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March 30, 2023

See How She Got Started: OUA & Nipissing University Ice Hockey Player Kara den Hoed


See How She Got Started in the OUA

Anchored in the efforts to spotlight Ontario University Athletics (OUA) student-athletes, the initiative See How She Got Started showcases and tells the story of how some of the conference’s talented student-athletes first got involved in sport and have made their way to the varsity stage on which they currently shine.  It is also hoped that their stories can inspire young athletes to aspire to compete in varsity-level sports.



Meet OUA Student Athlete Kara den Hoed

University - 

Nipissing University


Sport -

Ice Hockey


Year of Eligibility -

2nd Year


Hometown - 

Fergus, Ontario 


Program of Study - 

Bachelor of Arts, Criminal Justice and a minor in Business


How did you first get involved in your sport?

I was introduced by my parents introduced me to hockey at the age of 4. At that time, I very much disliked the sport. One of my coaches convinced my parents to let me stay for the year to see how it would play out. Here we are 15 years later and I'm loving hockey.  


What most interested you about your sport that made you want to pursue it at a high level?

As a little girl, I was always the most competitive.  I wanted to be the best. I remember my parents making a house rule that we couldn’t pursue rep level hockey until we hit peewee age (U13). Fortunately for me, that rule didn’t stand when I made the Atom rep team (U11).  I live in a very small town where girls hockey only went up to the BB level of play.  After one year of playing rep in Fergus, I went and tried out in Waterloo for the AA team. From that young age, I never played a game for my hometown again and meant I was always travelling as a player.  But having to travel all the time also brought out more of who I was as a player. It also grew my dedication to the sport, desire to get better and my passion for the game. This is why I wanted to play at a high level.   


Was there a specific moment/experience that led you to believe you could compete in your sport at a high level, and if so, what was it?

There’s not one specific moment that makes me think “I knew I could play a high level” per se. But I do believe there were definitely moments that influenced my mindset. For example, in Bantam (U15), I got paired with a defense partner that would commonly be the one to sit. That year, we were the best defensive pairing on the team. It was great experience as I worked hard to help her to believe in herself and her capabilities. I think that’s something that I do really well.  I'm proud of my skill to help others around me to look and feel good about themselves and their play is something that I think helps my own belief in my ability to play a high level.   


What is your fondest memory/experience of being involved in your sport thus far?

I think my fondest memory would be play with my team from Major Peewee (U12) to Major Bantam (U14) while in Burlington. We were a winning team that won two Provincial Championships as well as a Lower Lakes Championship. It was a special group of girls and even when we were in our Minor Bantam (U14) year and seen as the underdogs, we put up a great year. We would put up a tough battle and it meant that often no one wanted to play against us. Although I have so many other memories in the hockey world, this one is definitely a stand out for me. 


Is there someone who inspires you to continue to pursue your sport at this high level (i.e., coach, professional athlete, family member, etc.) and what makes them an inspiration to you?

I would say that my strength coach inspires me. There aren't many people who get the chance to meet someone as great as I believe John is. I am so super lucky to have him in my life as a strength coach and a mentor. John pushes me to be better and he considers all my needs as an athlete and programs around that. He always has my back and he's also has real life experience as an OUA athlete so he recognizes that not every day is easy.

My parents are also huge supporters of mine and definitely play a big role in inspiring me. But without having John as my strength coach, I don’t think my hockey career would be as successful and may not have lasted this long.  



What excites you most about continuing your athletic journey at the varsity level within the OUA?

For me, competing is fun. Also, having had the chance to play for Nipissing University on an historic team/program last year was also super exciting. Having the chance to be a young gun on that team made me even more excited to keep growing with the program and attempt to take my game/the team to the next level. Enjoying the chance to feel like your getting better every day is an awesome experience as a player. 


If someone else was looking to start playing your sport, what one piece of advice would you give them to get them started?

I would tell them to enjoy the process and know that nothing comes easy. The politics of the game can suck. And, there will be days that you want to quit. But this is exactly the moment where you need to stay true to yourself, put the extra effort in, and be respectful to your own mind and to others around you. It can be a tough road, but smile through it and work hard. Hockey is fun.


What is one critical thing that you do to try to continue to experience improvement within your sport (i.e., specific drill/exercise, training regimen, routine, etc.)?

For me, my off ice training is a huge part of my improvement. I find happiness in the gym and I’m very dedicated to that. Something else I attempt to do is at the end of practices is to pick one thing that I want to do a few extra reps so as to get better. It’s definitely the little things that make you better. 


What would you say to your 10-year-old self about playing and staying in sport?

Dear 10 year old Kara - know that adversity is hard. Know that you’ll come to realize that you have to have your own back and be the strongest one. Keep smiling, work hard, be gritty. The success will be unmatched.     


Is there one strategy that you find works well for you in creating a positive student/athlete balance in your life?

I think it's really important to having a good support system. While there are lots of times I feel like I don’t want my supports around because I find them annoying or I’m feeling tired. in the end, I believe that they're super important for me to be a successful student-athlete. Being alone is not beneficial and you do need to be able to talk to people. It helps a million. A strong support system also helps to keep you on track with maintaining a good balance between school and hockey. 



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