Like many little girls, 6-year-old Ronnie Callahan enrolled in figure skating classes at .
That lasted all of two sessions, however, after Ronnie saw older girls playing ice hockey.
“She wanted to wear equipment,” said Ronnie’s mother, Laura Callahan, in an interview Thursday. “She wanted to wear black skates, not the white ones.”
There was one major problem with Ronnie’s wish.
“We’re not hockey people,” Ronnie’s father Brendan Callahan, said.
The family got it figured out though.
Fast forward eight years, and that decision looks downright serendipitous, as Ronnie, now 14 and a rising freshman at , just returned from USA Hockey's National Select Player Development Camp in St. Cloud, Minn.
She was selected as one of just 102 players for the U14 team; only 50 players, including Ronnie, attended the camp, which took place from July 20 to 26. Of those 50 girls, just three were from Connecticut.
And Ronnie acquitted herself well. Playing center, she scored two goals in three games, including the game-winner during a shootout of a tie game, all of which came against some of the strongest competition in her age group from across the country.
The games, however, were just a small part of what Ronnie did during the week. There was plenty of ice time, to be sure - some 4.5 hours of it a day - during which the girls did myriad skills drills and small games.
But there was also classroom time and seminars with coaches and Olympians on health, nutrition, workout regimens and strategy. Her days at the camp started at 6 a.m. and it was exhausting.
“It was a lot of fun, but it was really intense,” Ronnie said in an interview at her South Windsor home Thursday. “The competition was a huge step up from the regionals. … Every single day, I could feel myself getting better.”
Indeed, Ronnie was selected to go based on her performance for Team Connecticut at the New England Regionals, which took place in March.
“I was overjoyed and happy after I heard [that I made the team] after all the hard work the last couple of seasons, and pushing through everything,” said Ronnie, who plays for the Connecticut Polar Bears and is exploring opportunities to play for a girls high school team. “It taught me to never give up and never say never.”
The entire experience has left Ronnie wanting more. Indeed, she has set lofty goals for herself going forward.
“I would love to be an Olympian,” she said. “It’s a long shot, but it’s doable. You’ve just got to put in the work.”
While hockey is a big part of her life (she plays with fellow South Windsor residents and close friends Bridget Kelly and Alison Klute), Ronnie also enjoys playing softball and field hockey.
Ice hockey, however, remains her first love. And it’s taken her and the rest of her family, including 12-year-old sister Corey, who also plays, to such places as Boston, Quebec, Chicago and Marlborough, MA. And that’s just this summer.
And the fellow hockey families that the Callahans know have become close friends.
“They all travel and play together for six to nine months of the year,” Brendan Callahan said. “Hockey is the original travel sport.”