Growing the Game: Florida Lady Vipers
The endless hours spent driving out of state and numerous dollars put towards the tiresome hockey weekends had finally reached a breaking point for the Ade family. Florida resident and hockey enthusiast Pauline Ade decided to create a better alternative to the lengthy commute for her own daughters and other young girls’ hockey careers through the creation of the Florida Lady Vipers.
Ade’s eldest daughter, Rachael, had left the state to further develop her hockey career at age 13, but Ade did not want her younger daughters to have to do the same. In 2010, Ade founded the Florida Lady Vipers hockey association, the sole women’s hockey association in the state, to not only make hockey more accessible for her own daughters, but for young girls throughout Florida and neighboring states. Beginning with only 12 girls in the association, Ade took on this initiative completely voluntary in order to give not only Rachel and her two younger daughters, Rebekah and Raquel, the opportunity to play hockey, but all aspiring young female hockey players in Florida.
By providing this opportunity for young female hockey players, Ade has put all her effort into the growth and success of the Lady Vipers. Ade’s persistence and passion to drive this unique association comes from the girls themselves and their determination towards the sport.
“To see the return on investment, to be able to provide something that no one else is doing at this point,” Ade said about her dedication to the association. “To see the ‘aha’ moments that makes them want to devote themselves more makes this program a worthwhile experience.”
Six years and teams later, Ade has seen numerous of these ‘aha’ moments through the girls’ hard work. Prior to playing for the Lady Vipers, many of the girls have played on boys teams, but have come to realize that playing with girls is the avenue to be scouted for higher level opportunities. According to Ade, having the chance to play on a team of only girls has allowed the players to increase confidence, skill and leadership.
The young women who play for the Vipers do not only grow in confidence on the ice, but learn other valuable hockey attributes. Besides from running the Lady Vipers, Ade is a physical therapist, and brings her professional skills and knowledge to the young girls. Ade provides nutritional advice, dry-land training and deep explanations of hockey terminology. To increase the girls’ hockey knowledge, Ade likes to break down professional hockey games to show and educate her young players.
In addition to providing deeper hockey explanations to her teams, Ade hosts open hockey clinics for all girls wanting to further develop their skills. These clinics occur on weekends, and allow for more participation from young female hockey players, and a chance for Ade to showcase the positive environment surrounding the Lady Vipers.
“To create a solid structure you have to put the puzzle pieces together” Ade said. “Support from parents who’ve stepped up and provided expertise is great. And then the girls come and enjoy it which is the best part, they see the outcome of what we are willing to do.”
Ade believes in these clinics just as much as her teams. Her overall mission is to provide opportunities for young girls so they can create their own unique path, whether that leads them to further develop within the Lady Vipers program and Florida, or leave and explore their careers elsewhere.
This mission has been achieved through some of the players that began in the Lady Vipers. Beginning with her own daughter years ago, Rachael is now a captain at the University of Vermont and has had the opportunity to inspire young girls of the Lady Vipers when they came to tour the Vermont hockey facilities. The young aspiring players could see the long-term results of hard work and dedication, while also having a fun, team-bonding trip. In addition to Rachael’s success, the Lady Vipers have also seen their players continue their careers at division three colleges and junior leagues.
Ade is incredibly happy with the success of the Lady Vipers and their key role in the growth of girls’ hockey in Florida. While always wanting to be a positive program, Ade emphasizes perseverance and stamina as important factors for the girls’ hockey paths.
“I think it’s important to remember not to worry about how many times one fails” Ade said. “But how many times one gets back for the next battle.”