Meet Angelique Dechaine. She just turned seven (7) years old in May and finished her first season of hockey in Pre Novice II in Fort St. John, BC. Angel, as she is often referred to, is special little girl who requires a bit more attention from her coaches and help from her teammates.
She developed hearing loss at the age of two (2) and a half, suffering through many obstacles including not being able to play organized team sports and participate in extracurricular activities like her peers. She tried t-ball, but got frustrated at not being able to hear the coach when he was more than a few feet away and feeling very self conscious that she was not following instruction properly. So Angel sat on the sideline watching her three (3) siblings, content with her book and quiet hobbies. Until last year.........
At that time, the family was introduced to a new technology that might help Angel and get her playing sports. It was called iSense and worked as a microphone worn by the teacher directly into a hearing aid the Angel could wear. It was amazing! However, it was only allowed to be used at school. So her family fundraised very hard to raise $5,000 for Angel to have a iSense that she could use outside of the classroom. Last summer, Angel's parents purchased them for her.
"I remember so clearly asking her what she wanted to do now that she could participate in any activity she wanted," said Angel's mom Christina. "I expected her to pick gymnastics or dance - she was such a quiet, sweet thing. But she looked up at me with determination and said 'I want to play hockey!' I was shocked."
None of Angel's three (3) siblings or her parents play hockey - they don't even watch it on TV, so they questioned her choice. "Where did this come from?" Christina added.
Angel was determined to play hockey, so Christina borrowed some hockey gear from a friend and signed her daughter up for a all girls Lace Up event at their local arena.
Angel used her iSense and one (1) person skated beside her with the microphone, relaying the information.
"The coaches were so amazing with her. She felt confident, and you should have seen her smile! After that, every day she asked if she could play hockey."
So Christina signed her up for Pre Novice, but was so nervous about Angel's hearing loss and worried that she might feel frustrated again. "We had had a few bad experiences with coaches from other sports waving her off and not expecting her to be able to perform like the other kids. Not taking the time to make sure she could hear what was going on."
Christina talked to the coaches on the first day and every coach already knew about Angel's hearing loss and were excited to help and teach her. "That first day I watched her and my stomach was in knots. As a mother I just wanted to go on the ice and whisper in her ear, so she wasn't left out. But honestly, that first day the coaches brought tears to my eyes."
At each station, the coaches knelt down to her eye level and made sure she understood the instruction. No one tried yelling at her or herding her with the other kids. She was an individual deserving of their attention just as much as everyone else.
At the end of practice, the team gathered for a group huddle. Angel ended up in the back. "My heart sank a bit because I knew she wouldn't be able to hear what the coach was saying." One (1) of the coaches spotted her and skated her to the front. "I will admit - I cried a bit when I saw that. Here I am, sitting in the bleachers, tearing up because a coach had taken the time to care about what my daughter needed."
Angel's confidence grew tremendously this past season. She was so happy to be a valuable member of her team. Never once was she left out or pushed to the side because she couldn't hear.
Hat's off and koodos to the coaching of the Fort St. John Pre Novice II team - you have made a impact on Angel's life that her and her family are so grateful for. You encouraged her, made her feel accepted and taught her the great game of hockey.