to establish a strong sense of familiarity and a personalized goal-oriented framework for each and every one of her clients, ultimately helping them reach their peak potential.

“As a phys-ed teacher and coach of the U-22 team, I really value getting to know my athletes, as well as my clients," Miller said. "The more that I know about them, the more specific I can cater a program to them."

"Everyone is unique and has unique needs, whether it be with personality type or previous injuries they may have experienced," she said. "By getting to know my athletes and clients on a personal level, I am able to create a program that maximizes their potential."

Miller, who also excelled on the ice while growing up in women's hockey hotbed Kingston, added, "my sports background has provided me with an opportunity to work with so many different types of people, and I take that adaptability that I have learned from sports and teaching and implement it into training and coaching.”

Committed to continuous improvement, the human element has proven to be one of the most rewarding elements in Miller’s newest chapter. Viewing the positive progression of her clients certainly supplies a shared sense of achievement.

“What I have enjoyed the most about being an entrepreneur and trainer is that I have been able to meet people from all different walks of life," Miller said. "I have really enjoyed getting to know my clients who I likely would never have met without my business.

"I also get great satisfaction from the improvement of my clients and when they tell me how much better they feel even doing simple everyday tasks. My goal is to instill a passion into my clients so that they want to improve and better themselves, not for anybody else, but for themselves.”

Returning to Kingston also brings with it an emotional component. Rekindling fond memories of younger years cultivating her love of the game, calling the likes of future Elmira Soaring Eagles superstar Laura Hurd and former Canada's National Women's Team media manager Kristen Lipscombe as teammates, her competitive origins trace back to the celebrated Kingston Kodiaks.

The reflections of those formative years indicate the foundation that supplied Miller with strong values that have defined her coaching approach. With a new generation of female talent looking to achieve their own hockey dreams, Miller's path has always been one of passion and purpose.

With her revered career on the slab, the concept of a ball hockey league may prove to be a project yielding positive results.

“Coming back to Kingston has brought back some great sporting memories. Kingston is where my competitive hockey days began in the Kodiaks organization. Some of my fondest memories were the great coaches I had (Beth Duff, Sandra Hefford, Carolyn Nugent) and my talented teammates that I had an opportunity to play with and win a provincial championship with."

Miller won that championship alongside Hurd and Lipscombe. Former coach Sandra Hefford is, of course, mother to Team Canada legend Jayna Hefford, who now heads up the Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association (PWHPA), helping the female game continue to grow after her incomparable international playing career.

Along with the Kingston Kodiaks, Miller also played minor hockey with the Napanee Crunch, "and we were able to win the Silver Stick tournament," she said of another shining on-ice memory. "Girls’ hockey has grown so much in Kingston and it is great to come back and see that."

"I am also hoping to be able to develop a girls' ball hockey league to get more girls into the great sport of ball hockey," Miller said of her next dream to make come true.

Establishing herself as a mainstay with the national ball hockey team, and jubilant at the privilege of serving as Team Canada captain for the approaching world championship, Miller ponders the possibility of a golden outcome. Entering the upcoming event as silver medallists in 2018, the goal is a return to the top of the podium.

Certainly, the ambitions of succeeding would provide a defining chapter for Miller, bringing a fantastic finale to her career representing the red and white. Although the competitive future provides the prospect of wearing the maple leaf on the Master’s Team, Miller approaches the upcoming worlds as a last hurrah.

The prospect of competing on the biggest stage among the world’s finest brings with it prestige in itself, let alone the accomplishment of having a gold medal draped around her neck once again. A golden finish at the 2022 worlds would solidify an exceptional legacy for Miller.

”This will probably be my last tournament with the women's team, before retiring to the Master's Program, so it would mean everything to bring back the gold medal," Miller said.

"Being the captain, I hope to be able to lead my team both on and off the floor and play with the skill, sportsmanship and drive that I know we can."

"We have a very strong team and will definitely be striving to bring back the gold in 2022.," Miller said.

"We have a lot of leaders and high-end talent on our team, which puts us in an excellent position to be the team standing on the blue line, singing our anthem with the gold medals draped around our necks when the tournament is finished.”

With notes from Kristen Lipscombe.

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