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Hockey Manitoba Community Story: U7 Coach Rita Collins

by Ezra Ginsburg  |  January 16, 2023 10:15 am

Rita Collins started coaching minor hockey in Roblin because there was no one else to do the job at the time and now she is in her sixth year of coaching U7 hockey.

“Someone was leaving and I’m like okay I can skate, let’s do it,” Collins recalled. “It was a way to spend time with my children and share in their passion.”

Collins, 39, is a teacher at Roblin Elementary School and a mother of four children, aged 3 – 10. She is currently coaching her son Logan, 6, and daughter Ava, 3 while her two oldest children, Ben, 10 and Jackson, 8, are also playing in the Roblin minor hockey system.

“The rink is definitely my happy place. There are some weekends where I am literally at the rink from sun up to sun down,” Collins said. “At the end of the weekend, I am exhausted but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love it.”

Although Collins will readily admit that she isn’t the most skilled or knowledgeable coach, she makes up for it with her dedication and passion. She loves helping young players learn how to play the game and have fun doing it.

“Watching a kid learn to skate is like getting to relive watching your kid learn to walk again and when they get that first goal, there is nothing better. It’s just something I enjoy. Sometimes even though I’m so busy, once I get to the rink, I’m just happy to be there.” Collins said.

Rita Collins and her husband Andrew, 38, grew up in Etobicoke, a suburb of Toronto. The couple moved to Nelson House, Manitoba in 2010 when they both got jobs teaching at the local school. The couple moved to Roblin in 2013 after their oldest Ben was born. Andrew is presently the Vice-Principal at Goose Lake High School.

Coaching hockey for the past six years has allowed Rita to become even closer with folks in the tight-knit community of Roblin.

“I love walking down the grocery store aisle and knowing the kids,” Collins said. “And because my kids are playing, I get to know their friends and I get to know their parents. There’s no way I could make hockey work if not for my hockey family. I love knowing the hockey families. Roblin is already great but hockey makes it even better if that makes sense.”

This year’s U7 team in Roblin has been a little different than previous years as there are 22 kids on the squad, which is the most kids that Collins has ever coached. Also, roughly half of the kids are playing their first year of organized hockey, including Collins’ daughter Ava, who is just three years old (most kids are either 5 or 6 years old). Ava has started to participate in games and she practices with the rest of the team and can already skate quite well. Collins is sure to give a big share of the credit to her assistant coaches and on-ice helpers for all the work that they do.

“Rita is very committed. It’s a real passion of hers,” said Mark Rathgeber, Principal of Roblin Elementary School. “She must have a very strong back because she’s always helping those kids up, picking them up. She’s very inclusive and just puts a lot of effort into  getting all those kids going regardless of where they come in and what their skill level is.

Going forward, Rita Collins plans on continuing to coach her youngest, Ava, in U7 hockey but she would consider moving up to the U9 or U11 level if an opportunity presented itself. She has already helped out with practices and on the bench at the U9 and U11 levels so it would be a natural progression.

“I definitely want to stay involved,” Collins said. “I like being on the ice so I hope that I can still find a place to be in the action. I always joke that they’re going to have to just give me a plaque and put it up on the Roblin Minor Hockey board because in 20 years, my kids will be old and I will still be coaching U7 hockey.”

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Hockey Manitoba wants to hear your good news stories of coaches, parents, players, officials, and volunteers who are having a positive impact in your communities!

We are asking our members to help us tell these heartwarming stories by reaching out to us. You can submit your community stories by emailing Ezra Ginsburg, Hockey Manitoba Coordinator, Communications (eginsburg@hockeymanitoba.ca).


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