In the midst of a 14-week training program for her upcoming college ice hockey season, Sarah Sinning headed to Philadelphia two weekends ago to prepare for a tournament in another similar, yet different sport: roller hockey.
As she’s so often done in her athletic career, Sinning suited up for a boys team. With a helmet and pads on, the 17-year-old blended in among the group, except for one notable difference.
“The ponytail,” she said, the giveaway.
A Peconic native who left Southold High School two years ago to further her ice hockey training at the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid, Sinning will journey to France next month as part of the United States team competing in the Junior Women’s World Championships. The weeklong roller hockey tournament runs from July 7 through July 13.
Eight countries will compete in the World Championships, with the United States opening in a pool against Colombia, New Zealand and Spain. The U.S. team was officially announced in April with Sinning a member of the 12-person roster coached by Jeff Manning of San Jose, Calif. Eight of the girls on the team hail from California and Sinning is the only girl from the East Coast.
It may have seemed like an arduous process to earn a spot on the team. But it was actually pretty simple.
“I was contacted by the coach of the U.S. team and he seemed very interested in me,” Sinning said. “That’s when it came back on to my radar this year.”
- Previous Coverage: Peconic girl trains on sacred ice
Sinning knew of friends who competed in the tournament in years past. And the U.S. coach was an acquaintance of one of Sinning’s coaches on another travel team and had gotten to see her play. He contacted Sinning about joining the team and she gladly accepted.
Sinning leaves for Paris July 3. The team will spend two days there before traveling to the host city for the tournament, Toulouse, located in southwestern France.
“Two of my really good friends who also play on my travel roller hockey team are on this team,” Sinning said. “They’re the only girls I know.”
Sinning has heard the international teams play a different style of hockey. The nets are also smaller, she said.
“It’s going to be a little getting used to, but it shouldn’t be too bad,” she said.
Sinning grew up playing roller hockey from a young age, skating alongside her brother, Jack, and sister, Nicole. With limited opportunities in roller hockey as far as colleges go, Sinning began playing ice hockey. That’s how she ended up at the National Sports Academy, where she’s spent the last two years of high school. She recently graduated second in her class.
Even during the transition to ice hockey over the past few years, Sinning still found time to pursue roller hockey, mostly as a member of the travel team Tour Roadrunners. The Long Island-based team features players from all over, including Michigan and Missouri. The roller hockey season mostly runs during the summer, so it doesn’t cross over much with ice hockey.
The two sports, Sinning found, have their differences.
“It takes a little while to transition,” she said. “We’ve all been playing together so long that we click really well. Roller hockey is more of a flow game. There’s not as many rules like offsides and icing. It moves a little bit quicker than ice hockey.”
The shifts in roller hockey are also longer than in ice hockey, so conditioning is paramount.
Sinning, who plays forward, hoped that by playing ice hockey she could continue the sport in college. That dream became a reality when she signed to play at Manhattanville College starting in the fall. She chose Manhattanville over Holy Cross, Saint Anselm, Union and St. Lawrence.
“It really came down to what coaches I liked the best, what team I liked the best,” she said. “And Manhattanville was just perfect for me. It’s close to home and I really liked the coach.”
In her final year at the National Sports Academy, Sinning’s season was cut short after the team’s coach was abruptly fired midseason. The team played about 50 of the scheduled 85-game season.
“Nobody saw it coming,” Sinning said. “And a lot of girls left the school and went elsewhere.”
Still, she doesn’t regret her choice to leave the North Fork for the regimented life at the sports academy. Not only did it make her a better ice hockey player, she said, but it allowed her to improve her academics.
“It was much harder to do at home,” she said of balancing sports and academics, “because I was traveling two hours to practice in Freeport. We were traveling an hour and a half to practice in Dix Hills. And then when I got home, I still had to do homework. So it was a lot easier for me to be away at school.”
The upcoming college ice hockey season will seem like a breeze in comparison. Whereas Sinning was scheduled to play upwards of 80 ice hockey games at the academy each year, the college schedule is around 30.
“It’s going to be a faster game, more physical,” she said. “It’s going to be an adjustment, but also a little less of a workload.”
Sinning will continue playing roller hockey during college with an eye toward returning to the international stage.
Sinning said she hopes to play as part of the Senior Women’s team in the future. The Senior team usually consists of college-age women.
“That would be my goal,” she said.