Assistant Sports Editor
It is a Springfield College tradition to host an intramural floor hockey league in the field house during the winter months in order to scratch the hockey “itch” for students interested in playing the sport in a sometimes relaxed, sometimes overly competitive atmosphere. Among these students are players with a little more experience than others, as well as newcomers to the sport traditionally held on ice.
Xiaolin Ding, a Physical Education and Advanced Coaching graduate student at the college, gets into the mix, slapping the ball and boxing out men twice her size along the mesh cage that surrounds the playing area. Little does anyone else playing know, but Ding has a bit more playing experience than the typical intramural participant. Growing up in Harbin, China, Ding was introduced to the sport of hockey at the age of eight. Four years later, in 1996, after playing for various travel and city teams, Ding became more serious about her hockey career, and made a decision that would greatly affect her future.
“In China, if you want to play professionally, you don’t go to school,” stated Ding. “I went to elementary school until I was 12 and then once I graduated, I went to hockey school. I went there for three years and played as well.”
Following Ding’s three years at Harbin Sports School, she then joined the Chinese National team in 2005. With Team China, Ding played on teams that placed first in the National Women’s Ice Hockey Championship, as well as a third-place finish in the 2006 Four-Nation Women’s Ice Hockey Tournament in Monthey, Switzerland. Following a 12-2 loss to Sweden in the 2007 IIHF Women’s World Champion- ships, Ding hung up the sweat- er and decided to enroll herself back into school.
“In China, national players get ‘poolment,’ which means I didn’t need to take an exam to go to Beijing Sport University. I went there for four years of undergraduate studies in Athletic Training.” Following a strong fresh- man year, Ding’s final grade point average placed her 10th in a class of 600 people.
“I studied very hard because you must compare me to a stu- dent who had high school and middle school experience,” said Ding. “It is interesting [be- cause] the things you learn at the university are totally different. I tried so hard on my studies and spent countless hours in the library in order to catch up.”
Ding’s efforts in the class- room did not go unrecognized. In her first three years at Beijing Sport University, Ding received an “Excellent Student Leader” award for her hard work. As well as being successful in the classroom, Ding continued to skate competitively throughout her years at BSU. In 2007, Ding competed for Team China in the Asian Winter Games. Here, the team took the bronze medal behind Kazakhstan and Japan. In 2009, Ding was part of teams that took first place in the National Women’s Inline Hockey Tournament, as well as second place in the National Women’s Ice Hockey Championships. While playing, Ding began to coach hockey in 2008. From 2008-2011, Ding worked at the All-Star Skating Club in Beijing, coaching the Atom, Squirt and Pee Wee youth teams. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training at Beijing Sport University, Ding moved on to the Hong Kong Institute of Education. Here, Ding was enrolled in the Physical Education Masters program.
“Going to Hong Kong was good for me. Hong Kong is an English speaking country, so that really helped me learn the language,” said Ding. After receiving her Master’s degree, Ding made a decision to leave Asia, and head for America.
“It is funny, I searched ‘best sport universities in the world’ and Springfield College appears at the top of the list,” said an excited Ding. “Springfield College also has a great connection with Beijing Sport University, so I was aware of Springfield early on.”
At Springfield, Ding is go- ing for her second Masters of Physical Education, concentrating in Advanced Coaching. As part of the Physical Education curriculum, Ding is required to take an Athletic Administration class with Craig Poisson.
“Ding is at a disadvantage in my class when we talk about the NCAA and the MIAA, which is only found in America,” commented Poisson, who is also the Assistant Director of Athletics at Springfield College. “[Yet] she brings a great experience having played and coached at the national level. She works ridiculously hard. I have had many international students before, but she raises the bar for all students. It is impressive what she has done so far.”
As well as Athletic Administration, Ding is also enrolled in a Sports Psychology class with Dr. Mimi Murray. Murray, a pioneer in women’s sports at Springfield College and in America, appreciates all the hard work that Ding has brought to America from China.
“Ding has unbelievable sport experience,” commented Murray. “Her background that she brings to discussions when we talk about psychological factors is great. I can’t get over that she has only been speaking English for a year because she is already so fluent. What I think is great is that she is willing to take a stand, a ‘this is what I believe’ kind of mentality. She is just great.”
Ding continues to work hard in the classroom and is hoping to become more involved in hockey in America. As well as attending classes at Springfield College, Ding participates in a women’s ice hockey league in Greenfield, Mass. Ding, an active participant in floor hockey intramurals at Springfield, is hoping to help coach the club hockey team at Springfield College next year as well.